Welcome to the hotels ‘California’
For most techies, anywhere, California, home to Silicon Valley, is right up there on the top of the list of dream destinations. In this regard, though, techies at Technopark are a bit more fortunate than most. For them, ‘California’ is literally just a hop, skip and a jump – across the wall – away! For over a decade now, ‘California’ has been a favourite hangout for those who work on the campus.
Technopark’s ‘California’ is actually an alley with tea shops and restaurants situated a short distance away from the rear gate of Nila building. Technically, the alley is outside the campus but that does not stop hordes of techies, from across the campus, from heading there throughout the day to catch up and socialise over some ‘chai and kadi’ (local parlance for tea and snacks) and, sometimes, the occasional meal too.
“The area got stuck with the moniker because California is where most of us would be sent out – if at all – on overseas assignments. Nila was the first building to come up at Technopark and so local entrepreneurs outside the campus took advantage of its proximity and quickly set up thattukadas and restaurants to cater to the crowd who worked in the building. It has been a popular destination since then,” says Ajeesh Kumar, a techie who has been frequenting the joints for the past four years. Ajeesh, who works at Nila, says that he strolls over to ‘California’ almost on a daily basis in the afternoons/early evenings, often with a couple of his buddies. There are shortcuts to ‘California’ from most of buildings such as Bhavani and Gayatri.
When MetroPlus stopped by ‘California’ on a sunny weekday afternoon, we chanced upon dozens of techies, mostly men, shirt-sleeves rolled up and ties loose, sipping tea and bantering non-stop. “California’ is perhaps the one place on campus to meet up with fellow techies who work in different companies across Technopark, most of whom, otherwise, we would not have a chance to meet,” adds Ajeesh as he bites into piping hot vadas smothered in chutney and sips from a frothy glass of milky tea from one of the older restaurants on the row.
Afternoons appear to be the busiest time of the day. “On a daily basis we estimate that upwards of 700 customers come to ‘California’ to have food or snacks, the majority of them between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.,” says the owner of Sivan’s restaurant, one of the more popular joints.
That food is relatively cheaper than at most restaurants and company canteens on campus is probably the biggest attraction. “Here you can get chai and kadi for around Rs. 12, breakfast (puttu-kadala, appam-curry, poori-masala, and so on) for around Rs. 15 and a full course meal for lunch for Rs. 25 (Rs. 40 if lunch includes fish fry)…value for money,” says Arun Muralidharan, a colleague of Ajeesh, who says that he’s been popping by the place since he started work at Technopark six years ago. “Unfortunately, it is also quite popular because in ‘California’ there is no restriction on smoking. It is banned on the campus. And perhaps it’s because of this that women don’t come here too often,” he adds.
And it’s not just the tea shops that do brisk business here. Further down the alley are houses where enterprising homemakers serve home-cooked meals for lunch/dinner. “All of these places have monikers too depending on the taste of the food served and the nature of the hosts. There’s ‘Shantham’ – a gem of a lady; ‘Kalippu’ – who gets irked if we don’t call and inform them that we are not coming for lunch; Sneham – a lady who is very motherly to all of us…,” says Ajeesh.
Some old-timers recall that a few years ago, Technopark authorities closed the access gate to ‘California’ for security reasons. “It was a justifiable move on their part but there was a huge hue and cry. The issue was quickly resolved when they put a couple of security guards to man the gate. Phew!” says another techie Rohith V.G.