The strong kaapi, the soft neer dosa and the spicy rasam vada are still served with a smile. But the eyes are sad.
On the wall of the 72-year-old Mysore Cafe, another frame joins the picture of the founder Rama Nayak — his son’s. Nagesh Nayak died of a heart attack on Wednesday, a month before he would turn 62. The hotel was closed on Wednesday, but on Thursday the kaapi was back.
The Kings Circle hotel introduced Mumbai to Udupi culture and is probably on a must-visit list along with the Gateway of India. The family-run joint has never been affected by the fancy restaurants with fancier cuisines mushrooming in the city. People always flock back for the tangy sambar. On some days, you find yourself seated at a table next to the likes of Mukesh Ambani and Rahul Dravid.
“He was perfectly fine and suddenly in the morning he was no more. He never had any health issues,” said his daughter Neha who turns 26 on Friday, which coincides with the annual day of the hotel. A large celebration was planned but it has been cancelled.
His two children were not part of the hotel but will now join it. “My mother, brother and I will continue his legacy. We will not give up our jobs but the people who work with us are trustworthy and they will chip in,” added Neha. Nagesh was an engineer but joined the family business by virtue of being the eldest son. The udupi was running losses until he brought in fiscal management.
At the hotel, the staff is glum. For them, Nagesh Nayak was like a father. “He used to always say that when he dies, the hotel should be cleaned and opened immediately. I have stayed with him longer with my own father. I came here when I was 16 and have been here for 25 years,” said Manjunath Pujari, the manager.
Most staff members have worked here for over 20 years and have never once thought of moving on for better perspectives.
The sorrow has spread to the nearby udupis. “He was caring and unconventional in his own way. He would put up interesting proverbs everyday outside his hotel. We grew up reading them,” said Devarat Kamat, the third generation owner of the nearby Madras Cafe.