Written by Aditya Patel, a fifth year student at NLSIU. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the 11:00AM break, one is often faced with the vexing problem of the inevitably large line at the Kanchika Canteen (yes, that’s the name). Three options run through one’s head:
A: Stand in line
B: Cut the line and
C: Give up on that delicious combination of oily vada with toxic Coca Cola that you are craving even though you are really not hungry
The first is what society would have you believe is the morally correct option. Queues are made to be followed, not cut. They bring order and fairness to human activity and ensure that ultimately it is merit that stands through and not favouritism or strong-arming.
As for the second option, if you were to listen to society, it would not approve. You should not cut the line. One feels this societal pressure everyday when eyeing the canteen line. When the line is too long, one often ponders whether to take the brave step and go talk to that batchmate you haven’t spoken to since first year and slyly hand over a grubby twenty rupee note. However, the costs of doing this also weigh on the mind. The reputational loss in the eyes of juniors who have till this point revered you (or so you think), the reputational loss in the eyes of seniors who considered you their equal (or so you think), the reputational loss in the eyes of batchmates standing in line who also had to make the judgement call and ultimately chose the morally correct option. Observation has shown that while many people do stand in line due to thisequal number of people also make the call to cut in line, favouring their base cravings over any reputational loss that may arise as a result.
However this blind acceptance of the correctness of standing in line has its faults. For one, it does not take into account the different starting points that various students face in accessing the canteen. Third Years, for example, have an obvious advantage in accessing the canteen, their classroom being a short 20 second staircase run to the canteen counter. First Years also have an advantage here, the canteen being a short 20 second run from the entrance of their classroom. Fourth Years are less advantaged than Third Years and First Years. However, if a Fourth Year is determined they can leave class immediately after the bell rings and utilise the potency of gravity to accelerate down the two flights of stairs necessary to reach the canteen gate quickly. Thus, Fourth Years also have an advantage in reaching the canteen line quickly.
The people who truly suffer are the Second Years and Fifth Years. Fifth Years not only have to make the same walk as First Years but also have to climb the same amount of stairs as Fourth Years after the walk (is it a coincidence that 4+1 = 5? I don’t know). The Second Years have a whole quadrangle to cross in order to reach the stairs leading to the canteen.
Here we have a clear distinction between the batches. The Fourth Years, Third Years and First Years clearly have a leg-up and are likely to get to the canteen when there is a minimal line or no line at all while the Fifth Years and Second Years are likely to stumble upon a long queue. What’s more, the Second Years and Fifth Years have to travel a longer distance to get back to class in time for attendance. The cruel result of this is that not only do they have to stand in long queues but this also increases their chances of missing attendance. A horrible situation. It’s not their fault. It was architectural design and administrative arbitrariness that resulted in their disadvantage In this regard I would say that it is justifiable for Fifth Years and Second Years to cut in line and there should be no moral opprobrium attached to such an action by a student of these batches. Cutting in line is merely equalising opportunity for people treated unequally. I must make an exception here for Fifth Years who don’t have class from 11:20AM to 1:30PM. For this class of Fifth Years there is no major disadvantage as they can simply wait till 11:20 before swooping into an empty canteen. For First Years, Third Years and Fourth Years there is no justification for cutting in line. If they find themselves in a position where they face a long queue then they need only blame themselves for squandering this golden opportunity. If you are a Fifth Year (with 11:20AM class) and a Second Year, you should always exercise Option B and cut the line, there is no moral wrong in doing so. If you are in the other three batches you should always exercise Option A: standing in line, as it would be unjust for you to cut the line.
However so far we have only dealt with Option A and B and neglected Option C. In our opinion it is Option C that should be exercised, no matter what batch you are in. You only have one heart and one pancreas. Don’t screw with them. Also there’s always the New Juice Shop. •
The author would like to thank Shivam Singla, a fifth year student at NLSIU for telling him why its important to talk about the canteen line