Can you imagine Delhi without India Gate and Mumbai without Gateway of India? The same way, it’s difficult to imagine Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) without Ganga Dhaba. Current students, JNU graduates, and even visitors are heartbroken, as the legendary eatery may just shut shop.
The owners of the dhaba — that has been the centre point of discussions and debates in JNU since 1984 — have been served an eviction notice.
“I was earlier studying in Greater Noida, and would especially visit the dhaba. I heard about this place first and JNU later. This dhaba remains open for the whole night and at the end of the month, when we are short of money, this becomes our hangout place,” says Amrit Raj, a student of Art and Aesthetics at JNU.
The place holds nostalgic value for those who once roamed the campus during their graduation days. Vinod Saxena, a student of 1987 batch, recalls, “Ganga Dhaba was not too old when I joined the university. It took no time to become our favourite hangout zone. Even after leaving college, I kept coming back to the place as it’s a nice way for me to revisit memories. This place is not only a food joint; it connects with our hearts and should not be closed at all.”
The dhaba is the core of every possible hangout session, from watching cricket to Chaat Sammelan during Holi and defines JNU. Tarun Krishna, a graduate from Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) —which shares its campus with JNU — says, “The place is naturally made. There are no chairs and table but seats made up of cement and rubble-like material. It’s a hub for discussions and debates, and one can learn a lot just by sitting there. Any protest in the university has this place as its core and if it gets shut, it will leave an emotional impact on many.”
The students of the campus believe that more than anything else, the dhabas are a part of their culture. “We don’t want food chains in our campus, we want our small dhaba to be there. They are a part of our identity and an eternal part of JNU,” says Soman, a student of PHD Political Science.