Campus Diary

Chai, Chinars and conversations: Inside Kashmir University’s retreating zone

Being one of the main pulls of Kashmir University, Naseem Bagh is the most familiar retreating spot in the campus. A tea stall in its vicinity equally makes it a crowd-puller, besides a preferred hangout spot amid the mighty and magnificent Chinars.

His salt and pepper looks, deep-set eyes and a furrowed face make him a dreary person airing reticence. But that impression lasts till he starts sharing his campus experience with a storyteller’s knack.

As a tea vendor, Abdul Hameed Mir, who goes by the name of Mir Sahab, is witness to the shifting campus mood. Even as the faces around him change every year, he remains the varsity’s constant ‘warm’ host. His tea amid Chinars of Naseem Bagh is known to lift the mood around.

At his tea stall, he intermittingly falls silent to attend the eager footfall of students, scholars and faculty members. From the last 16 years, this has been his routine.

“I’ve seen the ideologies evolve all these years and have encountered a shift in the behaviour of the students visiting my Dhaba,” Hameed says, nodding his head in contentment.

Abdul Hameed Mir

Under the shade of the mighty Chinars, his tea seems to act as food for thought for many.

With dissent in the form of student activism long put under a blanket ban by the campus establishment, scores arrive to discuss and map the varsity’s situation. As a witness to such ‘free’ and ‘loaded’ conversations, Hameed’s stall over the years has apparently become some type of an informal student parliament.

And meanwhile, as another calculative pause follows, tea starts streaming down the urn. While students wait alongside the stall, the tranquil ambience makes it more alluring to visit the place and enjoy the tea amidst the imposing chinar trees.

Swarms of students routinely walk inside Naseem Bagh to escape from the humdrum, hang-out with friends or discuss something imperative. They prefer to sit and relax, sip a cup of tea and enjoy the striking view, thus upholding a tea culture within the campus.

People can take pleasure in both the autumnal hue of Chinars as well as the fresh arrival of the spring at Naseem Bagh. The place holds splendor in all seasons making it a unique spot to enjoy the tea and the talk.

Emotions remain diverse. Some discuss lectures given by their professors; many map the politics of the land, while others chat about the mundane affairs.

“We’re liked by the students, as we offer more varieties than any other Dhaba in the campus,” Hameed says, while passing cash to the customer. “We not only serve during the official timing of the university, we work according to the timing of the boys’ hostel. So, we remain open from dawn to dusk.”

Among his regulars are scores of the campus pass-outs, who visit to have tea at the same spot, turning them nostalgic.

“The environment over here often lifts my mood and makes me feel good,” says Faheem, a PhD scholar, with gusto. “I sit here and forget all my worries. I recall the days I spent here sipping tea and spending time with my friends.”

Infact, coming to the university is a life changing experience, as one learns a lot of things, like socializing. No matter where you’ve come from, you meet new people and make acquaintances. Tea stall being one such spot allows one to sit, socialize and discuss things.

“The best part about this place is that we get to enjoy the serene atmosphere,” says Zaid Mehraj, studying Law in the varsity. “On top of it, Mir Sahab’s friendly-approach and good tea makes it an irresistible spot.”

Even the tea stall’s immediate surroundings make it a happening place.

On its one side, students attend Music classes. Adjacent to it are the artists from Art department. The sight of students holding musical instruments and putting colours on the canvas makes it some kind of a creative zone.

“Whenever I’m tired and want to think of something out of the box, I go to Mir Sahab’s Dhaba and have a cup of tea,” says Arsh, a student of Art Department, with a jiggle of delight. “It really helps.”

Having a delightful cup of tea is a chance to sit back leisurely and appreciate the surroundings, the art student continues. “Each cup of tea represents a fragment of your life. It’s ecstasy in such a magnificent setting.”

All such experiences and features make it the most visited spot in the campus. Even Hameed doesn’t seem to be unmindful of this overwhelming response.

“I’m so glad to have a response like this from students, despite various options available to them,” he says. “Such love and appreciation makes me feel that the decision I took 16 years ago to start this stall was worth it.”


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