Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Sivakasi Revisited

The Bell Hotel in Sivakasi, when it opened its doors to the public more than fifteen years ago, was not a hotel at all. It was just a restaurant. Set in the middle of a huge grove of fruit trees, it was a long rectangular dining hall kept cool by noisy air-conditioners, where the itinerant business traveller could find safe haven during those languorous hours from 1 pm to 3 pm, when the heat was its worst and the whole town hunkered down in an uneasy siesta. The menu was madly eclectic, mixing and matching the South Indian-Tandoori-Chinese cuisines with reckless abandon. But the food was decent and that was all that we cared.

When I visited the restaurant the second time, there were already changes in the air. Mr RS, the enterprising businessman who owned the restaurant, had purchased two 40-feet containers, mounted them on iron girders at a height of two feet from the ground, cut out windows on the sides and had converted them into hotel rooms with air-conditioning, TV, attached bathrooms and room service from the restaurant.

As innovations go, this one was simply marvellous and became a big hit with the small traders and businessmen who came to Sivakasi from all over the country and who, hitherto, had to make do with dingy lodges with smelly toilets near the bus stand.

Within a year or so, the number of “hotel rooms” multiplied–one part of the grove began to look like a well-maintained container park, with fresh water and sewage lines discreetly laid underneath the sturdy, metal trellis. I stayed in one of those rooms once; it was a refreshing experience to wake up to sound of birdsong and sit on the narrow veranda outside (it was actually a narrow platform running on all four sides of the room) and have my cup of morning tea.

But all this was just the beginning. The tip of the iceberg, if you will.

The visionary Mr RS had a few more aces up his sleeve.

Photo Courtesy: http://


Thiruvengadam said...

It feels nice to be back on the comments area. But I do regularly visit your blog.

I saw your daughter on NDTV Hindu. Though I couldn't catch up with the whole program, I somehow managed to see the last section where they announced the results. Congratulations! to Arundhati and her teammate on winning the contest.

Nikhil Narayanan said...

My guess was spot on when you said that this man had a few more aces up his sleeve.
And Bell did ring the bell!
Bell Clips to Standard Fireworks, he is the man!

Rada said...

@ Manohar: Good to see you here after a long absence. Please do drop in more often and don't forget to leave a comment!

@ Nikhil: Thanks for dropping by, Nikhil! I can see you have done your research on the net! :-)

vichitra said...

@Rada : This is Mr.RS's daughter Vichitra. I was googling Bell Hotel and I came across this blog. Thank you very much for writing such wonderful things about my father. He is a true visionary. I got my dad to read both your blogs on bell hotel. He is really happy. He is not able to recollect who you are on seeing your picture though. Bell hotel started off really small like you said and now its a full fledged hotel and restaurant chain with its own hotel school.. Thank you once again for the lovely blog on my dad...

Rada said...

Hello Vichitra!

It's so wonderful to hear from you! Thank you for your kind words.

Can you send me a mail on I would be happy to jog your Dad's memory about who I am, really! ;-)

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.