A stranger to McGill University would be surprised to witness a disproportionately high number of students walking around with samosas in their hands. Samosas have become a staple fundraiser food for student clubs and a key part of the average McGill student’s daily diet. Feeling particularly devoted to the samosa but frustrated by not being able to locate them on campus, Tyler Safran, now a second-year student in the Faculty of Medicine, created the Samosa Search Facebook group in January 2015. What started as an inside joke has since accumulated a campus-wide following.
Long before creation of any Samosa-related social media, there was no way for McGill students to seek out a nearby samosa sale without wandering from building to building. Locating a samosa was left entirely to luck and class location. Safran created the Samosa Search group as a way to track and advertise samosa sales in the McIntyre Medical Building, where, as a medicine student, he took all of his classes. Initially, the group only included the members of Safran’s program, until one day in March of 2015, it began to grow inexplicably. The group currently has 1531 members, with students confirming samosa sales every day. Safran has even expanded his team to include “Vice-President of Quality,” Kapil Sareen-Khanna, a second year student in the Faculty of Medicine.
The group is far from the only one facilitating samosa sales on campus. "Samosa Sales,” another Facebook group, was created before Samosa Search: the two are now considered in competition. Samosa Sales is a group that serves a similar purpose, providing a venue for clubs to advertise their samosa fundraisers and for students to post inquiries for nearby sales. However, Safran felt that this group was not nearly as effective at advertising and locating sales, thus motivating the creation of Samosa Search.
“Samosa Sales was a dead group,” Safran said. “Once in a while someone would post when they were desperate [….] It was kind of ridiculous, because no one ever knew where the samosas were.”
Other loyal members of Samosa Search echoed Safran’s sentiments of distaste toward the Samosa Sales page.
“My initial thoughts were that it was rather unnecessary to have two groups, but that has definitely changed,” Sierra Skoropada, U4 Psychology student, said. “You don’t have to scroll down looking for people who posted about sales in different locations. On Samosa Search, the ‘confirmations’ of the day are all laid out in a single post to make filling your belly quick and easy.”
The loyalty and passion that all Samosa Search members have for samosas also helps garner more attention for clubs aiming to promote their sales.
“[Safran’s] group has a lot of hype, so it’s really easy to ride the popularity wave with it,” Frank Battaglia, U2 Physiology student and charity director of the Physiology Undergraduate League of Students (PULS), said. “The other group just lacks the flair that [Safran] brings.”
Safran has also hypothesized that the popularity of the Facebook group, and the excitement it has built around samosa sales has increased their quantity and frequency of occurrence around campus.
“I actually think there are more samosa sales on campus now,” Safran said. “I think that once we started a group where we see samosa sales all the time, there are days where [there are] five or six sales, and that was never the case [prior to Samosa Search].”
In addition to increasing the prevalence of samosa sales on campus, there is also evidence toward the ability of Samosa Search to increasing the speed with which clubs sell out. Most student club executives interviewed agreed that their sellout times were increased after posting in the Samosa Search page.
“I’ve seen first-hand that [Safran’s] group is actually making a difference in sales,” Battaglia said. “I remember we were just finishing our sale, [and had] maybe 30 samosas left, and I posted in that group that we were almost out, and people came running out of McIntyre 522 to buy samosas from us. It was crazy—[there was an] instant response.”
In addition to the user-friendly layout of Samosa Search, with Safran’s daily listings of locations of samosa sales across campus, the group has become a community for everyone in it. Though it is a closed group, Safran believes this actually makes it more inclusive, and builds a community of students who are dedicated to their mutual love of samosas.
"You just really immerse yourself in something," Safran said. "It’s the fact that we’re so active in our posting and the fact that we’ve put […] a community together [that makes Samosa Search unique].
The love that McGill students share for Samosas is undeniably unconventional; their formidable presence on campus can be difficult to understand for non-McGill students. But to Samosa Search leaders, the reasoning behind McGill’s obsession for samosas is simple.
“It’s a filling food, it’s very cheap, and it’s delicious,” Sareen-Khanna said. “[You can] buy a meal for six, seven dollars plus tax at the caf […] or you can get, for two dollars, three samosas. I just think people will pick that over [other food options].”
While making this food more accessible to its members, another key element of the Samosa Search group is the humour that Safran and Sareen-Khanna bring to it. With each of Safran’s daily confirmations comes new phrases, such as “mose”—a nickname for Samosa coined by Safran, as well as puns and longer jokes and stories.
“I just follow to laugh at [Safran’s] nonsense and to watch the masses at McGill slowly join the bandwagon,” said Matthew Dankner, first-year student in the Faculty of Medicine and a member of the Facebook group.
Other members of the group expressed similar feelings, putting higher value on the comedic value of the group than on the convenience of Samosa postings.
“Sometimes I go on it just because it’s funny,” Jeannie Richardson, U2 Psychology and Latin American Studies, said. “[My favourite part of the page is] definitely the humour. I love how there’s lingo, like [the word] “mose,” and how seriously people take it.”
The speed with which Safran posts his daily confirmations makes it a sustainable responsibility that he cannot see himself parting with any time in the near future, even with the changing schedule and intensities of the medical program.
“Starting in January, we’re probably never going to be back on campus, so I’ll be confirming samosas from the hospital,” Safran said. “A year from now, we might not be on campus every day, but [nothing would make me happier than] after a long day at the hospital, [looking] at my phone, and [seeing] people […] still writing, ‘Man, great samosa.’”