“The seniors used to make us juniors push train at each station … Dhakka lagao … So as to make it start and then pay for their bread-omelet as a payment. Juniors were made to sing Hindi songs to collect money from passengers. Everyone used to know they were college students so people got into the fun of it and “donated” generously … Money was then used to eat all night in the train.”
That’s hostel life for you. Right there in that train journey, when you were begging for ‘paisa‘ singing ‘paldesi paldesi jaana nahi’.

I took this memory from a friend who was a hosteler. I can only borrow such memories for I have none of my own. You see now why I hate you hostelers? I really do!

These bullying-ragging-crazy seniors were the same, but not exactly the same for us day-scholars. When the ragging period ends, the friendship begins; but that happens only with hostelers.
Hostelers have those seniors who always have a wise word to offer. It comes pouring out almost naturally. They are your living, walking, breathing, saintly, all-knowing gurus, guides, and mentors, for those three/four years; maybe even for life. They are your personal shrinks who offer free consultations and that too in the privacy of your own comfortably filthy room. Discussions range from which dhaba to eat in, which movie to watch, which society to join, which fucchi to go after to which company to sit for. I could have done with such counselors, such friends.

Hostelers know a thing or two about organizing and space management. They learn early on that nothing in this world is yours (not just philosophically, quite literally). With limited space and common areas, you really can’t expect to keep things to yourself. It makes you move away from the word ‘mine’. Nothing is yours anymore, your own to keep and use. Your eyeliner, your kohl, your slippers, your bucket, your books, your notes, your clothes – nothing is yours. You may not have realized back then, but it prepares you for the time when you would have kids (even your time wouldn’t be your own then). You get less possessive about things, at least the tangibles. I am still trying to be less fussy about how my clothes are my own and not for sharing. You will never have a ‘Joey doesn’t share his food’ moment in life!
Extending the point above, it helps to learn to share early on – from being less clingy about your things, to being more open to allowing people in your life. One step at a time, remember.

They know how to get things work, these hostelers. They have a ‘jugaad‘ (jack) for everything. Notes? No problem. Books? No problem. Date sheet? No problem. Syllabus a day before exam? Never a problem. ED sheets? Three solutions- TOPO, TEPO, TIPO. This last one my engineering friends would know. While I slogged back at home with massive ED board and clips, there they were streamlining it into a fine process. I guess after these many years, it’s safe to write this down.

There is never really a last minute or shortage related worry. ‘Sab ho jayega‘ (everything will work out) as they say. Aur Sab ho hi jata hai. A cool mind gives a better solution to a problem than a worried one. You have your hostel life to know how to keep calm in a storm.

Your hostel mates know the best and the worst about you and they never let you forget it, especially the worst bit. They know how much money you owed for your ‘sutta’ (smoke) to all your friends. They know how many times you threw up after a crazy DP (daru-booze party). They know who you would have called in that inebriated state to profess your love, if not for them. There is never a risk of bloating and floating away in your own bubble till they are around. They will rightfully burst your bubble and bring you down back to the ground, solid and sound. Trust me, it’s for your own good. We can all do with this at any stage of life.

You can always ‘manage’. No matter how short you are, financially, you can always make it work. Scarcity woes are not scarce, but the way you learn to look at them and deal with them changes. It teaches you how to handle money and the importance of it. Of course, you can always learn that when you work and live on your own, but it’s never the same. It pays to learn early and you will be surprised how often it would come in handy.

It teaches you patience and that, believe me, proves to be one true friend. You can never be short of patience in real life. While you wait for your turn in the long queue outside bathroom with a bucket, mug, towel and a sliver of soap in hand, only to find the water gone. It will teach you the way you never outgrow it. Every time when you go home or come back, it becomes an extended class, while you wait at the railway counter, or for the train to arrive, for the sleep to come only to be disturbed by “beta ye kaunsa station hai?” (Son, which station is this?) It teaches you PATIENCE.

Lastly, you are never short of memories. You can talk for hours about the time of your life. The stories that seem unreal to others but happened for real. All the crazy fun you had. The love stories of your campus. The midnight search for food. Cooking one packet of ‘maggi’ noodles in electric kettle and sharing that between 10 – one spoon at a time. Raiding the closet of that one person who always seemed to have a ready stock and a cribbing tongue. Even the less romantic and uglier stories. Managing in cold northern winters with no geysers in campus and being asked by your day-scholar friends why you have such a dishevelled look; traveling to city in hordes for a new movie loaded in a ST bus; the night outs, the kambal pitai, the late night music practice, painting the banners, arranging sponsors for fests, all night long gossips, crashing weddings and asking those day scholars, who lived nearly, if there were any weddings in their area.

There is no time like college time and more so for you hostelers. It makes you ready for the real world out there. It’s like a finishing school that prepares you for the big bad world. Everyone must experience this, both for the good and the bad.

I have only one regret in life (so far) that I never experienced hostel life for the memories it gives and what it makes you.

How I wish I could have experienced that!! How I envy you hostelers! How I hate you! Why can’t I BE you??

© Shivani K  | forewordMarch
© Shivani K | forewordMarch

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