Some times in our lives we get attached to certain people, sometimes to certain things or it may be certain places. This got me thinking about, what in our small but significant college life is the dearest to us. What is the thing that attracts us the most towards it?
What is it that makes the routine grinding that we as students undergo a little less unbearable? What is it that brings us closer to our friends? So many questions! So thinking what means the most to me in my college , frankly it is not easy because I don’t think much on the first hand, the first place that came to my mind is the college Canteen. Yes people the ultimate “Adda” of all the college junta. So I set upon my journey to find more about my canteen . Frankly when I thought about my canteen I couldn’t come up with much. And suddenly; my refuge, my private place, the canteen became a mystery to me. May be even bigger a mystery than how much IQ Rakhi Savant has? Or what made me go watch Love story 2050?
I had to take help of all my friends in college. That included stopping them in the middle of their lunch, waking them up from their sleep and nicking some stuff of their plates. But on the whole, it was a great experience. I found out a lot of stuff I already knew and also I found some stuff that maybe I could never have thought about in my wildest dreams.
Firstly, I would like to say that structure wise, my canteen is a place where you would not like to send your worst enemies. The entrance to it is like a prison with just a small door. Much fight break out on who gets to enter and catch a seat first or maybe you have to wait at the invisible red light where you have to stop for the traffic coming in or going out or just standing there. It’s not such a happy thing to do when you have hippos swimming in your tummy.
The seating facility is great but only in quantity not in quality. All you get is plastic chairs that looks like the batch of first plastic chairs ever made and you could make a fortune selling them as antiques. Tables are coated with grime accumulated over the years that can make your white shirt black. But one thing you can be assured of is that of companions while you eat. By saying, ‘Companions’, I do not mean your friends but it is the ‘Flies’. These flies hover around you like the helicopters circling Godzilla in the movie. The number of flies is huge and some utterly bored people have made it a sport to kill flies in a limited time. The current record is held by a third year; 14 flies in one minute.
Well, the food is nothing! You practically get no variety and you end up eating the same thing again in less than a week, even if you eat a different thing on the menu each day. The drinks are limited to a few brands and that’s because the canteen owner does not have a great reputation with the distributors, thus making us suffer the indignity of telling our friends “Hey mate… what do you want to drink? ‘XYZ’ or water?”. I agree that the cost fixed is not that high, but still for the quality you get, it’s a queen’s ransom. It is just like investing your money into dead assets that give you no return, no satisfaction but only heartache. Phew! The place is as clean as… well; let one of my friends tell it in his very own words… “Apollo hospitals’ bathrooms are better than our canteen” which sadly stands true as a fact.
But, despite so many faults and fallacies, why do I still find more than a 200 people always in the canteen? What does our canteen have that keeps attracting students to it like women to shopping sales? I was stuck up at a dead end till a little bit of further probing, blew my already fragile thought process into smithereens.
Then, in my quest for my elusive answer for the question, “Why do we get attached to our canteen?” In the process of asking my college mates I found that out. Nobody comes to canteen for the food. They have a higher motive to it. Despite the few facilities, exorbitant costs and s**t hygiene, most of us are attached to the canteen.
“I love the canteen because it’s the only place I get to be myself and no one can push me out of the class”, “I feel comfortable in the canteen because it’s the place where I get to meet all my friends from different branches”; these comments opened my eyes as to why our college canteen is always full despite it being the crappiest place in college. It’s not the food; it’s the thought that counts. Just goes to show that when you are with your closest friends, you are free… even crap food will taste like heaven. This is because a student requires friends more than his food, a student is a being who can live without food and water or hell, maybe even his phone or computer but not his pals. Here I would like to make you aware of the importance of the canteen in the exact words I was told about it, by perhaps a very philosophical person. “Man needs stories, stories that are ingrained in their life. Canteen is a place where stories are made, stories that we remember for the rest of our lives, things that changed us forever, it may be a crush, maybe the first fight you were involved in. Classes you may forget, marks you wont remember, what you remember is the story, the story of your life”.
Honestly that changed my complete outlook about the canteen. It no longer is a place that one goes to relax. It’s a part of our lives. It’s a way of our life. So, no matter how dark our canteen maybe, how dirty it may be, it’s still a part of our life. One of the best parts of our lives. One more thing I realized is that a canteen is not made by its facilities; it’s made by the students. It couldn’t mean more than a building to others, but to people who understand its importance, it is special.
One special existence, one special space, one special freedom, one special life. The canteen is special to those who accept to own it. Own it not as materialistic property. As in, not what it physically means, but ‘to own’ like accepting it as a piece of their life’s pie. We relish it for long years, even if that piece comes from the dirty canteen kitchen. ;-P