Mornings at Tikka can be an eerie juxtaposition of three parallel worlds

Ask any of the students, faculty, staff or alumni, Tikka is one of the most prominent places in IIT, Kharagpur. There is a sense of antiquity to the famous eatery on the campus. Dosa is still available at Rs. 20 a piece and bada chai costs an exiguous Rs. 7. Life is slow-paced in West Bengal, slower in Kharagpur and quite close to a standstill in that old, ramshackle shop at Tikka. The wooden benches have weathered all the heat and rain for years. The plastic chairs have broken but they continue to exist at the very same place. A Kendriya Vidyalaya stands on the IIT campus just opposite to Tikka.

Mornings at Tikka can be an eerie juxtaposition of three parallel worlds. Faculty members of the prestigious institute can be seen reading newspaper while sipping tea. They discuss their homes, departments, heads of departments, the institute and the nation. On the table a bit far away, are students, on their way to classes or on their way back from the Tata Sports Complex after a morning session of football, enjoying puri sabzi and rasgullahs. They talk about their halls, GCs (general championship), fests, mass bunks and so on. The second world belongs to students of the Kendriya Vidyalaya. Girls in their blue and white uniforms, their hair well-oiled, combed and exhibiting an assortment of multi-coloured ribbons, riding bicycle to school.

Come back to Tikka to find the third world. A young body in ragged clothes, tattered slippers and unkempt hair holds four glasses of bada chai in each of his hands. All except the little finger inside the glasses at a slender distance away from the hot tea, which bubbles and probably touches those fingers and gets soiled on the way to the table of the faculty. The little finger is in a perpendicular direction, quite poignantly, pointing to the Kendriya Vidyalaya. The tea glasses, all four touching one another at the centre and slanting away from one another at the other end. Ask this kid, representing the metaphorical and actual Third World — a term coined by Alfred Sauvy, a member of the First World — about the Right to Education Act, 2009 and, I bet, he will be speechless.

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