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OBH has been much gloomier since the Yellow Box closed.

Featured image credits: Rohan Reddy

Sweat trickles down my cheeks as I lay on my bed on a hot Sunday afternoon. There was only so much a poor fan could do. Between my inner struggle to either resume watching the Seinfeld episode or to pay some heed to my pending assignment, I instead decide to rush and get something to munch on. When has a hungry stomach ever made any progress on a task?

As I fend for my footwear, I prepare myself to make a quick dash. Time saved now, is time spent savouring the munchies later.

Getting down three floors in the same breath I am greeted by what is the most cheerful face in this sultry afternoon in OBH. For the uninitiated (women folk, new entrants, old oblivious people) – I am standing, facing a little corner store available to OBH residents. A legitimate source of envy of other hostels. This little yellow cubicle close to the entrance of the hostel was delightfully named as – yellow box.

Yellow box was often manned by a very pleasant woman and occasionally by one of her family member. You would find her reading the newspaper, trying to solve a crossword or two while in the store.

Every fellow who walked into the box was spoilt for choice. It stocked chips, chocolates, candies and cookies. You could also grab refrigerated packed juices, milk and ice-cream. The shelf overflowed with umpteen varieties of Haldiram packets, Lays and wafers. Imagine, all this at your immediate disposal. It was difficult to not get allured by all of it. Once you made the pick and the difficult decision of what you would carry back in your room, you pay for your items. Usually some wafers, a drink and a chocolate to go by. She pulls out her bunch of notes from the drawer,and innocently returns an extra note or two. You notice the extra change and remind her not to be careless with her accounts. After all, you care for the survival of box. She gives a sheepish smile over the exchange. When hundred hungry guys come to your store at all times trying to buy a thing or two, it’s human to miscalculate.

Yellow Box realised the demography it was serving. College going folks aren’t the most financially healthy people and are in some divinely caused – perpetual broke state. She would often let people purchase items on credit. She trusted the community, albeit naively and wouldn’t keep a record of the credit by the student. It warmed our heart to hear that they wouldn’t suffer any loss from offering such an option, and more often than not would get the money in a couple of days. There was a mutual, amicable interdependence between the OBH residents and the box. The survival of both dependent on each other. (Noticed why OBH has been gloomy lately?)

After making my purchase, I bid adieu to the kind lady. I thank the stars that this lifeline was a part of OBH and just three floors down from my room. Loaded with ammunition, I aim to beat the heat and the assignment. I sneak into my room, hiding it from my wingmates waiting to devour if they catch a glimpse of it. I rest myself on my chair as I struggle with the same question. I say, just one episode and open my packet of chips. What could go wrong?

Reflecting on these episodes from my early years at college, I can’t begin to fathom the instrumental role the box played in our lives. It wasn’t just a convenience store. It was a lifeline. It grew on us, and to certain degree of certainty they got accustomed to our faces too. One would pass by the box – half expecting to see her inside, humming to some song on the radio. The timings when the box was operational were etched in our conscious. It was familiarity and it was ease. This familiarity bred comfort.

But this familiarity, ease and comfort were severed when Yellow Box chose to move out of OBH and shut down their operations this year. There is no woman sitting, inside handling the accounts anymore. The ice cream fridge lies abandoned. There is just a sticker of Post Noon that is noticeable on the box. It now just remains as a yellow cubicle. Empty and without a purpose.

This sudden withdrawal came without announcement. There wasn’t much fanfare about the whole issue until they had already moved out. I think the desire for another such store, and the naive hope that they could return lingers on most of us. No one stocked up snacks in campus better than Yellow Box did .Nowhere was the simple economic act of purchase, supplemented by the pleasant nature of the store keepers. It is indeed a great loss, and a misfortune to see it become a part of the institute’s heritage and history rather than continue to be.

Update: In response to the article, the Dy Registrar (GAD) negotiated with the Yellow Box propreitor, who has agreed to restart business from Jan 1, 2018. The Yellow Box will be back in OBH, and with it a lot of cheer!

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Shantanu Prabhat

Shantanu Prabhat

Sometimes writes, mostly wonders.
Shantanu Prabhat

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Categories: Campus Affairs