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'JNU Dhabas, My Addas for Discussions, Now Left With Empty Seats'

Some dhabas at JNU reopened in July, but the footfall is very low due to lack of students at the campus.

Published
My Report
3 min read

Video Producer: Maaz Hasan
Video Editor:
Sandeep Suman

Being one of India’s best universities, Jawaharlal Nehru University is not only famous for the scholars that it has produced over the years but also for the dhabas (eateries) that served inside its campus 24X7.

For decades, apart from being a stop for various kinds of food items, these dhabas have served as addas for all kinds of discussions, from science to politics and protests.

I spent two years at the JNU campus before the pandemic struck. There was never a day I didn’t stop by a dhaba for a cup of tea, snack, and discussion, and trust me, I was not alone. I would see many other groups of student gatherings doing the same.

But in the past year, the pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to these eateries forcing these dhabas to close and turning these addas into ghost spots.

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Now, since the second wave of COVID has started to recede and with the JNU administration giving some relaxations to run these dhabas till 10 pm, I went to meet Bharat bhaiya, who runs the famous 'Ganga Dhaba' inside the campus.

"Our financial condition was very bad. We could manage only because we have a piece of land back in our village. If we didn’t have that, we wouldn't have managed anything. Our workers had to face a lot of problems while going home and coming (back). Many are still not coming, due to the fear of another lockdown."
Bharat, Owner, Ganga Dhaba

Even Dhaiya uncle (Karamvir Dahiya), someone I have known since my IIMC (Indian Institute of Mass Communication) days, had to go through a really tough time because of the pandemic.

The condition of the house was terrible. I had an LIC (Life Insurance Corporation) policy, so I took a loan against it. I also took a loan against my wife’s gold jewellery from Maharashtra Bank, the EMI of which is Rs 7,000, which I am still paying. There was no work. I had to face a lot of problems."
Karamvir Dahiya, Owner, Dahiya Dhaba

While some dhabas have reopened, others have shut permanently due to the loss in the past year or so. And since only final year students and PhD scholars have been permitted to return to the campus to access laboratories and for examinations, customers are hard to get.

As a student, I have always felt that these addas have played a crucial role in the lives of the students and the same was reiterated by these current students when I spoke to them.

"Dhaba plays an important role, especially for students like us who are writing PHDs. There is no definite time to write a thesis, you may start at 7 am and end at 7 pm, like a typical office. Whenever you get the time, you write and go to the library. Let’s say that one gets stressed out or bored after writing or one feels that they have read many ideas and that must be collected and arranged together... this would need time and space. Dhabas play an important role here."
Divyam Prakash, Student, JNU

The same reflects in the bond that dhaba owners like Bharat bhaiya and Dhaiya uncle share with the students. “I came here (Delhi) from Haryana. Who will I ask anything from, who will help? I have faced a lot of trouble. However, I get a lot of support from students,” says Karamvir Dahiya.

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Even though some of the dhabas have reopened, the owners are scared that if a third wave hits and a lockdown is imposed, it would be unlikely that they would be able to survive.

In today’s situation, we are very scared. If it happens again (lockdown), nothing will be left. If we would try again to reopen, we won’t be able to do that.
Bharat, Owner, Ganga Dhaba

On the other hand, Dhaiya uncle has not lost all hope. "If there won't be another lockdown, we have chances of making a comeback. It might take time, say one, two, or three years, but we will definitely comeback. We and the students will be safe again,” he says.

(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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