Chicken Nights


Dear Nehruites,

Chicken Nights

A significant change witnessed at IIT (and in India) on our 50th reunion was the food part. It was plentiful compared to what was available in our times. The crowds of students eating and drinking in “restaurants” and coffee houses on Scholar’s Avenue is a huge transformation – an incredible change from Chicken Nights at Nehru Hall in the late sixties.

Sunday night dinner was always a special one: the main attraction was chicken on the menu. This one day of the week we all went non-vegetarian and relished the sumptuous preparation of the chicken. The cooks pulled out all the stops. Our mess purchases included the exotic and expensive spices that were used to cook the chicken for making this dinner, a really special one. The ingredients included two types of Elaichis, jeera, dhania, Tejpata, dal chini, laung in addition to the usual salt, haldi and lal mirchi for preparation of this special item. Cardamoms, Cumin, Coriander, Bay Leaf, cinnamon, and cloves and lots of tomatoes and copious quantities of caramelized onions were used. The cooks took
pride in serving the chicken at Nehru Hall.

The preferences of students for some portions of chicken over parts others was as strong as now. Obviously good and tastier pieces like
breasts, thigh and drumsticks were the first choice. The live chickens were delivered every Sunday morning for making it ready for dinner. The early birds or one third invariably got the best pieces, the next third were still quite satisfied with leftover best pieces but the last third grumblingly had to manage with ribs and necks.

That would explain why a queue began to form at the mess counter a few hours before the dinner would be served. The pattern of the queue by the students every Sunday was more or less similar with early birds and late comers. While many ideas were thrown around by those who were habitually late, there was a general consensus that if you are willing to stand in the queue for a couple of hours, you should be rewarded with the choicest pieces.

Looking back, the queue order could be explained as a product of a gluttony index and the inverse of wealth. The poor souls that loved
chicken lined up first. My apologies to the vegetarians. I may be right or wrong – they got Mutter-paneer. They did not have to come in early and there was always plenty in supply due to less demand and moreover, every piece of paneer is like every other piece of paneer so no distinction of pieces or any special preferences of pieces.

Most of us left Nehru Hall weighing between 100 and 120 Lbs. We were a skinny bunch. Breakfast was just two small slices of bread with a pinch of butter and tea as much as we could drink. Lunch was just dal, rasam, one vegetable, rice and chapatis. Evening tea was accompanied with just two thin-arrowroot biscuits. There was hardly any difference between lunch and dinner with just meat and fish once in a week. We learned simple lessons of food – filling up with rasam that did not last. Some of us were lucky as one of our hall mates was a farmer and would bring a “peepa” of ghee – and the small “koli” of hot ghee added wonders in our daily ordinary meals.

As we look back, we are now on an average around 25 Kg heavier and wonder why we were so happy in Nehru Hall. Our batch joined Nehru Hall only sixteen years after independence. The ravages of British Rule were just beginning to be eroded off and IIT was a glorious step forward with JEE as one of the great equalizer of opportunity. 

This Sunday, as those of us who loved those Chicken Nights (Mutter- paneer too), please open your wallets, and give to Nehru Hall.

Let’s get the rooms renovated and then move on to making the rest of the Hall, a showcase for our success.

(Note: any money you give goes straight to the contractors and suppliers – IIT admin has made it easy for us to make sure that the funds are used the way you want them to be used)

S. Grewal ’70, D-Top-East

Create a legacy of excellence. Give today.

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