Milan da, as he was fondly known among his students, had come to the city after fleeing the War of Liberation in Bangladesh.
Within the hallowed confines of one of India’s most prestigious universities, is the legendary canteen run by Milan Kanti Dey, fondly known as Milan da, who passed away due to lung cancer.
(Note: An earlier version of this story did not correctly attribute Dola Mitra, Outlook, as a source for the information. The error is regretted. The correct attribution has been added to the story. – Editor)
Known to generations of Jadavpur University students, his canteen became an integral part of the university’s culture for four decades. No ‘adda’ session at JU would be complete without a few munchies from Milan Da’s canteen, as reported in the Outlook.
Milan da had started a canteen near Gate 4 of Jadavpur University, which earned cult status due to a special dish, called the ‘dhoper chop’.
The story behind ‘dhoper chop’ is fascinating, the report states. “The word ‘dhop’, in Bengali means ‘lies’. It was named in irony by the university’s angst-ridden intellectuals, to signify a moment of purity-the only true thing in a world gone down the drain, drowned in its phoniness.”
“The crispy, crunchy, batter-coated snack,” went well with his special tea and formed the perfect accompaniment to the conversations revolving around literature, politics, drama, art and music among hordes of students who frequented his canteens.”
Milan da was always quiet, handing out trays of tea and biscuits, unknowingly creating an interesting atmosphere, to which students flocked.
However, life wasn’t so rosy for him. Milan da started the canteen in 1972, soon after arriving in Kolkata, India after fleeing Bangladesh during the War of Liberation. Selling tea in the college campus during the day, he would sleep on the pavement outside the gates at night. Milan da struggled but slowly grew his business, buying land in Kolkata’s suburbs, and bringing his parents to stay with him.
Milan da breathed his last on 23rd July after a prolonged fight with cancer. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
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Social media accounts of Jadavpur University students overflowed with nostalgia for Milan da. Many students remembered the precious moments they had spent at the iconic canteen in Kolkata. Now, it remains to be seen whether his wife and sons will carry on the legacy that Milan da left behind.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)