The kitchen at CPI(M) office functions on a non-profit division system and any shortfall is borne by the party leadership

George Orwell had little doubt about this. “Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea,” he wrote.

In Chennai, the phrase may be appropriate for the tea prepared at the kitchen of the CPI (M)’s State committee office. It is not just the tea. Everything at the kitchen in the commune seems to have acquired a revolutionary taste and flavour.

The commune is as old as the Communist movement in India and has found reference in the correspondence between Mahatma Gandhi and P.C. Joshi, general secretary of the unified Communist Party. It continues to survive in the CPI (M) office, but has been temporarily suspended at the CPI State headquarters, as the party is constructing a new office.

“ Every day, around 25 persons have lunch here. Breakfast and dinner are also served for those who stay. When senior leaders visit Tamil Nadu, they stay here and eat at our kitchen,” says CPI (M) State secretary G. Ramakrishnan, who has been dining here since 1992.

After his lunch, Sampath, a driver in the party office, leaves for a flour mill to grind the wheat for making chappatis for dinner. Rajasekar, in charge of the commune, says that every month the party procures provisions and non-vegetarian food is served once a week.

“Fifteen years ago, we deducted money for food from the monthly allowance of full-time workers. But we no longer do it now,” says Mr. Ramakrishnan.

CPI assistant secretary C. Mahendran says the kitchen at party office functions on a non-profit division system and any shortfall is borne by the party leadership.

The commune has found reference in the writings of many senior leaders. Tamil writer Jayakanthan, once a member, has recorded his experience in his autobiography, ‘Oru Ilakkiyavaathiyin Arasiyal Anubhavangal.’

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