Saapad Raman by Kummar

Blog post by Kummar Ganesh

He was hungry to feed people. His mission in life was to enter people’s hearts through their stomach. Man or Woman, Iyer or Iyengar, he did not discriminate. “Food is a great leveler “ he said. “It has the power to prevail above all”. His fan following was the living proof of the fact that serving four square meals a day can actually be all it takes to earn enough to afford four square meals for himself and family.

C.K. Raman had quite a few A.K.A names. Kalyana Raman in awe of being the go-to-raman for wedding catering. CKR- the short end of legends like SRK, SLB etc etc… It also sounded cool to roll out in the end credits of a successful event. Catering by CKR. I called him Saapaad Raman because to me he was the go-to man-for a meal be it a wedding, a pujai or a devasum. Those who are hard core Tam Brahms will agree that Saapad Raman is the equivalent of the English Sin Gluttony, but to me this name had no pun intended, only simple intentions.

Saapad Raman was the official caterer to all our life altering events and celebrations. A 4 feet nothing man his stature preceded his height. He claimed to have quit formal education at class 8 to support his appa in his family business, but his wisdom was far greater that one who learned at Eton or Harwad.

His quips could fill in a quote library. Check some out.

• Money should be like the rasam in an ellai saddhi, you should have enough to soak up the rice and enjoy the slurp…anything in excess means you will be spending more time trying to prevent it from flowing out of the ellai than enjoying the meal.

• You can tell about the sex life of a person by the way they eat their masala dosai. Those who start from the edges and slowly come to the centre and then gorge on the masala know their foreplay like no one else. The once who straight go for the masala have little to no passion. And yes stay clearly away of the ones who pour their chutney and sambhar over the masala dosa and eat it soggy.

• Those who enjoy their vadai don’t pick the holes in it. Human beings are like vadais, simply enjoy their goodness and the world will be one happy place.

Saapad Raman’s credentials were impeccable. He catered to the rich & famous as well as the bold & beautiful. But here was a man a man with no successor to his business. He had 2 sons but they never felt proud of the fact that their father was a chamelyal karaan. His eldest son was a software engineer who was working for a multinational in the USA. His second son was an architect settled in Dubai.

Both of them tried their best to dissuade their father from continuing his catering business and begged for him to retire and enjoy the rest of his life being with them and grandchildren.

But for Saapad Raman, serving food was not a job, but his passion. He tried to explain his side of the story to them saying, that job he was doing was the most gratifying and highly responsible thing. The fate of every Kalyanam or Devasum would be judged by the quality of food served and the appreciation he got for a job well done was immeasurable.

I remember the last function where I had engaged him was for my son’s poonal, which was three years ago. Being the official caterer for our family since the time I was small, his name was top-of-mind. The last time I remember his catering was at my kalyanam and I was just 24 then. I guessed that Saapad Raman then would easily in his seventies. He spoke to my son and explained him how important the poonal ritual was for a Brahmin boy and the relevance of sandhyavandanam and abhivadaye. His catering was outstanding and people still talk a lot about the payasam he made then.

I had then hinted him about his retirement plan and what he said at that time still makes my eyes well up with tears.

“Na oru karmayogi, en jeevan kalam kayinja chaav undu ana retirement kadayadu”
“I am a karmayogi. In my lifetime death is certain, but certainly no retirement.”
This year January, while catering at a temple ritual, Saapad Raman had a cardiac arrest and he succumbed to it. His end was just the way he wanted it to be- in dignity of his labour.
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