This is the first of a two-part piece about the various food outlets on campus and
This is the second in a two-part piece about the various food outlets on campus and the problems they face. Read the first part here.
Ankit bhaiya, the owner of the Ashoka outlet of Chicago Pizza, talked to us about a certain problem that seems prevalent for all eateries in the sports block food court — that of space constraint. Students often have to sit on the ground, and Vijay, the founder of Dosai also shared an incident of having to ask some students to vacate a few seats for a professor and his students. Vijay and Ankit bhaiyya, mentioned that they would appreciate if the administration could arrange for seating immediately outside the sports bock, which could also double up as a hangout spot for students.
In fact, Samundar ji, owner of Rasananda — the juice bar, had asked the former head of dining and food outlets to allot the adjacent shop to him, for a bit more space. Items are regularly stolen from his shop, as he doesn’t has enough space to keep everything locked, leading to large, unnecessary losses. Tired of their lack of communication and negligence, he stopped requesting the admin. However, when the old head of dining left Ashoka, he went to the admin and this time Deboshruti Roychowdhury, the Dean of Student Affairs, assured him that he will be granted the adjacent space. Samundar ji is really hopeful that his requests will be considered this time.
However, those are not all the problems faced by the juice bar. Samundar Ji strongly believes that the Rs. 4000 that he pays as rent is proportionately more than what Chicago Pizza pays. Chicago Pizza is almost twice as big as the Juice Bar, and it pays merely Rs. 5000 as rent. Other eateries in the sports block — Chicago Pizza and Dosai — have started selling different kinds of juices and ice creams, which were the majorly selling items of Rasananda, further diminishing his profits He said that while starting his outlet, he had been assured that no other eatery would have the same menu as his, but now that’s not the case, which is unfair.
Kuldeep Antil, the rather famous owner of the Dhaba, has his own peculiar problems. The outdoor location becomes really problematic for him during monsoons, the bare ground turns into muddy puddles and his business is affected, . He repeatedly mentions that people slip often, and he’s worried anyone can get seriously hurt someday.. He had talked to Sachin Sharma, the registrar of Ashoka, about laying a layer of concrete on the bare ground. He was told that it would ruin the aesthetics of the campus if he did it himself, but the admin did nothing about it themselves. He also said that many admin members and professors eat at the dhaba regularly, and he could have talked to them easily. But he feels that no one will hear him, so he doesn’t say anything to them.
There is also the issue of the administration’s varying attitudes towards different outlets. Several owners feel the admin is biased towards The Hunger Cycle, because it is owned by a YIF alumnus. Further, Vijay, of Dosai, when asked if it was easy for him to set up an outlet here, said that he did get a lot support from the administration for being an alumnus. They were more willing to address his issues and concerns than they probably would have been otherwise. But it isn’t the alumni bias that concerns the eatery owners much. Many of them, hesitantly, told us that THC is in a more favorable position than most of the other eateries. It has a prime location and doesn’t needs to worry about seating as they use the mess chairs and tables. It must also be that noted Soumit, the owner of THC, never attends the meetings between the owners and the admin.
Vijay, especially, was very vocal about his concerns regarding this pertinent bias towards THC and ICS owned eateries. “They even have people cleaning up their tables for free!” he exclaimed, referring to the cleaners in the mess. He mentioned that the new Foodies may also be getting ‘special attention’ from the administration, as they have many workers who were earlier working with ICS. Vijay also thinks that this bias towards ICS owned eateries and THC could be attributed more to the friendly relationship they have with the vendors, than the desire for a share in their profits.
Amidst all these talks about their problems, all the owners agreed that the support they have received from the student body, and especially the Student Government has been immense. Shaina, owner of Hazelnut, which as old as as this campus, has different problems with the admin. She is the only woman who owns a food eatery on campus. In a rather vigorous manner , she spoke about her experiences of harassment at Ashoka. The former head of dining, had been rude and spoken to her in a condescending manner on more than one occasion. She thanked Arush Pande and Deep Vakil from the student government, who helped her share her concerns with the admin, and solve the problems she faced. Sandeep Bhaiya too, was all praise for the Student Government, even statinng that had it not been for the Student Government’s efforts, he would have left Ashoka two years ago. He thanked not one, but all the Student Governments formed at Ashoka, for hearing out and solving his problems. He feels that it is for their efforts that Fuel Zone seeks to continue serving the students as it has done till now.
The problems of the eateries need a solution. They have been struggling for a long time, yet serving us with a smile. The term ‘ Ashokan’ generally only refers to only the students at Ashoka. But all these workers in these eateries, and their owners spend a major chunk of their 24 hours with us. All of them are Ashokans too. Sandeep Bhaiya regularly takes part in the Ashoka Premier League and helped us when demonetization pestered us in our Ashokan bubble. Kuldeep Bhaiya’s smile and his famous “Aur bata”, brings a smile to our faces even when as we struggle to prevent crumbling under the workload at Ashoka. They are Ashokans in every sense of the term. Generations of students will come, and generations of students will go. But these outlets are the part of the culture of Ashoka. They will stay as long as these red brick walls.
Payal Somani (Class of 2021), Md. Faiz (Class of 2021) and Gaurav Nandan Tripathi (Class of 2020)