The uninitiated would question if a college canteen deserves the kind of passionate tussle that is brewing at Kolkata's Presidency University. But many will attest that Pramod Da's is not just a canteen. It's a rite of passage. It separates the men/women from the boys/girls.
For its students, Presidency is incomplete without Pramod Sain - after all he is one of the P's, others being prem (love), porashona (academics) that make Presidency, one of the most reputed universities in the country.
Which is why, the decision of the varsity officials to evict him and set up a food court at the place where the canteen stands, has elicited such a strong response from the city.
Sharing an anecdote with ScoopWhoop News, Royina Saha, a student of the 2015-17 batch, said, "During my time at Presidency, an average day would begin with me coming to college and sitting in one corner of Pramod da's canteen at some point of the day. While some came and left, some would sit there for hours ordering one tea after another. The ambience resonated the culture that Presidency had always been proud to host. Being physically present at the canteen gave everybody the assurance that they belonged to the 200-year heritage of the college."
The authorities even evicted Sain from the place he called home for over four decades earlier this month. He was forced to sleep at the Sealdah train station for three nights when finally a former student, Suman Bhattacharya, provided him a roof.
But Sain remains resilient and actively supports the students' agitation for him. “I have come to the canteen today after a long gap just to rustle up something for the students who are agitating in my support,” Sain told Hindustan Times.
But, Shubhabrata Ganguly, president of President University Student Council (PUSC) believes that this only an attempt to turn the canteen into a money-minting mechanism. "Although the authorities have asked Pramod da to apply for the tender, but it's obvious that he won't be able to get it because the notice says that the turnover should be Rs 15 lakh p.a.," Ganguly told ScoopWhoop News.
However, the fight goes on. Members of the Alumni Association have even come together to help him acquire the trade and food licences required for the tender.
"Pramod da's canteen is an inseparable part of the university. It's a real shame that the powers-that-be have decided to uproot the essence of Presidency. It must be stopped," said Soumya Pakrashi, a student of the 2013 batch and a scriptwriter by profession.
The crowd that hangs out at the college kept changing over the years but Pramod da has stayed on for the last four decades. He has been a witness to all the heated debates, the budding love, the friendly discussions, sometimes even joining in for a chat or a lending an ear to someone's woes.
Presidency may have transitioned from a college to a varsity but Pramod da's customers will keep coming back for more. Here's hoping that the essence of Presidency University is not lost.