If there were one thing in life that every girl should do, I would say that it is living in a hostel. They say what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger! This so true when it comes to a girls’ hostel.
Being thrown in with hundreds of teenage girls from various backgrounds, of differing habits and varied temperaments but all working to becoming part of the same profession, was nothing short of a roller coaster ride.
A journey of ups and downs bumps and smooth patches, of laughter and tears, of twists and turns, of unexpected acceleration, and the inevitable abrupt end. But like an adventure ride it left you out of breath, with a lifetime memory of having done it and like with all thrilling scary rides, never would I want to do it again!There is a certain thrill of being lumped together with complete strangers and being expected to live in close proximity in an alien environment.
Rule number one of survival was to leave behind the fussy, picky, spoilt brat that you were, at home. Because this was a place where Darwin’s laws applied. It was survival of the fittest. Never mind if you had never stepped out of your comfort zone before, never mind if you had led a sheltered, protected life until now, never mind if you had an army of maids at home, who even made your bed. It was time to let go of all that and now was the time to learn, quickly!
If you wanted to survive, you had to learn to eat anything that was edible. The 5 rupees ‘rice plate’ with compartments for dahi, one fluid sabzi, one dry sabzi and rice with ‘daal marke’ [a very miserly amount of daal with a few yellow coloured lentil grains on the rice] and some very oily pooris was a staple at lunch and dinner. Too bad if you did not like potato sabzi, because that was a daily must. Too bad if you did not like ‘baingan’ otherwise you stayed hungry. Too bad if you could not identify the shapeless sabzi disguised with plenty of oil and spice, you just ate it and soon learnt to even like it.
You soon learnt to look past the rice plates piled one on top of another, with oily ‘pappads’ breaking off and some spilling as the boy-waiter who juggled them expertly served all 4 floors of hungry and impatient females in the girls hostel. How he remembered our orders we will never know. In the mornings, we pestered him for tea or coffee. On Wednesdays, we harassed him to bring Punjabi samosa which was the speciality of the day. When the hostel mess had Chinese we would all be excited and wait eagerly for our fried rice, noodles and other Shetty- Chinese style delicious culinary delights that I have never eaten again. They even made ‘veg hot-dog’ with its own ‘sofo’ [sophisticated] paper napkin covering.
Yes, we learnt to adapt and adjust. The sooner the better. Maggi noodles were a must for emergencies when the mess was shut or when hunger called at odd hours. I remember sharing one packet of Maggi with 3 others in a dire situation when we were too afraid to leave our hostel room and the hunger was intolerable. The gastronomic delights of the hostel mess were the delicious South Indian food, special rice plate on weekends, the ‘ bun butter’, the ‘ bun omelette’[ a sweetish utterly soft bun with a thin layer of omelette sandwiched between the slices], the batata wadas eaten dunked in sambar and so many more. Come to think of it, how is it that everything I remember was delicious? Perhaps this is just nostalgia that makes yesterday’s misery today’s ‘good old days’……………………………………..