Cha, Adda and Munchies
Yamin Tauseef Jahangir
Photos: Yamin Tauseef Jahangir
Sometimes the birthplace of delicious rumours, a platform for gossip amongst friends and whispers between beloveds, the cafeteria or the canteen scenario stays the same anywhere and everywhere. At times you will hear someone humming the 'happy birthday' song and while working on your chemistry or accounting assignment, you too will hum to the tune and become a well-wisher.
Location : BRACU Cafeteria
One will also witness inside the canteen, the painful agonies of those trying heart and soul to meet the deadline of a group project or an overdue assignment. One little area of the canteen has an invisible mark all over, reserved for the campus musicians and the artists, who spend most of their time here composing and struggling. The sports addicts are usually glued to their beloved entertainment box, the television, surfing channels and searching for the latest scores.
Some claim that they like the tea at NSU canteen
“I go to the cafeteria whenever I am famished on campus!” says Ahtesham Iqbal of American International University Bangladesh (AIUB). He says it is convenient and does not mind the food, as there is a variety being offered. “The cafeteria offers the students snacks and at the same time meals as well,” he adds. Ahtesham thinks that canteen food at AIUB is fresh and is better than food bought anywhere else. The best part about it is that he gets to eat and hang out with his friends at the same time. That is how the environment turns out to be inside the cafeteria. However, Ahtesham also complains about the place being congested sometimes, when it really becomes difficult to get space at the peak hour, which is during lunch. “One thing which surprises me is that we don't have enough space to chill out. If you occupy an area for a long time, the canteen authority will approach you and ask you to get up and leave. So, we need more space. Otherwise, the students will end up hanging out in the streets,” he smirks. According to Ahtesham the food quality at AIUB is good and he has no complains against it. Although, he is not exactly sure regarding the hygiene maintenance, he prefers to have blind faith and fill his tummy whenever necessary.
Riaz of BRAC University says, “I usually don't get the time to visit friends in other universities, so I have no idea how much space they have in their cafeterias. But ours is pretty big.” Asking him about the food, Riaz says that he likes the canteen food and it is of good quality. “I'm sure they maintain the food safety issue as I haven't heard any complaints regarding its quality,” he reasons.
“However, there are less items to choose from, which is why people at times opt for other restaurants outside campus during lunch time.” The best part of the canteen is the tea that they serve and to Riaz it is the best tea in the world, which completes his day. Sadika a student of CSE from the same university says that she is in love with the canteen environment. “This place is awesome!” she exclaims. “You will see a perfect blend of both English and Bangla medium students here and unlike what many think, attitudes do not put you off here! Rather it is nice to interact with people in the canteen.” Sadika says that even though the students are young, they are very responsible, which is why the canteen authorities here do not have complaints regarding littering. “I know that the list of food is very limited and we do face problems sometimes,” she admits. “But I can spend hours together gossiping away with friends and will never get bored!” She likes the place even more when there is a national cricket match going on television and the Bangladesh team is playing. Within seconds, the cafeteria turns into a stadium! “You should see the students' reactions,” she smiles, “we cheer, and also 'boo' the opponents and even roar like real tigers whenever Bangladesh hits a boundary or takes a wicket!” For Sadika the canteen environment is something she will forever miss once she graduates from the institution.
North South University (NSU) currently has the largest cafeteria premise amongst the private universities. The place usually offers a wide range of food items and it is mainly the gossip ground for the students. While some are busy on tasting a massive donut others are scribbling and are totally engaged in paperwork. "I like food and there's nothing other than the canteen ones, so in a way I got no option to travel distance and get other items," says a student who is a sophomore. The only complain of the students were they needed a television to watch the game or the news and that could be a good recreation for them in between classes. "The place is spacious and lively," says a girl of Engineering, "and I do like the fact that I get to meet all the faces at the end of the day and we do enjoy the conversations or even arguments." She says that all the students one way or the other have to be satisfied with the canteen food, as there is not much of an alternative. But then again she also emphasised that the food is indeed of good quality and it is safe.
In a nutshell, the canteen or the cafeteria on campus is a fun and a happening place. This is where you will get to see different shades of life and the young people makes the place more memorable. As for the food factor most of the universities are maintaining a good standard. It is the canteen days that will remind you of the times after you graduate from your institution, a place, where you always belong.
Food culture at DU and BUET campus
|DU Students often prefer Khichuri outside DUCSU premise
The youth is all about appetite. Well I am not talking about one of those philosophical terms like appetite for knowledge or spiritual hunger but it is the one and only appetite for food. Just imagine a hangout with friends with no refreshments or no cup of hot tea to clear your jammed mind during the breaks within tiring classes and campus life will seem impossible. Cafeterias are as important as classrooms in a University where students get the opportunity to associate with other students of diverse thinking and can share their views. Many famous cafes in universities around the world like the historic 'Modhuda'r Canteen' in Dhaka University are the birthplace of great revolutions.
A usual scene at NSU canteen where students are busy with their chores
The University of Dhaka (DU) being the largest public university of the country offers different dining options to satisfy the hungry palate of its huge number of students. The major eateries within the DU campus include the Kalabhaban cafeteria (former DUCSU cafeteria), Science faculty cafeteria, TSC cafeteria, the famous 'Modhuda'r Canteen', a few makeshift food stalls in front of the DU Central Library popularly known as 'mamar dokan' and canteens in the student dormitories for the resident students. The cafeterias subsidized by the university authority like the Kalabhaban cafeteria, Science faculty cafeteria, TSC cafeteria serve lunch and supper with a menu that includes rice, vegetable and meat curries while other canteens like the 'Modhuda'r Canteen' or the café inside the Arts Building offer only light refreshments like tea, samosa on the premises of DU central library are famous for serving delicacies like chatpati, fuchka, vegetable pakora and fruit juice.
The satisfaction levels of students about the food they get served in cafeterias within the university campus are different. While many students enjoy chatting with friends during their free times after classes while relishing hot tea with shingara or chicken patties in 'campus shadow' the famous destination for the students from the Arts Building or Business faculty to have a snack, many resident students who live in student dormitories are fed up with the low quality of food they get for lunch and supper in the canteens of the residential halls.
The variety of foods which makes TSC canteen so popular
Two of the favorite places to have breakfast for students who have classes in early morning are IBA canteen and DUCSU cafeteria. “I really like it here. I have to attend classes as early as in 8 am so I usually have my breakfast in IBA canteen, the parata and bhaji found here is really tasty” says Sakib a student from the English department of DU.
The shingara and fruit juices are the most preferred items students usually go for in between classes
The DU campus is most probably the place where you can get refreshments at the cheapest price in Bangladesh. “I presume the DUCSU cafeteria is the only place in Dhaka where you can get hot tea at 1 taka and other snacks at 2 taka” says Rubana a student who likes to spend most of her day in the campus as she is attached with different extra curricular activities. The Science Faculty Cafeteria and the TSC cafeteria also serve food in the same economical rates like DUCSU cafeteria. Students can also get lunch and dinner in these cafeterias at a reasonably low price. “Though the price is very low we always serve the customers with the best food. The ingredients used here are very fresh and we always try to get the best pickups by marketing from Karwan Bazar very early in the morning.”
However the scenario is bit different for the students who live in student dormitories at DU. “To have my lunch I have to get into a cave. For its distant location in a room with little scope of entering any light or air we call the canteen 'Laden Guha' (Laden's cave) at our Surja Sen hall” says Rify a student from the Arabic department. He also adds his dissatisfaction about the low quality of rice and curry he get served in the canteen for lunch and supper. “Sometimes it is difficult to find out whether it is fish curry or meet curry as it is always a curry with watery gravy and low quality rice” says Miraj a student from Law department at DU. Ali a student attached in Surja Sen Hall described his day like this “I usually start my day by taking breakfast with parata, vegetables or dal at the hall canteen however for lunch and supper I always prefer to eat at Kalabhaban Cafeteria otherwise I take bread and banana from the makeshift stalls inside our hall as I don't like the unhygienic environment inside the hall canteen.” To the rescue of the students the university authority and resident students jointly introduced mess system. In a mess system students can get their lunch and supper in a relatively good quality by paying a monthly bill. To maintain the quality of food two mess managers and auditors are elected from the mess members. Two teachers from the university also look after the activities of mess system. To listen to the complaints and suggestions from the members a meeting is organised every month where all the mess members participate and share their views. “The dal tastes like real dal here not a kind of watery yellow liquid” says Ali a mess member of 'Nexus' the mess system of Surja Sen Hall. For the female students who reside in university halls the scenario is quite same but the only difference is that many of them like to prepare their own meals themselves. “I like to cook and the food found in hall canteen disgusts me. So I always cook my food in the kitchen inside of our hall” says Urmi a DU student attached in Rokeya Hall.
Adjacent to the DU campus stands the campus of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). One of the highest echelons of academic excellence of country. Upon interviewing the students from this esteemed institute it seemed that they are pretty satisfied with the food they get in campus. “It's a great place to hangout with friends, the price is low and the hot tea with samosa tastes really good” says Nasir a student from EEE 2nd semester while playing cards with his friends in BUET cafeteria. “The only problem is that there should be more variety of food in the cafeteria” adds Zubair a student from the same department.
Shurjo Shen Hall canteen stays busy from 12:30 pm till 2:30 pm
Ratul a BUET student attached in Ahsanullah Hall expressed his satisfaction over the food he gets in the hall canteen. According to him the price is reasonable and the quality of food is good but he suggests that the authority should increase the size of pieces of chickens and fishes served during lunch and supper. 'I am a foodie. I like to eat but the fishes and chicken served in the menu seem too tiny to me so the quantity should be increased' says Ratul with a smile on his face.
Be it a plate of delicious shingara at the cafeteria or watery dal and fish curry with rice in the dining room of student dormitories the food is an inseparable part of campus life. Whenever friends will gather somewhere the hangout would be incomplete without cups of hot tea. Though the opinion about the quality of food may differ from student to student but at the end of student life whenever the reminiscence of campus life will flash in our mind the fond memory of having food with good old friends will also make us smile.