probe in to school cafeterias
teens expect better canteens?
words conjure up images of mindless adda, and little dramas of everyday
life being conducted over low-cost munchies. Whether in school, college,
or university, you go into class for academic education. When the
recess bell rings and you head into the cafeteria, you receive education
of another sort. Hot gossip, new trends and fads, worries about grades…everything
comes pouring out (well, if you're going to fill your stomach with
food, you have to clear it of the peter kotha, right?). A few days
spent listening to the conversations can tell you a lot about the
people you associate with. Then there's always the occasional catfight
to look forward to.
me. You aren't the only fan of that small, over-crowded food stall
that serves succulent delicacies (or in some unfortunate cases, substandard
munchies only) at prices, which, by the grace of God, do not do much
damage to your flimsy pocket. When the classes end (or are just too
plain boring to attend), when your stomach's screaming for ANYTHING
edible, the canteen is the perfect place to run to.
almost perfect. The chewing gums stuck on the underside of the table,
the less than desirable hygienic conditions, the ketchup on the tables,
chairs, floor (gosh, what do people think ketchup is FOR?) and the
more unsavoury items on the menu that one wishes could be more fit
for human consumption, carts off some of the charm of these canteens.
grumble about the tastelessness of the food served. Added to that
are the lack of variety of snacks in most schools. "It's the
same samuchas, shingaras, pizzas, rolls, sandwiches, kebabs, etc.
The taste buds get tired eating the same food day after day,"
comments one student. And there's of course the frequent complaint
of the food tasting as if they were at the least two to three days
old. Let's not forget the numerous complaints about canteens being
too small and way too congested to challenge the growing needs of
the hungry students. As one student sarcastically remarks, "Our
canteen's more like a dismal and pathetic attempt to turn a shed turned
into a shoddy food stall!" In spite of all that, when you're
desperately hungry, even the most unsavoury slop tastes like ambrosia.
in schools like Scholastica and Viquarunnesa, however (to name just
two), can claim to be as close to being perfect as is possible in
Dhaka city schools. One serves the Carte du jour of Dhaka's respectable
restaurant Sajna and the other boasts of their very own outlet of
Fakruddin Baburchi. The canteens/cafeterias are spacious and clean,
the food delectable, and the items very much affordable considering
the quality and quantity of food served. On the other hand, even in
renowned institutions, the picture isn't half as thrillingat least
not for the students who have no choice but to drop in there for occasional
snacks due to their long hours of classes. Rumour has it that the
chorbi (fat) from the meat is discarded on the floor, and then picked
up again in order to be divided equally among the meat items when
necessary to do so. Not an appetising thought, is it?
as the saying goes, "Something is better than nothing".
Consider the smaller private institutions that don't have the canteen
facilities as yet. The burden of ensuring food for the children falls
on the parents, and this is an added strain on working mothers. Those
who leave the tiffin-making business to their ayaas have to worry
about whether their children are getting the right food or enough
of it, and those who buy lunch from outside feel the pressure on their
wallets. No matter what complaints there are against school canteens,
one cannot deny the importance of such facilities. The authorities
of the educational institutions should, however, take these complaints
into consideration…after all, we pay them enough every month, and
we should expect at least this much in return. Here's hoping for more
adda space and better food. Right now, let's just content ourselves
with the oily samosas, why don't we?
spiders & women
king said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself". I
never really understood what he meant but I sure felt the magnanimity
of his words; knew that it was something wholly important. An axiom,
encompassing all of humane nature. However all these philosophy about
men and mice was the farthest thing from my mind as I leaned against
the bathroom wall perspiring like a racehorse.
It was one of
those days when deep down the pit of your endocrine system you feel
excitement lurking. I was already late in getting ready for my cousin's
wedding. A gala event highlighted by woman, no rather ladies hunching
from the weigh of heavy gold necklace and by delicious oil soaked
Biriani. In such cases the actual marriage ceremony comes as an after
thought .So here I was pushing my way through a sea of unyielding
bodies that filled our house, destination: The bathroom. Armed with
a razor and herbal shampoo, I was ready to claim my fair share of
I stepped into
the bathroom rather unceremoniously humming my favourite shower song:
Its raining men.. halaluiy..!
The bathroom was
soaking wet. Bedraggled by mud, mud and a little bit more mud. I slammed
the door shut and started the arduous process of entangling my incorrigible
locks. As I looked at the mirror, all the time-old trite harbinger
of absolute fear happened to me. The comb fell willing of my fingers,
I gaped open, the bottom of my stomach opened into a bottomless chasm.
down the bathroom wall was the biggest spider I had ever seen. Its
colour was an immodest black with long tapering legs and it was ogling
me in the most redoubtable manner.
I am not a melodramatic
person however I swear I actually heard the sound of stampeding wild
horses. Seeing the spider descend in that imperious manner brings
back a lot of memories, but not in a good way. It's just that my whole
life flashes before my eyes. On the other side of the world my sister
started banging the door, which caused His Highness to crawl further
down the door .So that was I to somehow open the door there was a
strong possibility that He might view my frizzy hair as a
cobweb and defiantly land there.
I quickly calculated
the statistic: the distance from the door, my speed and of course
In moments like
this, locked with fear, I somehow was able to think clearly. In retrospect
I was really programmed to fear spiders.
My eldest sister,
a miserable victim of acrophobia injected the fear of spiders in me
when I was in daipies .At that time I was a little girl who had to
be spoon-fed cereal and logic. Then when I grew up in whichever book
I delved in there were lethal malicious spiders planning global domination.
It was as if the literary world and fate conspired for me to be an
a surge long-coveted optimism slinked through me as quietly as the
spider .In primordial times my ancestors have fought beasts all the
time and survived. Surely there was some of that brazen courage in
me. I will not go without a fight .My heart swelled up with raw passion
'Mankind will not stoop to arthropods, we are bigger than them, in
size. And surely size does matter.'
I clutched the
soft rubber sandal in my hand, the muscles in my arms bunching up.
Then I let out a terrifying scream, one that would give a life long
vegetarian a massive heart attack, and aimed for the object of my
I missed. He made run for the adjacent walls, and I bolted out of
the doors screaming at the top of my lungs.
Later, clad in
an outrageously ugly sari I went to my cousin's wedding. There at
the wedding amidst the clamouring and the chaos it suddenly came to
me of how terrified the spider must have been. The universal fact
is that such fear is illogical and circumscribes life in various ways.
I mean I could never hope to find the cure of some incurable disease
from the spider's venom; I mean I would never be able to work in Africa
among the Zulu tribe who for all you know probably eats spiders. Then
I thought adamantly, no sir, I am not suddenly gong to start loving
them, disgusting little freaks of nature. I smirk ridiculously to
myself and went off to eat oily Biriani.