It’s painted a bright red and bears the name: KFC.
The man responsible for the tasty food here isn’t the late Colonel Sanders of the other KFC where ‘K’ stands for ‘Kentucky’. It’s 32-year-old Biman Das of Kulamora, who runs this single-storeyed restaurant opposite the Goramur post office on Majuli island.
Known officially as Natun Kulamora Chapori, this is a
village in the river island of Majuli in Assam. Not just the
480 people of Kulamora who are mainly farmers and agricultural workers (Census
2011), but visitors to the island also seek KFC out for a quick meal. It’s
rated highly on all travel guides.
“I started KFC in 2017, operating it out of a cart,” says Biman on a hot May afternoon in 2022 as he opens up his restaurant for diners. The walls are painted a bright red, both outside and inside. Goats, geese and cattle mill around outside in the blazing sun.
Biman started off selling chow mein (stir-fried noodles) and a few
dishes from a pushcart. He opened a 10-seater restaurant two years later in
2019, serving fries, burgers, pizzas, pastas, milkshakes and more.
KFC is a hit not just with Kulamora’s local folk ibut even with tourists from across the world who visit the river island. They are responsible for its 4.3 star rating on Google Reviews, where this KFC’s taste and freshness is widely appreciated.
So, why is it called Krishna Fried Chicken? Biman takes out his phone and points to a picture of him, his wife Debajani Das and a young boy, no older than 7-8 years. “I named it after my son, Krishna,” says the proud father, smiling. The youngster, Biman says, comes to KFC everyday after school and sits in a corner doing his homework, while his parents serve hungry customers.
It’s lunchtime and Biman recommends a crispy fried chicken burger with a side of fries. He even shows us how it’s made. “I'm known to have one of the cleanest kitchens in Majuli,” he says making his way around the small space that has three counters, a fridge, ovens and a deep fryer. Cut vegetables are neatly stacked, while bottles of ketchup and other sauces line the kitchen shelves.
Biman takes out a box of marinated chicken from the fridge, dredges it
in flour and deep fries it. As it sizzles and crackles in bubbling oil, he
starts to toast the buns. He talks as he cooks: “My mother would have to leave
for work in the morning, so I had to feed myself,” he says, explaining how he
started young, at the age of 10. Ela Das, his mother, was an agricultural
worker in Majuli; his father, Dighala Das, sold fish.
“I watched her while she would cook and learnt how to make dal , chicken and fish,” Biman says. “My neighbours and friends would come home and eat because they enjoyed my cooking. This encouraged me to cook more.”
At 18, Biman left home to find a livelihood. He travelled with a friend to Mumbai with only Rs. 1,500 in his pocket. A relative helped him find work as a security guard at an apartment complex in the city, but he didn’t last very long at it. “I ran away from the job. I felt very bad doing that so I wrote a letter to the relative who had found me the job saying, ‘Please don't think less of me. I need to leave this job because it does not work for me. I have no job satisfaction here’.”
What followed were a series of stints in different restaurants in Mumbai where he learnt to cook multiple cuisines like Punjabi, Gujarati, Indo-Chinese and even continental food. Initially it was all from the side-lines. “I used to clean plates and set the tables in the beginning,” he says. In 2010, Biman got an opportunity to work at a food court called Etico in Hyderabad; he climbed the ranks and became a manager here.
Meanwhile he also fell in love and married Debajani – now his business partner at KFC. His younger cousins, Shivani and her sister also named Debajani, help out at the eatery.
After Hyderabad, Biman decided to move back to Majuli and initially worked at a restaurant in Demow block in Sivasagar district of Assam. All the while, he nurtured his dream of opening his own restaurant. And he did manage that – today he runs a brick and mortar eatery here in Kamalabari block. “I built the kitchen [at the back of the restaurant] but rent the seating area for 2,500 rupees a month,” says Biman.
I pay Rs. 120 and scarf down the excellent burger and fries as I hear his story. The other hot favourite among customers, he says, are his pizzas which are priced at Rs. 270. Reviews mention the refreshing nimbu paani drink, milk shakes and vegetable rolls.
and his family live in Sensowa,
ten kilometres away from Kulamora. He drives to his restaurant in his Swift
Dzire every day. “I start my day at 9
in the morning by doing all the cutting and preparation for the vegetables and chicken,”
On a good day, he can make 10,000 rupees. This is usually during the tourist season which is in the months of October - December. On other days, he collects about 5,000 rupees, he says.
Just then, regular customer, Nikita Chatterjee, walks in to place her order. A social worker, she moved to Majuli from Mumbai less than a year ago. “KFC is a life saviour,” she says. “When I first heard of Krishna Fried Chicken, people said it was very good by Majuli’s standards. But when I tried the food, I found that it’s very good by any standard.”
Looking at Biman she adds, “I have some complaints, though. Why were you closed for two days?” She is referring to the island-wide shut down for Bihu – a major festival in Assam.
“Did you eat at all in the last two days?” Biman enquires jokingly.
If you ever find yourself in the village of Natun Kulamora Chapori, Krishna Fried Chicken is a must visit. It’s 'finger lickin' good' .