The Jagannath B Shetty of 1941 was an outsider in Pune trying to earn a decent livelihood. Little did the owner of Vaishali, one of the most popular restaurants in the city, knew that several decades later many well-wishers and patrons from his food joint will get together to celebrate his 80th birthday which falls on October 8.
Shetty’s eyes welled up on Thursday by the presence of people and patrons coming and wishing him. “I knew that my restaurant was popular but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the turnout of people who came to wish me. It was my best birthday celebration till date. I now know how much people love me and hope that they continue to do so,” he said.
A stickler for taste and quality, Shetty visits the restaurant’s kitchen once in eight days. “Earlier, I used to be in the kitchen every day but now my family has taken over the responsibility pretty well. I am happy to just coordinate from the office,” he said.
Ashok Shengade, (58), a friend of Shetty is all praise for the man whom he believes has not changed since the day he first met him. “He is the same person I met 25 years ago. He has a knack for meeting people and makes you feel at home instantly. It goes without saying that his food is great,” Shengade said.
Agreeing to this was Sudhakar D Patil, the owner of Kirti Juice Centre (opposite Vaishali on FC Road). Patil said, “I started Kirti long after Vaishali was up and running but Shetty never looked at me as a competitor. In fact, he was more than welcoming and helped me with everything I needed to set up the food joint. He loves the pineapple juice and pulav that we serve and I am a fan of everything on their menu!”
Shetty’s well-wishers said that he remembers his customers even after meeting the person just once.
Shetty said, “In Pune it is a very easy process. You get what you give. It is a speciality of the city that no matter who you are, you will be welcomed and, not to forget, appreciated too. Pune is a city where you can succeed and prosper despite being an outsider.”
Having fed generations of families, Shetty’s favourite item on Vaishali’s menu remains Mysore Masala Dosa. And what better way to end the celebration than a cake that was shaped like a banana leaf and topped with idli and dosa replicas.