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The Simple Epicurean

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Ramki Krishnan lives, cooks and hosts foreign travellers for free in a 71 sq ft van in Chennai.

Ramki Krishnan lives, cooks and hosts foreign travellers for free in a 71 sq ft van in Chennai.

While the rest of the world chases an upsize in life with bigger houses and larger cars, Ramki Krishnan is happy in his 71 sq ft mobile van parked in Kodambakkam, Chennai. The 41-year-old self-professed minimalist with a love for travelling quickly grew tired of hotels during his journeys. He said, “I hate to be tied to hotels. I also hate to pack. So I bought a van and redid it. Redoing it was as much work as building a house.”

His Tempo Traveller was chosen as an extension of the similar sized studio he lives, works and cooks in. “I believe people need very little to live on,” he says. “I snapped up this place for a song when it came on the market because the builders thought it was too small to be of any use. But I’ve had as many as 12 people in this tiny space and am now convinced that what you need is not the right resources, but the right mindset!”

Ramki’s humble home has since seen multiple visitors from all over the globe, as he hosts travellers for free as part of a global Couchsurfing project. Couchsurfing allows travelers to link up with locals in the country they are travelling in, to avail of a free couch or room, and a local experience. Not all are thrilled at the sight of his unique living situation, though. “Some love the place, some freak out and some politely inform me they suddenly remembered an urgent meeting,” says Ramki, who is more amused than insulted.

He brings his enthusiasm for simplistic living to cooking as well, running Nedungudi, a Chettinad restaurant, as well as a pizza parlour. He spends most of his time experimenting with different cuisines and writing about them. The result is his collection of One Page Cookbooks, (ramkicooks.blogspot.com) which range from French sauces to variations of paranthas. “I realised that each cuisine is built on a set of core building blocks and recipes are just various arrangements of these blocks,” says Ramki. “My cookbooks try to isolate the theme and show how infinite recipes flow out of each theme.”

The ex-owner of an e-learning company, Ramki gave up his formal attire five years ago. “The small kitchen is no hindrance at all. As is true with everything else, as you learn more, you need less,” he says.