Hungry for knowledge? Head straight to Kanjikkuzhi on the suburbs of Kottayam. Wheels Restaurant offers an irresistible combo of books, paintings, music and of course, good food.
Suresh Babu, the man behind the unique restaurant, knows the recipe of a successful life. “Food, books, paintings, cinema, music and travel are the ingredients of high life,” he says.
The philosophy wafts through the eatery, where a sidewall is dedicated to books from around the world. Patrons can choose from a wide menu that features anything from world classics to contemporary Malayalam fiction. They can even borrow from the vast collection of around 3,000 books.
Suresh Babu has also collected works of celebrated painters. He has decorated his establishments with the works and those are included in the take-away menu.
“A restaurant works on tastes. Reading is part of a man’s tastes. Colors are a taste too. So is music. I wanted to cater to all tastes. I like reading. I like it when people read. That’s why I started a library for my patrons,” Babu says.
Babu got hooked to books during his stint with Nitya Chaitanya Yati. “That opened several doors before me. We are trained from our childhood to stick to a perspective. My stint with the guru helped me develop a universal outlook that encompasses everything. I met with many artists. I read many books, including Mukundan, Freud, Vyasan, Rumi as well as the bible and Sufi works. I used to watch movies with the guru and listen to music with him. I was attracted by the union of appreciation and morality.
“We read because we want to get familiar with the ideas of someone who sees what we cannot. I consider travel, cinema and music as part of reading. We are constantly being renewed by all these. Our lives become complete when we enjoy all these. Our assumptions and convictions change as we grow. We have realized the follies of our previous convictions. Reading transforms our beliefs and thoughts.
“I was born into an ambiance of reading. My mother was a good singer. She introduced me to Carnatic music. My grandfather used to paint pictures. That was my entry into art.
“I am reading Arundhati Roy’s ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’. She is a very clever writer. She has connected different viewpoints in separate layers in the novel. The novel handles political issues deftly. The Kashmir issue and the Gujarat issue are reflected in it. The novel is not just about the emotions of a few, it is the story of an era.
“I am also reading an old book of M. Mukundan’s short stories.
“I share some of my poems on social media. I like to write small poems. I have also bought a small piece of land to make a forest where rare indigenous trees can grow. I cultivate rare trees. I feel that this attempt is like a work of art.
“The new generation is growing in a visual culture in the times of mobile phone and internet. They are open to sights and sounds. Yet the books are essential to widen our horizons. Our houses and schools should have an atmosphere of reading. School libraries should be active. Teachers should be interested in reading. If you can’t nurture a culture of reading, then the Reading Day would be pointless.”