Hailing it as the ultimate institution of equality and diversity, our correspondents pay their ode to the college canteen.
The University of Delhi (DU) is a world of its own. It is a world inhabited by different people with different interests, from different backgrounds. At the onset, DU might not be the most inviting place and the differences that it accommodates may be starkly visible. The most evident point to this is how different groups mark different territories of the college. However, one safe haven which unites everyone at a DU college is the canteen. Apart from satisfying appetites and being the gossip point, the college canteen is surely an epitome of accepting diversity. There is diversity in the menu and the people, and nobody feels left out. Thepseudo- intellectual girl who might have a hardcore accent and an education from a posh school would be busy getting her fingers messy devouring a buttery aloo parantha and at the same time, the small-town boy from a Hindi- medium background who is trying to master the colonial tongue will also be helping himself to a plate of white sauce pasta with a plastic fork. Out here in the canteen, people are mostly busy enjoying the little things in their college life making it a sort of equality- promoting, no-judging zone.
Anyone and everyone can step in this ‘Demilitarised Zone’, this neutral territory, to order food, socialise or get chutta for a 500 rupee note. The geeks, the freaks, the politically active students, the students who choose None of the Above (NOTA) in elections, the jeans wearers, the kurta wearers, the jeans and kurta wearers, all welcomed by the canteen doors. Some might say the library is a similar institution but with a look at the smiling faces, the colours, and the energy in the canteen and one will realise that the canteen is truly unique. Although students might hardly realise this uniqueness as it has become a part of our everyday lives. Some of the canteens have outdoor tables with umbrellas, while some sport hues of the rainbow. In today’s world, a college canteen can be symbolised by a multicoloured umbrella. Maybe, that is what the college canteen is, a multicoloured umbrella providing space for all students, all states, and all shades of opinion. DU Beat spoke to Brijlal Sir, the manager of the Ramjas College canteen about his experience of managing and running a canteen. He was asked, “How long have you been running the canteen at Ramjas college? How has the general experience been?” He answered, “I have been working here for eight years. In these eight years, I’ve pretty much seen everything, the most important and significant thing I have witnessed though is change. I have seen and served all kinds of people here. Students from dramatics, dance, music societies, studious kids, and even ladki ghumane wale, all come here. I see them as budding vibrant colours, and every year new colours are added into the mix.
Once, a boy came to me and said, ‘Sir bus agar yahan hone ki attendance lagti na toh classes se bhi zyada hoti meri’ (If only I would get attendance for coming to the canteen, I would have more attendance than I do in classes right now!). This made me very happy. One more interesting thing to note here is, the difference between the professor and the student diminishes, they all are alike. Yeh alag alag pehlu mujhe maano jaise kadhai main dale alag alag masalon jaise lagte hain, alag but ek jut, ek jagah.” It’s true, DU canteens become a safe haven for all without bias, a home for friendships, fights, protests, campaigns, love, sadness, and everything else. It has become a staple rule upon entering DU to visit canteens, especially those in the Faculty of Management Studies, or Hindu College, or Delhi School of Economics. It is so because these places have transcended the stature of just canteens but have become a place of memories.
Feature Image Credits: The Outlook