One of my former colleagues at Bhopal, who was a degree holder in computer science and engineering, was asked during her days of 'introduction', “Why is the mess called a mess?”. “Because, it is always in a mess!”, came the pert reply. While she told me this joke, I was not really aware then, how a student feels while eating in a mess, pun intended!
I have been pretty interested and inclined to write about this whole issue about mess management, its affairs and the general response of the people towards it. I would be however, putting my words to limit owing to a lack of space.
It has been two years and more since I joined IIT Kanpur as a PhD student, and since then I have seen five mess secretaries. Imagine five of them in a span of 2 years! What is so special about this year is that it is the third time a mess secretary has been elected! I must acknowledge the fact that each of the mess secretaries made an attempt to improvise, innovate and please the junta by bringing in variety in the food items. Recently, as an attempt to appease regional taste buds, Shela rice was introduced. It would be prudent to comment that we have ended up paying more for the Shela rice than the original plain rice served in the mess.
While the mess secretaries attempted their best to improvise the quality of the food and the menu, I guess the employees in the mess have contributed at large to make a big difference. Be it the mess manager, be it cooks or be it those who wait on the tables, it seems that all of them have put on a big placard on their chests saying “Hum nahi sudhrenge!”.
I would like to specially mention the dinner on Friday, when we have “special” food in the mess. By the name of God, I promise you that you would find it really special, and eligible to be quoted amongst the worst meals of the week. Whether it is Kadhai Paneer or Shahi Paneer, it looks the same, it tastes the same. I sometimes strongly feel that all government mess employees should be exposed to a training programme coordinated by IRCTC at Kanpur Central. Even their food tastes better! They even serve better.
Whenever I go to eat and I take my seat, I would never find the salt, salad or jug of water at the proper place on the table. Sometimes, either there would be no salt on the table, or there would be two containers of pepper at the same place. Sometimes, there would be an empty container of salt or pepper even!
As a special mention, I would like to quote the name of Mr. Deepak who serves and waits on the tables. In addition, he thinks he is lean, mean, smart and handsome, and thinks he has the right to play with the music system in the mess. He takes away the plates in front of you without even asking you and there you are, left grappling for the plate! He would make a point hitting you with the large plate with which he is serving. Mr. Sharma, who I feel is the leader of the lot, thinks it is more important to put sabji on the tables where people are not even sitting than providing spoons to the people who are eating on the tables. One of my colleagues was eating at the table and he had no spoon with him and he asked him 2-3 times and then he was angry, Mr. Sharma coolly said “App kahein to sabji na lagayein!”
In my opinion, I strongly feel that if you want to really make somebody angry, invite him/her to the Hall 4 mess, and voila you have a new enemy!