My classes are a humble dedication to my beloved father, Late Shri S K Ramachandran, lovingly known as SKR. He was a number one South-Indian vegetarian catering contractor in New Delhi for almost 50+ years.
My father was an extremely charming, sincere, honest, loving and god fearing man who was very passionate about food. He believed that only blessed few can create food that is good for the body and soul. At the age of 17 he became a self-taught entrepreneur along with my mother (Kokila Ramachandran) they started a cottage industry making South-Indian speciality items like sweets, savouries, poppadum and pickles. The taste and service made his very popular which lead to many opportunities including catering for various occasions. He then went on to become a catering contractor and established a company called SKR Caterers managing small family functions to lavish weddings. The niche he had was to be able to create the same experience that one would have if they lived in South-India. He went to great lengths to ensure all ingredients, items are available easily and quickly in New Delhi. He inspired many people to become the suppliers and set up shops in Delhi to be able to cater to the growing demands. If you have ever attended a South-Indian wedding you would know as to how important is the plantain trees for decorating the entrance of the wedding hall, banana leaf for serving food, fresh coconuts for cooking and wedding rituals, betel nuts and pan leaf to serve to guests after each meal, fragrant jasmine and various other flowers for both the wedding rituals and to offer to the visiting guests and the various wedding garlands for the bride and the groom, and organising good pundits who would do justice to the Hindu wedding rituals.
In his life time he has catered to over 1500 occasions including grand weddings. He was an inspiration and an institution to many, he was so famous that many travelled from different parts of India looking to find employment with him. He is still considered as life saver in other words god by many South-Indian families in New Delhi as exceeded their expectations by making their children’s wedding grand. He was a thorough business man with empathy to the less privileged. He liberally parted with his wealth to great causes right from education costs for his employees children to funding their children’s marriages. He was instrumental in building iconic South-Indian temples in Delhi. The stories of his act of kindness are very many and people still talk about them even today. I have not seen god in my life but having seen my dad and mum I can say that I don’t regret.
I lost my dad on 6 June 2001 which was one of the main reason for my move to my new home Auckland, New Zealand. I count my blessings every day and feel very proud to be his daughter. My secret yearning to be part of his business and passion came true early last year as I and my daughter Shymala Sidharth started SKR Banu's Cooking Class last year where we passionately share and teach many of his dishes. My family here including my husband Sidharth and son Gowtham are my rocks as they quietly make it all happen beautifully. It is because of his blessings and the unwavering encouragement, love and support of my community in New Zealand that has made our journey so far soul enriching. As they say “when you teach, you learn” is true as my students have helped me shape my classes in way that is unique and has a lasting memory.
Personally for me as I was very close to my father, this journey has been very rewarding as this has brought closure and has given me a great sense of purpose and positive direction to pursue.