Time Capsule | Ft. Food, Friendships and Rituals
I owe you an apology.
I didn’t follow through on my promise. I stopped writing this newsletter as well. Nevertheless, I am back!
I hope this post (and podcast episode) is enough to make it up to you.
My college life is slowly coming to an end and I’ve been thinking a lot about what it was like. I decided to write and make a podcast episode about it. This is a part of my Time Capsule series. A series where I record episodes with the intention of revisiting them again in the future.
While it’s a personal essay, I would urge you to listen to the podcast while you’re reading it. It may enhance the experience. Once you’re done, maybe you could also think about a question - What kind of food rituals do you share with the people you care about?
On Food, Friendships, and Rituals
A couple of years back, at the end of a semester, as I was leaving Jodhpur to head back home, I found myself standing in Pungal Paada. It’s a tiny street in the old city of Jodhpur, some people also call this street – The Gulab Jamun wali Galli.
I was fulfilling a request of a senior of mine. He had given me specific instructions. I was looking for a small shop called Chaturbhuj Rameschandra. According to the senior, this Chaturbhuj has the best Gulab Jamun he had ever tasted and before he graduated, he would always get some packed for his friends, seniors and family, at the end of every semester.
This act of getting a parcel back home is just one among many instances of how students from my college form and maintain connections through food.
Even though I know there’s nothing I can do about it, my mind still wanders to my life in college. Of my supposed 5 year course, this year I’ve spent the least amount of days on campus. By my count just 30. There are a lot of days where I am trying to recall memories from college. I try to think about the different activities I was a part of, the random events that have witnessed and try to remember how my life in college was. But, I am not able to remember all of these things vividly.
It is incredibly frustrating that not only have I lost the option of creating new memories in NLUJ, even the ones that I’ve made and already exist seem to be fading. They’re not as crystal clear. It’s like wandering through a fog. It is also in moments like these where I often begin to question my past self’s decisions of not taking enough photos and videos. Of not capturing moments to be able to relive them.
While I am unable to remember everything vividly. The things I am able to recall have to do with food. It struck me how much of my relationships and experiences are centred around food, and the bonds it helped me make. I am able to remember all the food rituals and traditions I’ve made with people and those I’ve been part of as a community in college.
Every student has their own version of a food ritual. Big and small. As a part of a group, or just alone. They vary according to the semester, where you’re located, what your mood is, which group of people you’re with and the kind of food you want to have.
The first tradition I built was within the first month of starting college. In my first year, a friend and I had decided that whenever either of us goes out to the Old City in Jodhpur we would get the other a parcel of the Mishrilal Makhaniya Lassi. A small ritual both of us have tried to maintain over the last few years.
I call these shared food rituals because every time you decide to eat in college, you’re involving yourself in sacred steps and routines that everyone has built around eating food.
Before every meal, someone would send a message on WhatsApp enquiring when and where to have food. A pitstop would be made at a friend’s hostel room before going to the mess. There are inside jokes we had around the specific food orders that our friends make. Everyone has a favourite spot in the mess to eat. Despite mess food being mundane and boring, it became bearable only because you could take solace in the fact that you’re not alone and this suffering is shared.
On the off chance that your friends are out of campus, you know they’ll be asking you if you wanted anything from the city. Every Sunday, many would have brunch at rooftop cafes with a view of the Majestic Mehrangarh.
On occasions to celebrate, you’re also thinking about who you want to share that celebration with. Different committees and societies would have the end of year dinners - a way to have fun and get to know each other, and unwind after a year of hard work.
People playing different sports would end up in front of the fruit shop drinking some juice, taking a breather after an intense practice. All sports teams also had the ritual of enjoying a meal together before they participated in tournaments.
While preparing for exams in the library, you would inevitably find yourselves thinking about having Chai at Hans or Lakshmi. When the rest of the city is sleeping, at 2 AM in the night you could find students crowded near the Tuck Shop to curb their midnight cravings. And during exams, you could hear the calls of Chai being delivered in hostel rooms.
Whenever people would cook in their hostel rooms, there would always be leftovers for the rest. If you’re coming back from home after a break, it’s immoral to not get some home food. I always got over 10 kilos of snacks from home at the beginning of every semester to share with people on campus.
It doesn’t just end here. Sometimes these rituals would become huge endeavours where many people from college would take part together.
Ordering and getting food delivered was a big deal. It involved checking in with your group of friends, people from your floor and anyone else you think who likes the particular restaurant you’re ordering from. This is how I met my closest friends.
During the times when delivery apps weren’t in Jodhpur, even the simple act of ordering Pizzas involved asking at least a few dozen people, in order to meet the minimum delivery requirement.
And once the parcel of food was delivered, one could often find floors of different hostels becoming a huge dinner feast where everyone gathers around to eat this parcel together. A mini celebration always took place after a rather monotonous task of ordering.
I got to witness and eat food from different cultures on a campus that’s supposed to be in the middle of a desert. For Onam and Vishu, a local Kerala Restaurant would prepare a feast for students from my college. People from different communities would prepare and cook lunch for EVERYONE on campus on account of celebrating a festival. These were some of the best meals I’ve had and I’ve always been grateful that people who I didn’t know were kind enough to allow an ignorant outsider like me a tiny glimpse into their culture by sharing food.
Going back home at the end of a semester brought its own fair share of food rituals. More often than not, you’ll find some company wherever you’re headed. Depending on the mode of transportation, the food that you eat changes on that day. You might stop by Janta to get something packed while rushing towards the station and or maybe eat at Filos before going to the airport. Every semester ended with the hope of meeting and chilling together again in the future.
Over the last few years, I’ve spent in my university, sharing food is integral to how I’ve interacted with people. These rituals are how I’ve been able to make memories in college. This is how I’ve learned to trust people and open up to others. It is how I’ve grown as a person. These minor traditions and rituals tend to remind me about all of the bonds I’ve built and the experiences I’ve had. There are so many small acts of care and generosity that would take place each day when it came to sharing food. And I was part of a community that cherished this kindness and shared it with others. This has left a permanent mark on my now transient memories.
Right now, we aren’t able to share those meals and rituals the same way. People keep sharing photos of the meals they’re eating, which remind them of college. On birthdays and also on random days, you may get a friend’s favourite food/cake delivered despite staying in different parts of the country. While the nature of these rituals has changed. The spirit of showing care and sharing food continues to remain.
A couple of years back, I found myself standing in front of Chaturbhuj Rameshchandra. I got the parcel packed for my senior and therefore continued a tradition. I decided to try one for myself hesitantly, I always disliked this particular sweet for 20 years before that point in my life. After having the first piece, I immediately got more packed for my friends, and family at home. Marking the start of my own ritual.
I don’t know if it’s objectively the best Gulab Jamun in the world, but what I can tell you is every time I eat that Gulab Jamun, I think about how I wouldn’t have discovered this place if not for people’s love of sharing in college. I think about how immensely lucky I am to have received such a gift from NLUJ.
Let me know what you thought about this episode and if you liked reading/listening to this, do consider sharing with others!
Until next time