It was an unusually quiet 1 am at JC— as IIIT’s Juice Canteen and the area around it is popularly known— as I was walking towards the milk place. It was during the vacations, so there weren’t any students around. Rajshekar, the milk bhaiyya wasn’t at the counter, and I saw he was deep in conversation with Dinesh, the juice bhaiyya on the other side. When he caught my eye he came towards the milk place and swiftly jumped across the Tantra serving area and settled in there.
I found this a little amusing, and I must have laughed. He laughed too, and said ‘Do you know that’s the only way I can get in and out of the counter at this time?’
He went on to tell me that to come out of the milk area, he would have to go through the door into the Tantra kitchen, and then come out from the other door there, but since the Tantra canteen closed at 11pm, and locked their kitchen door as well, he made do with jumping across the serving area.
This led to a lively conversation with both Rajshekar and Dinesh about the new renovated canteen, both lamenting about how they preferred the old place.
Dinesh came to IIIT in 2005, and made a shed with wood from the jungle. They have been here on contract basis since 2008. In 2015, the stallcom of the batch that was leaving college then had asked them if there was anything they could do to make things more convenient, and so they had a better shed built, the old JC as the second years and over know it.
The old JC, the shed outside the Tantra canteen, was a pretty decent place according to Dinesh.
It was spacious enough to work conveniently and fruits would be stored in the now washing area of Tantra canteen. The JC also supplies fruits to all the messes, and it was easy to do the supplying without disrupting work when the fruits were close to the work area.
In the renovated area, however, the JC faces several issues. The biggest issue, Dinesh feels is that the fruits are stored all the way in Bakul, where some of them get spoiled too, due to lack of ventilation. Enough fruit cannot be kept handy, so sometimes, they are unable to provide some fruit juices because they would have to get them from Bakul. This is also inconvenient while supplying fruits to the messes.
The serving area is not suited for a juice place either. The old JC had two platforms, a shorter one on the inside at waist height where juice could be conveniently made and a taller one where it would be served. Now, they have only one broad platform, all for the serving, and the making juice is restricted to a small area in the side, where sometimes all three workers have to work together.
There is no place for a fridge either, which was the main reason the sitaphal juice, which needed a lot of preprocessing and storage, was discontinued. They have also been unable to store strawberries or give out cold cut fruit in the summer. There is a cupboard on the outside, that can store a few fruits, although it is nowhere sufficient to house the nearly two-ton supply they get every week. The fruits stored there are susceptible to heat and rain as well.
During the summers, the juice customers come in and fill in the entire canteen, leaving little place for the Tantra canteen customers. In fact, about 2-3 months ago, the Tantra canteen put up a sign board saying that outside food wasn’t allowed during lunch time as several people were coming in with their own lunches, occupying the seats, and sometimes ordering just the juice.
Rajshekar has been around here about seven years, but got his contract just after this canteen was renovated. He says he finds the service area too small, and the window too restrictive. Previously he would get a 180 degree area to interact with customers, and the students aren’t unaware of his order taking skills, efficiently serving the sometimes twelve or so people surrounding him. The current setup allows for him to see only about three or four people at a time.
Sometimes, new customers think that the milk counter and the Tantra canteen are the same business and paytm the wrong numbers. “This leads to squabbles between us” says Rajshekar.
There is also no cupboard to store vessels and cooking equipment but a doorless shelf.
There aren’t as many tables and chairs outside as there used to be, and the place is largely wasted, with customers of juice, milk and Tantra all making do either inside or right outside the canteen.
The cash counter of Tantra canteen also unnecessarily takes up too much place, which could have been used for seating. And there is only one door to come out for the Tantra canteen and the milk people from the backside, which they have to use even for doing small tasks like cleaning or clearing up a few tables.
Rajshekar and Dinesh were not informed or asked for suggestions before the renovation of the place. They came to know of the construction when they were asked to shift to Basketball Canteen (BBC). When they saw the construction happening in ways that might inconvenience them, they spoke to the administration to change things but it was met with a response of “We need to follow the original plan”.
They complained to the student parliament and stallcom right after it was built. The issue is being taken up by stallcom and parliament. Building new stalls next to David’s stall is being considered. This would give them enough place for storage and service, and will keep their customers outside, leaving enough place for the Tantra canteen customers.
Both of them hope that something can be done as soon as possible. After all, their service has been appreciated by the students for a long time now.