The memory was refreshed in us when we were dropped in the middle of an extremely busy road yesterday evening. Perhaps it was all the vehicle exhaust we were breathing in. perhaps it was just the weirdness in us. But the story of how Shisha Jobin Murali came to be the owner of the famous Naduvazhi bakery just popped itself into our brains. i shall share it with you, the story that was told me by l’elke parfait.
A few years ago, Shisha arrived in the city of Hyderabad, hoping to make enough money to send home to his impoverished family. In that, this is a fairly normal story of how the family had to go thru innumerable hardships. Shisha’s father used to work in a small bakery in their small village barely earning enough to feed the well planned family of 5. Shisha was the eldest. But that didn’t mean anything; his two sisters went to school just as he did. But there wasn’t much to do after school so he used to go to the bakery, not to do anything, help wasn’t really in demand cuz there never were that many customers at any given point in time. But he used to like going there and watching the bakers work, and drink in the smell of freshly baked biscuits and cakes and bread. Sometimes he used to do his homework sitting there, making sure he was out of everyone’s way.
Anyway, time passed, shisha grew. it was not as if the father was weak and old, but still, shisha felt it was time he started contributing to the family finances. This, at the tender age of 15. He started with odd jobs here and there, at the local food place (cannot really call them restaurants). He didn’t earn much, but his parents were proud of the fact that their son was behaving so responsibly. Besides, he earned enough for his own education. School done with, he left the village to one of the nearby towns, where there was a makeshift college. Engineering was out of the question. So he did the next best thing, a B. Sc. as soon as he reached, he sought work, in his college library and the local lending libraries. Benefits were two fold: he could earn and he could read. As a result of which he knew a lot of minor tidbits, tiny useless pieces of information one couldn’t put to any kind of use. Upside was that he could participate in and win quizzes. Prize money and helping out with local small businesses got him through college. He was not an exceptional student, no rank-holder – just your regular Joe..err…Shisha.
But now the time had come to really start doing something. The last time he went home, his father sat him down and told him that it was time that he contributed to the family more actively. But shisha knew that even before his dad spoke to him. He outlined to his father, his plans: he would go to the bigger cities. Try to find work. Neither parent questioned this or tried to stop him. Shisha’s father slowly got up and walked to ward the open shelves that served as t heir clothes-cum- everything else cupboard. He put his hand into the pocket of shirt that was hanging on a nail on the wall next to the shelves. When shisha saw this, he stood up and indignantly but politely told his father to “not even think about it.” he left the next morning after a meager breakfast.
Over the next few months, he went from town to town, city to city, in a vain search for some form of income which would not just keep him alive but also allow him to send a little home. But there were too many qualified people in Kerala. He stood not a chance. He decided to go to another state another city. Chennai might seem like the obvious option, but think about it, it’s a much bigger city and almost every mallu who wants to go outside kerala aims at Chennai. So he decided upon Hyderabad. He knew it would be tough, he wasn’t exactly fluent in Hindi, not even close. But he thought, he had better chances of surviving there. So he arrived in Hyderabad, full of hope. As soon as he came, he tried various small offices. Every morning he’d wake up and set out trying his best to stay positive, and every evening he’d come crawling back a little more hopeless than the previous day. The little money he’d saved before coming was getting littler in payment for the shady lodging and some extra tasteless food.
One evening, when he had all but finished his round of office blocks for the day and was making his way back to what was temporarily his abode in the bus, he realized the hopelessness of his situation. he’d come hoping to find work and send money home, and now he had just about enough money to last him another 3 days. The hopelessness gripped him, and he sat there as though in a trance. The bus seemed to have stopped; shisha quietly stood up and got out of the bus. It was as if a spell had broken; he found himself in the middle of the road, literally and metaphorically. His entire life’s purpose seemed to be coming hurtling at him at an awesome speed like the vehicles on the road, threatening the worst. Then, through the rush, he saw a small bakery, dwarfed by all the big and posh stores around it. He stared at it for a while, then at the shops on either side of it for as far as he could make out and realized that this was one of the 3 places on that side of this extremely busy road that offered food, and the only bakery. he crossed the road and went into the bakery and offered his services, which were thankfully accepted. He found that the bakery was not well organized and that it had nothing very different to offer. He proactively rearranged the store, cleaned it up, and dusted all the pictures of the delicious pastries that were on the wall. Finally one day, he plucked up the courage to ask the owner, a kindly old man, permission to try his had at baking. His first attempt was a success. Not only did the place not explode, but the cake he baked was thoroughly enjoyed by the owner and his family. The owner then proceeded to commission him a certain number of cakes per day. But any target seemed too low for Shisha’s cakes and pastries. And shisha himself was happily sending money home now.
One day, someone came over with an offer to buy up the place and convert it into another posh little boutique. The kindly old owner was not very particular about the bakery; he had other businesses bringing in more money. But the boy he had hired one crowded day just over a year ago had endeared himself to the owner. So he asked the suited guy with the business proposition to have some tea with him, and asked Shisha to bring out his best cakes for the suited gentleman. As the two businessmen sipped on their tea and nibbled on their cakes, the kindly old owner mentioned his terms. The subsequent owner must not convert the bakery (as it had continued to be the only bakery on that side of the road, and by now a well frequented by people one. it made sense). And Shisha has to be made a 50% partner. to say no to these terms while being offered another slice of the delicious cake was possible, so the terms were agreed upon. When Shisha, who had been anxiously wringing his hands in the kitchen, heard about the deal, he simply broke down. The next day the owner accompanied him to the nearest bank and helped him get a loan for the partnership. a week later, shisha became the part owner of the Naduvazhi Bakery (the name was changed with permission from the kindly old ex-owner). Today, it’s still there, still small, but it flourishes.