Kamrul Hasan Khan
It is rarely one finds Modhu’s Canteen without the buzz of politics or the occasional chase and counter-chase of student political party activists. It has been the hub of student politics since the very first day of the inception of arts faculty of the Dhaka University (DU) at Nilkhet. DU is considered country’s cultural and political capital, and Modhu’s Canteen used to be the epicentre of all such activities. But things have changed drastically in recent times.
Never mind the low quality tea, bread, egg and sweet or the not-so-clean ambience, common students and ordinary visitors are now seen crowding the place from morning till afternoon turning it into an ordinary canteen like other canteens. The fiery speeches of student leaders or battles for supremacy on the campus seem to be a story from the yesteryears.
With a ban on all kinds of political activities by the caretaker government, most of the student leaders of Awami League backed student body Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) or BNP’s student front Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD), and various other parties have left the campus for obvious ‘reasons'(!).
In the beginning, for a few days, the canteen looked deserted and lifeless which got the owner, Orun Dey, the son of martyred Modhusudan Dey a bit worried. But he has seen enough in his lifetime so he was not too upset.
Soon Orun’s worries faded away as new visitors, many of them freshers, began to crowd the place bringing in life and vibration of youth with them. They let in fresh air and sunlight enter the gloomy interior. New students or visitors do not know or care to know that only months ago, some of those tables they occupy today were fixed for the BCL or the JCD cadres. A recent visit showed a group of four friends two male and two female — Linguistics students of first semester, first year, was having tea and talking about next class at a table that was allotted for the JCD.
Scenes like groups of students studying with books and notes or couples engrossed in their own world are now commonplace. In an apparently student politics-free campus now, one can notice a few petty student leaders carefully avoiding Modhu’s Canteen to avoid the eyes of the intelligence agencies.
And the boys of the canteen are happy because now they are not worried. But during the political days they were to remain alert so that some customers could not leave without paying bills. Customers pay their bill now timely. So, business is good at Modhu’s Canteen after a long time!