Hostels in India are infamous for the quality of food provided in the student mess. So much so that online forums like Quora are rife with the uninitiated wondering "why mess food in India is so bad", while current and former students rant about the condition of their mess food on reddit and Twitter. Being the country with the world's largest youth population, a significant number of teenagers spend between three to five years of their academic life dodging the unappetising food served in the hostel mess. With experiences of mess food being common across the country, most students would attest to surviving mess food as the bigger challenge than passing their exams with flying colours. Sharon Taraporewala, a recent graduate of physiotherapy from a college in Aurangabad, relives the mess-y memories from her four-and-a-half years of hostel life.
"Khaane mein kya hain?" is a pointless question when you're living in a hostel
"We got tired of eating the same food in the hostel mess," says 23-year-old Sharon. "They follow a weekly menu of dal, sabzi, roti and rice, which does not change for months." The menu may stay the same but the taste keeps changing. "It's the same food but it always tastes different," says Sharon. But the different is not a good different, just varying levels of bad. It's so bad, says Sharon, "that when we finally come home, even simple daal chawal feels better after the horrible mess food."
Not so special Sundays
Rest of the week may be mundane but hostels in India make an attempt to make things exciting with a Sunday special menu, however, there's nothing special about it, reports Sharon. "The Sunday special at our hostel was paneer and a sweet dish," she says. But after the week's regular food, even the Sunday special wasn't worth looking forward to. "They would say mutter paneer but there would hardly be any paneer or even mutter just some gravy."
The real MVP is the student who carries ghar ka khaana
Spot a crowd flocking a student's room, it's most likely going to be a student who has just returned from home. The word and aroma of ghar ka khaana spread like wildfire in the corridors of hostels in India. "We would wait for someone to return from home or if someone was visiting our hometown, they would bring back food for us," recollects Sharon.
Mess food builds friendships
It may not be nourishing students as it ought to but mess food becomes the reason for many college friendships. Sharon found a friend in Ashwini when they bonded over chicken drumsticks. "Ashwini would keep going home and she would always return with food. Once she brought chicken drumsticks made by her mother and that was the first time I tasted her mother's food."
When Sharon called Ashwini's mother, Sudha Gite, to thank her for the food, Sudha promised to courier over extra food for Sharon too. Sharon and Sudha join Chef Pallavi Nigam Sahay on Amma Superstar to cook this special recipe of chicken drumsticks. Watch Amma Superstar on Living Foodz every Tuesday and Wednesday at 2.30 pm.
Hostels turn students into amateur smugglers
Not only is mess food in hostels compulsory, the fees for which are paid in full at the beginning of the year, hostels have strict rules against outside food. "They used to check our bags to make sure we were not taking outside food into the hostel," recollects Sharon. One time Ashwini was not feeling well so Sharon decided to make her some boiled eggs. "It was winter time so I hid the eggs inside my jacket to smuggle them into the hostel."
Watch Amma Superstar on Living Foodz every Tuesday and Wednesday at 2.30 pm. Catch the repeat telecast every Tuesday and Wednesday at 5 pm and 8 pm.
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