Monday, May 10

Kolkata: Dingy ‘mess baris’ make way for modern PG rooms for students

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It is not only the college curriculum that has undergone a sea change over the years; the spaces where college students stay as paying guests, too, have changed, with the old mess bari — the backdrop of so many Bengali movies in the 1960s and 1970s — evolving into five-star accommodations that come with parking lots, customised cuisines, Wi-Fi, security and even a personal cook.

Factors like the consumption behaviour of millennials, their digital dependence and changes in the pattern of inward migration of students to Kolkata have all contributed to the upgrade of the old PG spaces into much swankier student housing. But the upgrade has come at a price, with monthly charges now ranging between Rs 9,000 and Rs 15,000, depending on the neighbourhood, amenities provided and security arrangements.

Elgin Road, Auckland Road, AJC Bose Road and neighbourhoods around Bhowanipore have emerged as the new hubs of swanky housing for outstation students.

Amitava Bhattacharya, who has recently furnished his 1,600-square-foot, ground-floor apartment in Ahiripukur 1st Lane, has been one of the PG owners who has seen the transformation up close. “The entire PG industry in the city has undergone a change, with students opting for places that have ample indoor space, common study areas, strong Wi-Fi signals and air-conditioners,” he said. “My previous guest even got his personal cook who would do all meals, which necessitated a fully furnished kitchen,” he added.

Elgin Road, Auckland Road, AJC Bose Road and neighbourhoods around Bhowanipore have emerged as the new hubs of swanky student housing, replacing the PG clusters around Presidency and Jadavpur University that used to provide basic amenities like a cot, a chair and a study table and where even round-the-clock running water was often a luxury.

Rajesh Seth, who has turned one of his apartments in Bhowanipore’s Northern Park into a PG accommodation, enumerates the reasons: “This zone is convenient for those who study in institutes like the Bhowanipore Education Society, St Xavier’s and Asutosh College. Metro ferries students to stations that are walking distance to or an auto-rickshaw ride from Presidency and Jadavpur University. Many tutorials for CA, CAT, CLAT and other entrance examinations are located close by. There are several malls, multiplexes and shopping centres for youngsters to hang out over the weekends.”

Food has played a major role in making a few neighbourhoods popular with students. The outer walls of St Xavier’s College and Bhowanipore Education Society are plastered with advertisements for PGs promising a homely environment and food for either one community or the other.

“Students coming from north or south India and their parents prefer to stay in PGs where the owner also hails from their region and can provide the same food they get back home. It provides a sense of comfort and security,” a PG owner near Kalighat Metro station said.

The definition of necessities and consumption of millennials and gen-Z is different from their predecessors’. “Round-the-clock internet connectivity, air-conditioners, DTH links and furnished kitchens are some of the basic requirements,” Reena Ganguly, a PG owner in the Lansdowne area close to Beltala Girls’ School, said.

Asutosh College student Manisha Sengupta recently moved out of a PG near JU and shifted to one near Kalighat Metro station. “They did not even have an attached washroom and there was no Wi-Fi. Location-wise, this is better as there are several malls and eateries nearby,” Sengupta said.

The change in migration pattern, too, is a reason for the evolution of PG spaces. The mainly rural Bengal-to-Kolkata movement has now been replaced by many students coming here from different cities of eastern and north-eastern states. “They insist on all the amenities they get at home. The parents make sure everything is in place before they zero in on the PG facility,” Bhattacharya said.


Source: Times of India

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