As I set my first foot on Dyal Singh College’s doorstep as a ‘fresher’ one of my primary concerns, rather, the primary concern was to locate places where my gastronomic impulses could be satisfied without putting too much strain on my already cash-strapped living. Dyal Singh stands at the heart of Lutyen’s Delhi and finding budget eateries can be a task. I, however, intend to make just a slightly easier in this piece.
More grandiose than most building surrounding it, Dyal Singh College commands a magnificent 11-acre campus. Since its establishment in 1959, the college building has undergone numerous additions and today boasts of a large commerce block, a separate building for science courses and a renovated humanities block. It also vaunts a spacious canteen that is the envy of most south-campus colleges for its size and frugal prices. One can have an edible meal for as low as twenty-five bucks and not have to worry about any intestinal upheaval. The thali, which is generally available after noon, consists of a morsel of rice, two plain tandoor-cooked chapatis and dal with veggies. It lacks the spicy flavour generally accustomed with college canteens, which forms a part of its appeal. The quality and tastes shift quite frequently, but if you lower your expectations to filling your belly, you will be positively satisfied.
The most sought after item on the menu, however, is the samosa. At 5 rupees a piece, they the reminiscent of the times when chai-samosas were stapled snacks of the middle-class before inflation replaced it by its cheaper cousin, Pakoras. They are usually sold out by early noon, adequately warm and filled with mild stuffings, they are easy on the tongue and the wallet.
Outside the college, on the either sides of the gate, you the find customary Maggi points, towards the right-hand side you have what the Dyal Singh students refer to as the ‘Kake di Hatti’. The small extended shed of the shop means that it is always crowded with people crouching under the shade while having their food. It is one of the few places in Delhi where momos are still given with real mayonnaise and not some watered-down white fluid. The taste is more distinct than the average joints, finding itself consumers despite being surrounded by numerous cheap momos stalls. In contrast from inside the campus, the food here is generally spicier with mostly packed sandwiches and knock-off hot dogs that make you suspicious of their freshness. For me, the go-to item was always the handmade omelette, safer than the rest of the item on the menu and had little scope for disappointment.
On the left-hand side of the gate, is the much shadier Maggi point that has makeshift stools and benches for its customers. Here, you can find the standard chole-kulchas consumed with as much ease as they are made. For those of us, who find the use of chilli an excuse for covering the lack of spices, the Maggi point offers no respite. But it is obvious that we are a minority given the habitual crowd around that place. A noticeable innovation here is the Kulcha rolls, with single kulcha stuffed with chole. It gives you a lasting taste but not the guilt of having too much street food.
Across the street from the back gate of the college is the Anna Dosa Point. Almost hidden among the much taller and much more important buildings, the Dosa point is an urban oasis. There is nothing too special about the south Indian food that is being served, or about the jolly uncle who prepares and serves the food, except that it is at the right place and serves the food at the right time. In the morning, when the College canteen seems too bland to start the day off, one can have a much more palatable idly-vada-sambar from Anna point. The dosas, available after noon, are the perfect replacement for the monotony of college canteen. At fifty bucks a plate, the dosas are value for money and replenishing against the boredom of repetitive meals.
If you are feeling more bourgeoisie, after a brief walk from campus, you can walk into the shadier confines of India International centre, the cultural epicentre of the Delhi’s elites. Here, you can have a go at the diverse menu of the Eatopia food court. I, personally, prefer the meal from the Chinese counter. With spring rolls, dumplings, a bit of Manchurian, It has just what takes to please the tongue and comfort the appetite.
One can top all of this off by having a street kulfi, customarily standing in front of the government apartments near the new National Investigative Agency complex. The standard test for judging a good kulfi is the absence of the taste of watery ice while savouring the kulfi bar. By this standard, the kulfi here is remarkably satisfying. For three years, these places have made up for the otherwise dullness and monotony of college life; I wish and hope they are doing the same for you.