As we did not want another “continental” meal, we decided to try out some other restaurants in the vicinity. My trusty little guide book* from Fodor’s suggested we try the Hotel Annapurna “multi cuisine”. Apparently the meals were to die for.
This is a part of the Hotel Sharadaram that is near the bus station in the city about 15 min walk from the temple. We of course took the car and pulled up at quite a distinguished entrance, although at this point anything without peeling paint would have looked distinguished to our eyes. We entered a typical South Indian restaurant scene : steel topped tables, plastic chairs, waiters bustling about, the paan chewing manager/cashier ensconced in his elevated pedestal behind a wooden podium overseeing the whole chaos with an almost bored expression**. As I approached this demi-god to ask for a table, one of the ubiquitous waiters popped up in front of me like a jack-in-the-box and said ” A/c a madam?” and before I could reply, said, ” ippadi vaanga madam”. Since I figured anything was better than standing in everybody’s way, we rushed to follow our little guide. He opened the glass double doors on the other side of the entrance and I was met with a blast of cold air. After refusing what apparently was prime spots right under the blasting A/C we chose one as far as we possibly could, right next to one of the large windows looking out at a pretty little garden at the back of the hotel. It was a relatively quiet time and the waiter, doorman, manager*** were all clustered around us waiting with bated breath for our orders. Unable to take the pressure, my dad decided to escape to the restroom, followed quickly by my mom. Finally, my parents decided to have full meals****, but as I wanted to test the authenticity of the “multi cuisine” label, I ordered the vegetarian chow mien. The meals arrived in time, steaming hot, with fragrances that made your mouth water. It was not until they were half way through the thair sadam, did the chow mein make its appearance. Word to the wise, if your meal takes way too long to get to the table, you can guarentee you will be dissappointed. Infact the longer it takes the greater the dissappointment. My chow mein was noodles with boiled vegetables, with maggie masala drizzled on top. I managed to salvage my dining experience, however, by appropriating my parents’s icecream sundae by claiming the age-old adage that old people should not eat ice-cream.
After such a sumptuous meal, of course they wanted to take a siesta, but the thought of sharing your bed with the mosquitos somehow didnt appeal to them. So I thought why not try for a room where we were, in Hotel Sharadaram? I had already called earlier in the week to see if they had any rooms available and they had said no, but I thought maybe seeing us in person might make all the difference. So I put on my most pathetic orphan-cast-upon-the-world look and approached the front desk. They still had no rooms. Seeing the disappointment on my dad’s face, however, the kind lady asked doubtfully if we would perhaps care for a suite? Until then I was unaware of the existence of suites and further enquiry led to the information that a suite gets you the added luxury of a center table with TV, but a standard double room with AC gets only two double beds and a night stand. How could we refuse? So suite it was.
Compared to Hotel Akshaya, Sharadaram was bright and sunshiny with wide stairs , decent size elevator, wide windows and if not exactly clean smelling at least not musty smelling rooms. In fact our suite had a balcony, which thrilled my mom because she could now wash some clothes and hang them out to dry, but disappointed me as it looked on to the bus stand. Notwithstanding these minor deficiencies the room was quite roomy (heh heh), the bathroom clean and the bed linen well washed and free of cigarette smoke. Moreover, the staff were super helpful and efficient. Our hot water geyser did not work and they immediately called in an electrician and fixed it for us and even got us hot water from the next room, in case we needed it in the meantime. So while my dad had a nice long siesta nap, my mom and I went back to the Periya Kovil, to be tourists this time.
We also made the trip to Thillai Kalli Amman temple that day, through the worst roads I have yet had the misfortune to travel. As if driving over potholes was not enough, we had to squeeze our little Indica over the bushes and boulders over the side of the road to make way for the huge busses carrying truck loads of red clad Amman devotees. It turned out that we were visiting an Amman temple in the middle of some major season, so not only the way but the entire temple was filled to the brim with devotees clad in red, dipped in red and spewing red all over the place. I have no recollection of actually seeing the idol or any other aspect of the temple other than leaping over paan stains, escaping being scorched by the fiercely burning oil lamps on the floor while all the while avoiding bumping into people clutching Neem leaves. After all these misadventures I was so happy to get back to the lovely hotel room in Sharadaram which for all it overlooked the bus stand, had a cosy, clean bed and nary a mosquito in sight.
* Yes, I am a tamizhacchi from Tamil Nadu and I needed a guide book, so sue me 😛
** You might see his clone at any Saravana Bhavan (including the ones abroad) and they all have the same identical expression. Like they are having an out of body experience and I for one think that look ought to be patented.
*** This was a different one. He wore a suit and had the most gracious expression.
**** Ahhh…what can I say about that full meals: it had 2 kuzhambus, 1 rasam, 2 curries, 1 kootu, unlimited applam and vadam and rice, thair, thogaiyal, pickle, chappathi and sabzi, 1 banana, coffee or tea and ice cream sundae.