PVR movies, Rajinder chickens and Barista babes – memoirs in the city's most prestigious engineering institute.
[By Atish Dipankar (second from left in the front row); picture by Suhas Gupta.]
[The author studied Computer Science in IIT Delhi from 2001 to 2006. Owner of the blog-site Dust in the Wind, he lives in Bangalore.]
I was Dipu and Pinku, Laddu, Chu were my movie pals in IIT Delhi. We always ran to grab the last row of the front-stall as soon as the doors would open. In Chankaya theatre we could watch a movie for 95 bucks (the auto took 20 from the hostel gate and we often came back walking!).
The popular hangout places around IIT Delhi shared a common theme: good restaurants (not necessarily expensive), movie theatres, and lots of girls. Basant Lok's Priya Cinema, PVR Saket and the SDA Market, opposite the Main Gate, topped the list. Linked by a common thread they were distinct in their own ways.
PVR Anupam at Saket was Delhi's first multiplex. We frequented it not to watch a movie but to loiter around, to ogle at the classy crowd, and to check out second hand books. We also never missed out on the tasty & cheap non-vegetarian food in the numerous 'open-air' shacks there.
Priya cinema, on the other hand, was more approachable and affordable. The experience of watching a film there (on cheap) consisted of sitting in the front stall where we had to twist our head from left to right to take in the giant screen in its entirety. But more important was the time we spent before and after the movie.
Ah, how could we forget leering at the hot females, doing window shopping, and grabbing a bite at McDonald's or Nirula's (where the Subz Burger was a hands down favourite). The movie in fact was not a necessity at all. I could recall trips to Priya when we didn't have any plans to watch a movie and the primary motivation was to soothe one's eyes with a heavy dose of pretty young things. It was only in the pre-final and final years that the McDonalds and the Zaikas were replaced, initially by Pizza Hut, and then by Punjabi By Nature and TGIF.
In IIT, there was just too much to like and savour: haggling with auto wallas as half a dozen of us tried to get into a single thuk-thuk; and supping at Sassi (Aaloo ka Parathas, Bread Omelettes, Maggi noodles and Chai constituted breakfast, lunch and dinner for many of us). Then there was Shefali Sweets (Badam Milk, Masala Dosa…) and Rainbows (American Chop suey, Hot Chocolate Fudge..) at the SDA Market. Of course the hip Barista café there was only a place to sit, check out the babes and order nothing. But by third year we had grown up enough to start requesting Cappuccino and Dark Temptation from the uniformed stewards. And who could forget the late night starvation trips to AIIMS, and the occasional ones to Ber Sarai or Jia Sarai – all for the sake of parathas!
But the place which sparkle the most in my memory is Rajinder Da Dhaba (RDD). Adjacent to Kamal Cinema Complex in Safdarjung Enclave, it was a necessary gourmet pilgrimage, especially after two of my close friends got their bikes. Mostly we used to bring the food to our hostel room and dig our fingers at the Butter Chicken, Shahi Paneer, Dal Makhani, Rumali Roti and Vegetable Pulao. But before attacking the food, we would select the play-list in our computers and yes, we would close the door. No interruptions permitted.
All these hangouts formed an important chunk of my existence in IIT. Okay, they were conventional – merely restaurants, movie halls and markets. All right, we didn't go to discos and pubs. True, the malls at Gurgaon and Noida were too far. Let's confess, Connaught Place was only occasionally visited. But what mattered was the fun, the treats, and the many 'chal yaar Priya ho ke aate hain' rides that we had.
You see we were just a bunch of 'normal' engineering students who only wanted to have a good time. Albeit in my case it exceeded the time spent in labs and lectures. But there are no regrets. Those were wonderful moments and I was lucky to have lived them.