‘Eateries at Student Centre put Indian Coffee House out of business’

Once Panjab University’s iconic hang-out spot, the Indian Coffee House at the Student Centre or (Stu C) remains nearly empty these days. The decrease in footfall has resulted in losses due to which the coffee house faces closure in July. The main reason for this, many say, is the opening of several eateries at the Stu C.

Built in 1975, the coffee house on the top floor of the Stu C building has been providing a space to students and academicians to eat and socialise for years. Many retired professors have been coming here since they were students.

The owner, Joy Kuruvila, shared that over the years, it has been difficult to pay the rent as the footfall is decreasing.

A person associated with the place, requesting anonymity, said, “At present, the rent is nearly ₹30,000 per month and increases by 10% every year. The main reason for losses is the shops that have opened at the student centre since 2000. This happened as the shopowners had relations with influential persons.”

He said, “Earlier, people used to wait to get a table at the coffee house, but now just four or five are occupied every day.”

Loved beyond classrooms

“Socialising outside the class is far more important than in the class, and Indian Coffee House gave students that space to do it,” said retired professor Rajesh Kochhar, who has been coming to the coffee house since his student years.

“Generations have grown physically and intellectually at this place, but commercialisation of Stu C by opening more shops (not part of the original design) has turned it into a slum,” he said.

“What next? The replacement of the coffee house will be a McDonald’s outlet, which will be a step towards making the university for the elite. A majority of students cannot afford places like that. The coffee house needs to be saved.”

Old-timers believe that the students, students’ council and faculty should sit together and see if closure of the coffee house can be prevented.

One of those old-timers, retired professor Manjit Singh, said, “It is among the only space where students sit, eat, share ideas and socialise. It is not a commercial centre. The university authorities should show some sensitivity.”

He further said, “The other eateries can be closed but not the coffee house. All the hostels have messes and canteens. Shutting down the coffee house is unfair, non-academic and unthinkable.”

First Published:
Jun 24, 2019 11:00 IST

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