Life on the rest of the island might have been coming to a close at 12 am on Thursday, October 7, but at Tembusu College, the night had just begun.
Two hours, 34 butter chicken servings and 123 naan slices later, an Al Amaan delivery van—yes, an entire van, not the usual motorcycle or even car—came from NUS’ beloved supper stretch to the lobby of Tembusu College, ready to feed an eagerly awaiting army of over 250 students. It was the night of Tembusu’s Greatest Supper Jio.
A supper jio is one of many cornerstones of the NUS hostel experience. Usually initiated by one hungry neighbour’s text on a group chat, the supper jio forms indelible bonds between residents new and old via late-night conversations and a shared penchant for post-dinner cravings. Fun, convenient, and an answer to both social and physical needs, it’s easy to see why the supper jio is universally loved across campus, including Tembusu College, one of the four Residential Colleges on campus.
How It All Started
Tembusu College, however, decided to break the mould. In tandem with the Finale Night of Tembusu’s annual Arts Week, whose supermarket theme this year was aptly dubbed ‘Add to Cart’, the Greatest Supper Jio would take the form of a performance that its co-organisers likened to game show hosting, where they would appear periodically on Tembusu’s Finale Night Facebook Livestream to open, give updates on, and close the Supper jio.
Tan Yi Jia, a Year 3 resident of Tembusu College and one of two co-organisers of the Greatest Supper Jio, explained it was not his first time organising a large-scale supper jio. Last year, he had hosted a McDelivery order amounting to $275.30, and printed out an Excel sheet of the order to be framed in an art exhibition in Tembusu earlier this semester.
The Communications and New Media student said: “When I was thinking about what to perform for [Tembusu’s] Arts Week Finale Night, I thought: why not host an even bigger supper jio across the whole [of] Tembusu?”
“It fit quite nicely into [Arts Week’s] ‘Add to Cart’ theme too, since everyone’s adding a supper order into the combined Tembusu supper order cart.”
Vishnu Sundaresan, a Year 2 Tembusu resident and the second co-organiser of the Greatest Supper Jio, said hopping on board the “radical idea” was a no-brainer for him: “I was sold instantly because I loved the drama and magnitude of [Yi Jia’s] idea! This was going to be our chance to make a small part of Tembusu’s history in the wildest manner possible.”
Indeed, the pair made history, albeit a small but wild part. With some 254 residents responding to their call—excluding individuals who may have grouped their order under one person for logistical ease—and a massive bill amounting to exactly $1303.10, the two were surprised by the enormous uptake of their idea.
Yi Jia said, “It’s quite funny because Vishnu and I were initially concerned that we wouldn’t even be able to hit $275.30 and beat the previous record, so we had this whole contingency performance plan in case we didn’t make the record. However, after we saw the Supper Jio [Telegram] group surpass 200 members in less than a day, we were thrilled and worried at the same time.”
“Now, we were looking at potentially hitting four digits, and concerns began to arise like whether the supper bot would even be able to hold that many orders, and whether Al Amaan’s [Restaurant] would be able to handle such a large order in one night.”
Vishnu added: “We were very encouraged by the uptake by Tembusians. They got on board immediately and added to our energy and hype straightaway…our overall fears went from breaking the target to the real problem of how we would do this logistically.”
Getting Down to Business
With such a large-scale order, the duo had to jump through unforeseen logistical hoops.
First came pre-event preparation. The supper jio mainly operated through an order bot in a Telegram group specially created for the event, but a Google Sheets spreadsheet had also been created for people to fill in their orders if the bot crashed. The two co-organisers also made an advance call to Al Amaan, and roped in extra hands to help with orders for the day itself.
Then came the night of the order. Yi Jia and Vishnu said there were multiple hiccups: not only were people falling asleep waiting for their orders since Tembusu’s Arts Week Finale Night was delayed, but the Telegram order bot also crashed within a mere three minutes, leading the pair to scramble to shift to the Google Sheets spreadsheet to tally orders instead.
The two said: “Turns out this wasn’t the best idea, since some people ended up editing the wrong columns here and there, causing some quantities to get messed up and some people’s orders to get overridden. There were some orders on the sheet that didn’t even exist on the menu!”
After painstakingly going through the 270-row-long order spreadsheet, the two described a stressful but careful 10-minute phone call to Al Amaan that required them to constantly re-check the quantities of each resident’s order. Finally, amidst many other logistical headaches, the biggest hurdle was having to distribute every order to each individual’s room while maintaining social distancing. Thankfully, the two co-organisers said it all worked out in the end.
Even Al Amaan was an enthusiastic participant in the record-breaking event.
Yi Jia and Vishnu said, “They were not only confident they could meet the order, but also reminded us to make use of Tembusu Card benefits like free cheese fries, free delivery…after ordering, they even gave us extra discounts.
“It was an awesome sight seeing a whole Al Amaan’s van arrive instead of the usual motorbike, full of supper orders in crates. And the delivery people were really nice, helping us segment the orders according to type and cuisine. So we think they were totally on-board.”
The atmosphere in Tembusu College, even with over 250 residents prying their eyes awake till 4 am in anticipation of their naans and maggie mees, was festive. Instagram stories depicted suitemates tucking into long-awaited meals with relief, and a Google Sheets spreadsheet meant to track payment was filled with notes of thanks to the jio’s organisers and congratulations on pulling it off.
Most importantly, beyond satisfying midnight cravings, a warm memory and special piece of history had been made for Tembusu residents. This was especially so for the organising duo, who sported blazers and shirts with bermudas amid game show-esque soundtracks during their appearances on Tembusu’s Facebook Livestream to enhance the spectacle of their grand performance.
Vishnu said, “It made it so much more than just a supper jio in my opinion…and I loved every aspect of it. We wanted to make history in a creative manner, along with the entire college, and that we managed to actually pull it off is just awesome. I’ve always loved this college and this jio will be something I will never forget.”
“These times have been harsh on all residents and students, and we have not been able to host college-wide events. It was crazy that we could bring almost everyone together in a single event and unite the entire college even in these uncertain times.”
To create a more memorable experience, the two even chipped in money from their own pockets to offer snack prizes for 200th and 300th group members, and random achievements such as successfully spinning a wheel of fortune or purchasing the most items within a single order.
Yi Jia added: “I’m really glad that we could host something that Tembusians can remember and be a part of. $1303.10 will be a number I will forever associate with Tembusu.”
So there it ended: the Greatest Supper Jio Tembusu College, or any other student group on campus, had ever seen. Yet, what are records, if not to be broken?
Do It All Again?
Yi Jia said the question of whether he planned to break his own record had been a frequent one recently, but his answer was a probable ‘no.’ The supper jio was a great once-in-a-lifetime experience, and he plans on leaving it that way.
Vishnu echoed this sentiment: “There are no plans to beat our own record…thinking about that gives me a headache. I remember at 5AM after finally sorting through everyone’s food, we looked at each other and said we’d never dream of doing this again.”
“But that might’ve been the fatigue speaking. I don’t like to commit to never doing things, so who knows…if the timing and rules are right, why not!”
As such, it seems the record for the Greatest Supper Jio NUS has ever organised remains open for contesting. Any takers?