Bengaluru’s Iconic Vidyarthi Bhavan

Soumya Manikkath

Bengaluru, the Garden City of India, surely had her changes over the years. From being the country’s leading IT Hub, to being one of the most crowded cities, Bengaluru has undoubtedly seen humungous changes post-independence. However, some of her illustrious heritage locales still dot the various parts of the city, never letting her merge into a complete cosmopolitan skyscape. One such heritage of the city is the old charming Vidyarthi Bhavan hotel, famous for its “Benne Masala Dosa” and filter coffee.

Vidyarthi Bhavan, located at Gandhi Bazar, Basavanagudi, is a charming and bustling eatery serving the tastiest Kannadiga eats. The iconic hotel was started in 1943 by Venkataramana Ural and Parameshwara Ural to majorly provide budget food to students of the nearby National college and Acharya Patashala. The little restaurant was a whopping success for dishing out some of the tastiest yet on the budget Kannadiga food mainly dosa and coffee for the students and regular office goers around the market.

However, in 1970, the inceptors decided to sell the hotel. Ramakrishna Adiga, who was on the lookout for various options of starting an eatery of his own, didn’t need to think twice when he decided to take over the hotel. “The takeover was a total smooth fare, as only the management changed hands, everything else from workers to the menu remained the same”, says Arun Kumar Adiga, son of Ramakrishna Adiga and co-owner of the hotel. “My father is a native of Udupi- a picturesque little town in coastal Karnataka. He came to Bengaluru in 1962 and was working in a restaurant here. When he got married in 1968, he wanted to do something of his own. The hotel business was not new to him as knew every nuances of it. In 1970, when the business proposal to take over the Vidyarthi Bhavan came up, he dint think twice about it”, continues Arun, who is a telecommunication engineer by profession. Arun joined in with his father in 2005 - not what every professional would opt. Exchanging a specialized job to co-partner a family business is surely for the sole passion for it and more for the emotional connect towards it. “In 2005 my father crossed his retirement age. By then, he was finding it hard to run the hotel alone. My brother and I had regular jobs, but again Vidyarthi Bhavan was our very own and we didn’t want to sell it at any cost. My brother is working in the US and at that time it was difficult for him to leave his lucrative job. So after several rounds of family meetings, I decided to give up my job and help my father out”, recollects Arun. The Infosys founder, Narayan Moorthy, who is a regular at the hotel, was a major motivator to convince Arun to give up his job and join his father. He was undoubtedly taking over a legacy.

The hotel is bustling to brim during its working hours, especially on weekends. The minimum wait time any weekend is at least 15 minutes to get a seat and place your order. Aside from the yummiest Benne masala dosas- butter filled masala dosas, the other items on the menu include- “Poori Sagoo, Idili Sambar, Uppittu, Chow-Chow Bath and Rava Vada”. These signature dishes of the hotel have been on the menu since its inception. “Any new addition to the menu doesn’t sell much for us. People come here to eat our regular menu eats and are never willing to try anything new” says Arun. The eats are priced below Rs.50. The iconic masala dosa sells at Rs.46. “We never want to increase our prices for we have many everyday customers from students to office goers to labourers who pay the bill without even looking at it. We definitely don’t want to pinch their pockets by increasing our prices. We have a second category of customers, again our long time patrons, who visit us monthly or every two months. It’s more of a routine for them to eat here. Our whole intention is to serve tasty food loyally and faithfully. We really don’t want to binge on our basic business ethics, which in fact have brought us to this stage” says Arun.