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It's neither Satyamangalam nor Madumalai nor Bandipur

Still, it's Nilgiris for Babjee & Syamala


WONDER IF any flavour of the month could possibly be as vibrant and creative as `Viva Goa'. Enhancing the splendour of the lively evening is a couple qualified enough to take a shine to. Chalasani Siva Ramakrishna, popularly known as Babjee, a tall, imposing personality in possession of Nilgiris - the all-in-one general store, with his wife, Syamala, offered a modest and informative rendezvous.

Following an impressive Konkani number of "Ya..ya..mayaya..," by the freshly brought in Goan talent, playing their buttery fingers softly on the guitar, the duo began to unwind. Siva Ramakrishna had done his schooling at Hyderabad and Chennai. Going back in time while trying the crispy starters, which included, Crumb fried fish, Crumb fried prawn, and Bhutanese chilly chicken supplemented with Vegetable Cantonese soup, Siva Ramakrishna shared the memories of his days at the Madras Christian College. He fondly remembers the ragging hours, "the strong friendship that came out of this is unforgettable," he says.

The obliging and spontaneous Syamala was a proud student of St.Joseph's Convent School, Kakinada. She was an athlete especially good at high jumping and also enjoyed the creative games her school is famous for. She remembers being particularly good at pole walking.

Though an engineer by qualification, Siva Ramakrishna finds it more engaging to be a businessman. He, however, has both his sons following his footsteps with an engineer and the younger one on his way to make it big in the corporate world. Even while managing a popular customer-friendly general store with a huge reputation that demands a rush off his feet, Babjee takes time off to read his books. He is currently re-reading Ayn Rand's `Fountainhead' to explore deeply the subject of objectivism of relationships that the writer portrays through her characters.

Helping him in his work is his wife. "She deals with the woman customers who make the difference," says Siva RamaKrishna. Syamala is very glad for having discovered the pleasure of learning the `Art of Living'. "It's helping me a great deal and I suggest every acquaintance of mine to try it and feel the difference," she says, trying the various Goan delicacies like Crab Xac-xac, Cabrito-de-assad, Prawn Balchao and spicy Mushroom gravy.

Siva Ramakrishna is a humanist with no inclination to any religion but is convinced of being God-fearing. He believes that every person must have a guiding faith in life. In contrast, Syamala is devotional and the pujas during the festival of `Navarathri' are of particular importance to her.

Travelling is their most frequent activity and the couple has been to Singapore, USA and UK. Siva Ramakrishna feels that tourism in Andhra Pradesh can be better marketed for bountiful gains for almost every town and a majority of the villages comprise a locale. This is a discovery he made during one of his trips to the US where he drove for 3 long hours from San Francisco, expecting the spectacle of a magnificent waterfall, as described by the locals but interestingly, found only a slender vertical brook making its way through the rocks. With two years of intense work at the store, the couple is looking forward to a really relaxing holiday, probably on a cruise liner, to come back with pumped spirits.

Talking about his cool and trendy store, Siva Ramakrishna says, " I am happy for being able to provide employment to at least a few people." His store is a remarkable place to socialize where his wife and he get to meet people from various walks of life.

Even in the lap of luxury, the pair shares a proclivity for active social work. They indulge in regular donations to schools and help at least two children every year find their world. "I think every individual must be offered the basic education, come what may, for a healthier nation," says Siva Ramakrishna. They are very pleased and impressed with the pace at which the city is developing.

MUBIN SULTAN

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