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B-school night canteens: Mauj masti and life

Last updated on: December 21, 2010 13:25 IST

B-school night canteens: Mauj masti and life

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Lajwanti Dsouza, Pagalguy.com

For the khaana-peena in b-schools there is a mess. But for the mauj-masti along with the khaana-peena and the padhna, there are night canteens.

All the b-schools, especially the residential ones, have night canteens and they are just so much more than eating places. And that's because night canteens are open at that time when students need a corner of comfort the most during the night when they are busy studying.

The working day, rather the night of an MBA undergrad ends with the night canteen. It is only fitting to say that it carries the day's energies and emotions of the students. Even as post graduates, the memories that linger the most are those of the night canteen.

Gupshup n food

Unlike the regular mess, which is solely for the purpose of eating, the night canteen is food plus much more.

Most canteens open any time between 9 pm and 11 pm and stay on till 4 am and after. Since those are the hours students are generally awake to work on their projects or simply study, the night canteen is the only source of gupshup and food if at all.

During the day the students are usually busy with their classes et al. The food in the night canteen has a character of its own.

Though there is always a variety of dishes available, most night canteens have a signature dish. According to Abhiram R from IIM Lucknow vegetarian and chicken rolls are the most sought after in his b-school night canteen.

Mayur Nikam, a PGP-1 student from IIMA told Pagalguy that continental food is quite the highlight of his night canteen. But for Mohit Garg also from IIMA he says, "my personal favourite is vegetarian cheese Maggi with a glass of hot milk."

For IIMC, the night canteen is as known for its experimental recipes as much as for popular stuff. Anand Ramachandran recommends that Wet Wolfram Rice a recipe created by the students themselves is a must-try. "This dish has taken everybody by storm in the school," he says.


Photographs: Pagalguy
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For IIM Ranchi it is parathas and for IIM Kozhikode, momos is a popular dish. Tarun Daga who has just passed out of Praxis, Kolkata says that pakodas were the most sought after dish at his night canteen. Since IIM Ranchi canteen is an Amul franchise, ice-cream is also available all the time and is a big favourite any month of the year.

"Even if it is cold outside, the warmth of a huge crowd of people sitting together and relaxing in the canteen makes it ice-cream time anytime," says Ankur Tiwari from IIM Ranchi.

In all night canteens however, there is one dish which is an across-the-board favourite and that is Maggi noodles. "The fastest available wholesome food one can have at any time," says Shubhankar Rai from IIM Ranchi. Another popular choice among all the night canteens is the variety of egg dishes. Since they are easy to make and different dishes can be made, all the night canteens always keep a pile of egg-crates within reach.

All the night canteens have staff that work only through the night to make sure that the students are well-fed and kept on their toes to (hopefully) study harder.

Terrace flat

Most night canteens are on the ground floor of any one of the buildings in the campus. At IIM-L, the regular canteen doubles up as a night canteen and there are two additional food shops run by students. IIM-A night canteen is conveniently located between the old and new campuses and nestled among tall trees while IIM Ranchi's night canteen is on the second floor of the hostel next to the study and recreation rooms.

The Praxis night canteen is in a different league however. Perched on the terrace, it is designed aesthetically and has soft lighting and unique seating arrangement. It actually resembles a four-star restaurant and the perpetual strong breeze at night makes it a perfect rendezvous for those who want to have a little fun with studies.

Adds Daga, "During winters, there was nothing better than the night canteen. We would all sit huddled together, eating pakodas. The ambience would lift our spirits."


Image: Tanstaafl: There is no such thing as a free lunch at IIMA's night canteen.

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For Praxis, the days, rather nights never ended when they went up to the night canteen. "We studied when we had to and on other days we would just sit there and discuss things. One day we forgot the time and a discussion that started at 9 pm by 4 people on politics, went on to spirituality and finally ended with stuff on life at 5 am. We ended with 12 people," remembers Tarun.

Adds Anand: "The night canteen at IIM Calutta is different from that of other b-schools. While we do have a central Night Canteen which is open 24/7, we also have 3 other canteens that run upto 4 am, each of which is attached to a hostel." This definitely should be making IIM-C nightlife the most interesting of the lot, with just so much of food around.

Business n pleasure

Endless discussions, little private parties, group study it's all part of the night canteen life. For most students their night canteen serves as a place to take a break from the routine. A place to grab a quick bite or just spend a few minutes and return to studies. Mohit Garg says that no one comes to the night canteen to study.

"It is only for a break from studies." For IIM Ranchi, the night canteen doubles up as a party place when there are birthdays or other occasions to celebrate. "The birthday bumps, the cake-smashing ceremony and the ice-cream treats all happen in the canteen," adds Shubhankar from IIM Ranchi.

Since IIM-L canteen has Wi-Fi, students are often found studying there, says Abhiram. On a daily basis, at least 200 students pay homage to the night canteen in IIM-L, he adds.

For IIM Kozhikode, the night canteen sports the biggest crowd during the exams. Saumya herself does not frequent the canteen too much as she does not like to eat at night but her pals spend much of their time there.


Image: Praxis Business night canteen during the day.

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At IIM Ranchi, the night canteen has the television as well, so World Cups and movies become community viewing and cheering exercises. For IIM-A students, a good portion of their free time is spent in the night canteen everyday, almost as a rule.

"The night canteen is a place for heated debates, and invigorating conversations. The NC, being open 24/7, lends itself very well to this purpose. The primary draw of the area is not the food, but the company and campus discussions. Many significant ideas to come out of the campus owe their origins to one of these impromptu sessions," informs Anand.

Legacy

IIM-A's night canteen is called Tanstaafl which is the short for There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. According to Mohit, the name is evocative of IIM-A's ability to create learning at every opportunity. "It is inspired by Prof Deodhar to caution us that spending too much time at the caf may land us, the students with poor grades."

For Abhiram from IIM-L, his night canteen is the biggest factor that keeps him and his friends awake and in turn helps them to study. "Whether it's a grab of food, a sip of a juice or just hot coffee, it's the place to be."

Every night canteen has short stories attached to it. Students who have celebrated birthdays in the night canteen there say they have been the best so far.

Tarun says that the times spent in the night canteen are always the most special since students meet there not so much for the food but for the ambience and to let go of the day's stress.

For students of Praxis, there is never a better view than what they see from their terrace canteen, especially at night when much of Kolkata is asleep and dark and all they can hear is their voices and the rustling of tall trees along side.

Not to forget the birds that can be seen flying past at the break of dawn indicating to the students that it is time to get back to the hostel room to grab an hour or two of sleep before they hit school.


Image: Cheering time at IIM Ranchi's night canteen.

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