Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Canteen Saga

My school, St. Thomas’, has three buildings – Nursery (nursery and kindergarten), junior school (std 1 to std 6) and senior school (std 6 to std 12). Nursery and junior school are in the same compound, in Karol Bagh (New Delhi). The senior school is situated on Mandir Marg (Gol Market, New Delhi). I have spent a good 14 years at STS, therefore I remember all details of these three buildings. Classes, halls, receptions, principal’s room, playgrounds (and the swings), lost property shelves, book stores, sickrooms, corridors, courtyards and ofcourse the canteens.

The Canteen!!

Junior school canteen was like a two sides open verandah, with brick and mortar tables and benches, all in pastel red. It was pretty huge, and had a very strong asbestos roof. After school it used to convert into a parents waiting area. I remember my mom waiting there for me.

Raphael, the junior school canteen owner. I never saw him free. He was always busy, running on his feet. I have no memories of Raphael smiling, or enjoying (except on the Christmas party when he used to get the gift from Santa). I just remember him serving food, collecting money, helping his aids in cooking and cleaning. He used to supply lunch for Nursery and KG children as well. I distinctly remember a few of the menu items for the nursery wing –

  • One small samosa with plain potato filling. Only salt within.
  • One idli – no chutney, no sambhar
  • One slice of musk melon, mango or half a banana
  • Juice (I don’t recall what kind of juice, but some drink in colorful plastic glasses used to  be served)
The junior school menu was not so bland. Infact, it was delicious. I don’t think I have even eaten tastier samosas.

  • 4 samosas for two rupees, served with the world’s best Raphael recipe chutney. Awesome is an understatement.
  • There was idli and dosa, with the best sambhar I have ever eaten.
  • I think there was chhole bhature as well, but honestly, I don’t recall anything other than his samosas and idlis. To die for.
The senior school had a beautiful octagonal two floored red brick building. The ground floor was our canteen. It was done in red hues as well. Colorful collages hung on its walls. The furniture had a contemporary feel, octagon tables with colorful lamination printed of graffiti art. (I love my memory). There were two doors which were always open, a main door used as exit, huge, with double glass doors and a single door small entrance. Well, the entry and exit doors were identified by the school cabinet (details in later posts)

Peter, the senior school canteen owner (I smile here), was a man with less words. He was the “owner”, of the canteen, and he had set some rules for the canteen queue and ways of eating in the canteen. The cabinet team was “supposed” to monitor the students follow these rules. Alas!! In the peak hours, there could be double queues. No plates and cold drink bottles go out of the canteen premises. No messing up with sambhar and chhole. If you drop food, clean it before leaving. 

And a lot more. (Now, I doubt the love for my memory). 

Rules, are meant to be broken. And broken without noise. The entry and exit doors were used interchangeably, depending on the comfort. Plates are bottles were never carried out through the doors, the windows came to the rescue. The double queue used to be a planned mishap. Peter tried to introduce token system in the canteen, just to keep it organized. It did work, as far as I remember. 

I can go on and on. Memories, I love thee.

The senior school canteen was 10% food, and 90% non food. A lot of additional side activities could be witnessed in the canteen. (PS: Before your mind starts running, we are talking about a convent school). From pranks, to birthday treats, to dance preparations, song practice, election campaigns: the canteen used to double up as everything that comes to our mind except food at studies. Peter never objected to any of this. He enjoyed with us. Good old Peter, he had trouble in walking, used a walking stick. I hope he feels better now.

Just to add, one rule which was never broken by any of the STSer, neither in the junior canteen nor in the senior canteen, was: keeping away the dirty dishes. This is imbibed as a STS culture, in all of us, all Thomasites. 

This post is dedicated to the A-to-Z blogging challenge - the largest Blog Challenge in the history of Blogkind. My selected theme is "memories of St. Thomas' "- my Alma mater. This is the third post of the challenge, and is linked to the letter C - for Canteen.

Linking this post to UBC too.