By Nandini Srinivasan
If you feel like treating a big group of friends to a hot cuppa and some soft buns at an eerie hour like 2 am, you still can. All you need to do is know the selling places of S.A. Manjunath who goes around the city from 12 in the midnight to 7 in the morning selling hot cups of tea, coffee and buns.
Manjunath, who was earlier writing accounts for a shop on D. Devaraj Urs Road, decided to do something to supplement his income to educate his son. Since he worked in the shop till late evening, he started selling tea and coffee during nights and began his night cycle business in the early 80s. After the shop closed down, he continued with his night shift as he felt the need was more during these hours.
Manjunath back then, carried his flasks on a cycle and stood near a couple of important points like Railway Station and Mysore Medical College. Today, his shift begins at the stroke of 12 midnight. His first stop is near Bisilu Maramma Temple in Gangothri Layout from where he goes to Maruthi Temple in the same vicinity. Next stop is JSS Hostel, a little further, then near Kuvempu statue opposite Manasagangothri.
Moving to Javaregowda Park on Kamakshi Hospital Road or sometimes near Saraswathipuram Police Station, and Fire Brigade, he stops near DC’s Office, Metropole Circle before finally reaching the last stop, City Railway Station. At all the other stops, he spends around 20 minutes or more depending on the crowd.
“I have to be at the Railway Station at any cost by 3 am and I am there till around 7 am after which I wind up to go home and catch up some sleep,” he says. For doctors, nurses and others on night duty at Cheluvamba and K.R. Hospitals, Manjunath’s hot cuppa keeps them alert and awake.
Since he also sells buns, jam-buns and dil pasands, he is popular as ‘Bun Uncle’ among several students who are his regular customers. “Many students, who study late in the night, know where I am standing and at what time and drop in for a cup of tea or coffee and have their share of buns. I have started selling chakkuli and kodubale too now,” says Manjunath.
Shravan Thimmaiah, a student of Mysuru working in Bengaluru now, fondly recalls how he and his friends frequented Bun Uncle during their engineering days. “It was a real treat to be able to get a hot cup of tea or coffee at all odd hours. Whenever we studied late or went for a sleepover, we would drive down to where Bun Uncle stood, sip a cup of tea and gobble up those tasty buns,” he recalls.
Why did he choose to do this, that too at odd hours? “It needed little investment and I used to sell for a few hours in the night when I was working. But later decided to take this up full-time and as they aren’t many coffee, tea shops operating during the night, thought I could do well and many people continue to be my regular customers, maybe because of the taste that hasn’t changed. I started selling at Re. 1 per cup and sold around 250 to 300 cups initially. Today I sell at Rs. 5 per cup and sell almost 1,000 cups,” he says
“Yes, I do come across a few unscrupulous elements at times but I have the goodwill of the public and the Police so I am not worried,” Manjunath adds. Many times he gets calls from people at a funeral saying they need 50 to 100 cups of tea or coffee to sustain them till the morning.
“I keep a tray full of tea and coffee cups on a stool, so there is no hassle of serving individually. People pay and pick up the cups. Coolies and labourers who can’t afford Rs.5 ask for a lesser quantity for Rs. 2 and I oblige. Every night I use around 40 litres of milk. Now that I am slightly better off, I carry my wares on a scooter,” he explains.
Manjunath’s son Darshan, for whom he actually started this business, is a mechanical engineer from Vidya Vikas College and is now working with a well-known MNC. Darshan is proud of his father’s grit and grateful too. “He has put in so many efforts for me and I will live up to his expectations,” he says.
“My son tells me to stop working now that things have eased up, but I like doing what I do and my customers don’t want me to stop,” says 55-year-old Manjunath as he skilfully mixes the steaming frothy coffee.