Source: Deccan Chronicle
Ninety per cent of the population of the village Indupalli in Krishna district has a single profession, cooking. About 100 years ago, Chowdary Babu, a barrister, lived in Indupalli. His family used to travel a lot, making it difficult to have home cooked food all the time. Chowdary’s wife selected Vaddanapu Koteswara Rao, a boy who was a domestic help in the house, and instructed him in the art of cooking.
When Koteswara Rao grew up, he was appointed as a peon in the local school. His cooking got publicity when he helped a teacher with his daughter’s wedding. After that, all the teachers demanded his services.
Indupalli and the surrounding villages of Nandamuru, Manikonda, Chikinala soon got a taste of his dishes and became the most sought after cook in the area. Over the years, celebrities and politicians like Rajiv Gandhi, Buta Singh, Jalagam Vengala Rao, Anjaiah and others heard about his cooking. Rao, later, became the personal cook for NTR and Sobhan Babu on outdoor shootings.
Rao passed on his culinary skills to 110 masons from all castes and religions in the village during his lifetime. The second generation of cooks trained another 20 each. Over the years, some of the Indupalli cooks have settled in Vijayawada, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Chennai, Bellary, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi. They are the chief chefs of conclaves like TANA meetings, Telugu Desam Mahanadu, Congress and Communist parties plenary meetings. They prepare food for guests numbering anywhere from 1,000 to 1 lakh and guarantee satisfaction of all.
M. Bhaskara Rao, a disciple of Koteswara Rao said, “We started working with him for half a rupee. He taught us how to select ingredients and balance spices. With the art he has bestowed upon us, we are now leading a decent life.”
Indupalli has changed a lot now. There are no huts here. Everyone has bought two-three acres of land and earns an average of Rs 5,00,000 a year. The fourth generation of cooks has even taught in multi-cuisine restaurants abroad.
Arepalli Vasantha Rao, was in Libya for one year. “We have Indians everywhere. Firms are employing us to satisfy their tastebuds,” he said. To satisfy their taste buds, the companies employing us. I worked on a contract in a production house and taught them,” he said.
Yearly tradition that brings everyone home:
Due to the increased demand and travel expenses, Indupalli cooks prefer to live in cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Delhi, with a considerable population of Telugu-speaking people.
However, the villagers devised a reunion tradition. Fourteen years ago, the village cooks founded a trust and constructed a Sai Baba temple. The anniversary falls on January 29 and all villagers settled outside are expected to visit their village on this day.
In the first year, 4,000 people gathered in Indupalli. This year, about 20,000 people visited the village. Vasanth Rao said, “Villagers living anywhere in the country come home for this event. All houses in the village are filled with family members.”
This year too, a similar number of people are expected. Mr Vasantha Rao said, “Villagers living anywhere in the country come home for that single event. We arrange VIP level meals and round the clock cultural programmes through the day and night. All houses in the village will be full of relatives and family members.”
Mr Bhaskara Rao, a board member of the temple said, “We have shifted the day to January 18 this year, as the 28 and 29 are full of auspicious muhurtams after a long time. We don’t want to deprive them of their earnings. For January 18, we are making preparations for 20,000 members at a cost of Rs 14 lakh. All the cooks in the village prepare dishes on the day and we serve them at four locations in the village for the convenience of the people.”
Dedication is special ingredient:
There is a saying: Once a person tastes food made by Indupalli cooks, they can easily identify it the second time. The cook may be different, but the taste is the same. Bhaskara Rao says, “The devotion and dedication towards our work are our the special ingredients. We are satisfied with what we get. We are not greedy and don’t take up extra orders on a day when we already have other orders. We are all booked for events nearly six months in advance.”
The 500 cooks and helpers are busy on almost all the auspicious dates. Another cook said that due to increasing demand for the Indupalli cooks, some persons are impersonating them. “We caught a guy in Hyderabad last month. He begged for forgiveness. We beat him up and warned him not to damage the reputation of cooks from our village,” he said because no one else knows our distinctive style of cooking.” On December 7, it is the marriage of the son of minister Pattipati Pulla Rao. His aides booked someone from the village for it.
Recently, a man close to Mr Alapati Rajendra Prasad contacted us for booking on the same day, December 7 for the marriage of the MLA’s daughter. We had to regret we couldn’t accommodate him. We turned down the order from Minister Kamineni Srinivas for his daughter’s marriage on December 17. We cannot agree as we have already accepted another order.” The integrity and goodness possibly is the special ingredient of cooks from Indupalli. The 500 cooks and helpers of Indupalli are busy on almost all the auspicious dates on the calendar.
Another cook said that based on increasing demand for the Indupalli cooks, some persons are impersonating them. He added, “We caught a guy in Hyderabad last month. He pleaded guilty and begged for forgiveness. We beat him up and warned him not to damage the reputation of cooks from our village because no one else knows our distinctive style of cooking.”