‘Bhaiyya! Ek Schezwan Fried Rice aur ek Paneer Cheese Paratha’
‘Pass that plate of pasta here, no. Its mine’
‘No its mine’
‘Shut up, I came here before you’
‘Arrey, sir inka hi hai, chicken pasta. Aapka doosra hai’
‘Bhaiyya Schezwan fried rice ke liye China gaye ho kya? Kitna time loge’
Welcome to the Symbiosis, Viman Nagar Canteen. Located in the basement of the campus, it is the epicentre of anyone’s social life in college. Where friends and enemies are made, love fallen into, dirty laundry aired, all over plates of noodles, paratha, pasta and grilled sandwiches, Where hostellites come for a bit of respite from the mundanity of daal-roti-sabzi, the air echoing with Wakhra Swag, Closer or Shantabai depending on who happens to have the remote. This, accompanied by the buzz of chatter, punctuated by abuses and the sound of steel cutlery.
As for the food, well, the daily wars at the self-service counter let it speak for itself.
“I really love the chicken pasta. They don’t scrimp on the cheese and get it just right. I also love the Chinese food here. It’s perfect” says Swaraj Sriwastav.
Sweta Fernandes, however, prefers the Masala Chai. “The food’s just a better alternative to the oily mess food and the place is dingy, crowded and a claustrophobic person’s nightmare. But it’s the Masala Chai, that I come for. The balance between the sugar and spice is simply on point and it has a pull of its own, making me brave the journey to get it”.
For Shayonnita Mallik however, rather than the food it’s the atmosphere that the canteen has. “The only image I have in my head when someone mentions the college canteen, is Oscars 2016. People forgot their food, their chai, their girlfriends, their classes and just stood and clapped for Dicaprio. We’re not all fans, some of us don’t even watch movies — the solidarity in that room was electric.” But when pressed about the food she says “The pasta and this new thing called the chilly cheese toast are pretty awesome. It’s not healthy, and definitely not for everyday eating — but I’d say we have it better than several other colleges.”
Sweta feels the same about the air of the place “But more than anything else, It’s the fun I always have catching up with the friends I don’t get to speak to because of our crazy class schedules. It’s the conversations over steaming cups of chai while bunking classes, that I’ll always remember, claustrophobia notwithstanding.”
Swaraj, however, loves the food too much to care about what’s going on around him. “The atmosphere is ok except for the channel wars. Whoever happens to get their hands on the tv remote controls what is being watched and depending on whom it is, we end up watching anything from 9xm to VH1”.
Alumni too, look back on the place fondly “I miss the cheap morning poha and that oily delicious egg fried rice that we all indulged in without guilt, especially on particularly bad days. That and the cold coffee that was a daily delight when you got your money from home at the start of the month” says Aditi Kumar, an alumnus of SCMC. “I still remember the day DiCaprio won. I was leaving college in a month and that particular memory always makes me so nostalgic. A lovely feeling of unity” she says, wistfully.
It’s reasonably affordable, filling and tasty, checking all the boxes a student would have. Open from breakfast to teatime, It almost always has some hungry soul, scarfing down a plate of noodles or even just a simple vada pav. Ultimately its good food, within easy reach with memories to go with it.
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