Hostel life holds a special place in everyone’s heart. It is always a mixed bag of emotions. People often say that everyone should experience staying away from family, in a shared apartment or in a Hostel, but why do they say so? What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Hostel life? I feel it we can easily draw a line or bifurcate in our life, as before and after staying independently. Having said that we can also say it is one of the most crucial stages of our life, the Make or Break stage? I feel the way my personality is shaped today Hostel life had a major role to play.
Hostel life is usually associated with enjoyment with friends. But don’t you feel that it is much more than secretly cooking Maggi with friends at night. Till now we had lived in a protected and secure environment where parents make most decisions for us. Right from petty issues like where are my clothes to the most vital decisions like which stream should I choose for further studies, for everything we depend or look up to our parents. Therefore, for most of us, Hostel life is leaving your comfort zone behind and taking your first step towards being independent. When we stay away from the family we realise how casually we took our family for granted. Now is the time we are practically staying with strangers, and unlike family, they are not there to help or assist you with your adapting new lifestyle, a new city or fixing your budget or resolving your emotional turmoils. Once we leave our house behind we are on our own.
By the time I completed my Graduation, I was clear that I want to pursue Media Communications. I secured admission in SNDT Woman’s University and moved to Pune from Jabalpur. Jabalpur is a small town in the state of Madhya Pradesh, where most of the people know each other and therefore my life was very convenient. I was never on my own. Even though my Dad was a small businessman, Unknowingly I carried his name along. Pune is a big city, and now I was understanding what it is “being on your own”
When I came to Pune for the entrance test, I met Feril. She is from Mumbai. She found and finalized our PG. It was hardly 3-4 km away from our Department. The location of our hostel was very beautiful. It wasn’t on the main road but near to it. The small beautiful lane which led to my hostel had huge age-old trees created a green gateway. It was peaceful but felt secure. Our hostel was a three-story independent Bungalow. Our landlord/warden lived with his family on the ground floor and upper two floors were converted as a mini Hostel where twelve girls could stay on each floor. Feril was now, not just my classmate but also my roommate. She was like an anchor to the excited child in me, sensible and mature. This was the first time, I was getting the smell of freedom and I was loving it! But one thing that I was missing very badly was home-cooked food and a parental touch.
It was hardly a week that we started staying in Pune when Feril and I thought of going for a small ride in our bike to explore the city. This was practically the first time that I went to anywhere else other than our department. I was not very conversant with the city or the traffic rules. By mistake, I entered the four-wheeler bridge (a street meant for only four-wheeler) on my bike. Those who have lived in Pune might be aware of this bridge. There was no way I could make a U-turn and at the end of that street, Traffic Police waited for us. I was terrified! He ordered me to deposit my driving licence and come to the Police station to collect it. I was clueless as what to do now! He walked away. Tears rolled my cheeks and I was very tensed. A moment later, Feril casually came walking from the front with a big smile and said, “let’s go!” I did not realise when did she go and what did she say to the policeman that he left us without any fine. How did she manage? Was I worried unnecessarily? I had no answer. She just smartly handled the situation. I was shivering but drove safely back and called my brother and told him everything in a tensed voice. My brother laughed and just asked me in one word, “So?” I smiled and I also heard something he did not say, “Get accustomed to such situations and do not panic!” Now when I look back, I too laugh at it. But then, I was a naive girl from a small town who had practically no experience in staying in a metro. I carried my heart on my face, my excitement, anxiety, sometimes awkwardness, every emotion was easily readable, which was, trust me not always an advantage!
Is Hostel “Home away from home”? Yes!! Sooner or later once we accept this we start enjoying our hostel life! I had some of my best time in the hostel. I made some fabulous friends and we had a crazy fun time together. We fought for bathroom turns, cleaning room, choice of radio frequency and all petty issues. But at the same time we had laugh riots, pyjama parties, silly games, teasing and mimicking each other throughout the night. With the intention to study all night, we use to chat all night. At times, we were noisy and violated many rules and made fun of our landlord. We got immune to the complaints and scoldings from him as we use to get them very often. You might think we were brats! But aren’t we all a bit mischievous especially in that age? I met a few gems and a few stones there! The most unfortunate revelation I faced was that many of the girls I met were so jealous of each other and gossiping was their primary nature. I was now accustomed to the comfortable lifestyle of Pune. Yet another time I left my comfort zone behind for the city of dreams Mumbai.
Ye hai Mumbai Meri Jaan!
Mumbai, the city of dreams! I had fantasized Mumbai till now, but living in Mumbai is easy? Absolutely not! I had a belief that Mumbai tests you if you have the strength to withstand this test, you would fall in love with this city. Maybe you might relate to me. But once when I spoke to one of my friends Harshad, and he completely agreed. Harshad and I worked together for many years. He was a senior to me then but even now I always bother him as if I own him!
I want to share his story which I could relate and hopefully, you will too. he said, “In 2004 I shifted to Mumbai from Pune for a job in TV media after 24 years of a cocooned life with my parents. Though only 150 km away from each other Pune and Mumbai are worlds apart culturally. There is a Marathi word called ‘nivaant’ that translates to tranquil or relaxed. It essentially sums up the life in Pune. Suddenly I was thrust into the capital of rat races, Mumbai. The first six months were absolute hell for me, So many times I was moved to tears that I just wanted to run back to Pune. One week after I joined my job, my Nokia cellphone was stolen in the local being a gullible novice in train travel. I hated everything about the city. There was also pressure at work. There were days when I survived on vada-pavs.” Today Harshad completed 16 years in this maximum city. Those first six brutal months were a slap on that cocooned life. I was living until life came in the way… A line I had read somewhere sums it up his journey perfectly.”
I was fortunate enough to start my career with a show which was already a big and known name in Reality shows, the Indian Idol (a talent hunt show for upcoming singers). I moved to the city dreams Mumbai with my class-mate from Pune, Prajakta. If we had not been together, there were chances that I would have left this dream city forever. My first stay and my first Job experience were no less than a roller coaster ride. I had no idea that there is only reporting time in TV production. Sometimes we worked round the clock. Every day was challenging and new learning experience for me. I got a chance to learn from the best team in the industry. We also went on a 45 days tour with a team of almost 250 crew members of the show to different cities where Indian Idol audition was conducted. It was the most memorable experience I ever had. But how so ever good experience it gave me, being my first job, I was hardly getting peanuts as my remuneration It was real challenge surviving without taking help from parents. So without giving much thought prajakta and I chose a PG (Paying Guest) which was the cheapest of all. Unlike Pune’s Hostel, it wasn’t beautifully located nor very well equipped. It was a house where an old lady stayed with 5-6 girls, I did not receive a positive vibe but still, we decided to go for it. Next one week immediately after shifting was extremely busy. We were in the studio or the hotel in which Indian Idol contestants stayed for round two. We could just manage to come home for an hour or so to freshen up. Knowing our erratic timings, our landlady started having some issues with us. She complained to the real estate agent who got us this house and we were unable to pay the brokerage and deposit money to him and landlady respectively. The next day he called us and said, “देखो, पैसे देके police verification कल तक करवालो.. वरना खोली खाली करो!” (vacate the room, if you cannot pay the money!) Nobody ever spoke to me like this before! In the mid of rolling Camera, despite looking at the monitor, I couldn’t focus on the screen. One of my seniors saw and asked me, I broke down in front of her. I was dead tired of all this! I said, “I’m going back to my parents!” She consoled me and not only lent me money but also gave an advise I never forgot! “learn to forgive yourself and others, you will go far. The true test is how you bounce back from this.” Such an important life lesson in such simple words! I can never be thankful enough to her. Like her, I met so many beautiful people who went out of their way to help me in every possible way. Like any other girl, I too was brought up in an extremely protected environment. Honestly, I had no idea as what is approaching me! But I was fortunate, I met so many empathetic people, who helped me pass this test of Mumbai. Prajakta and I were sailing in the same boat and dealing with some issues, I wonder, sometimes, if she wasn’t with me, my journey to know this supernatural city would have been the same?
Once the show shoot was done I went back home for a long holiday and family met a New me! I was no more a naive and innocent small-town girl. I met so many different people and faced so many strange situation in the past couple of years, which led to a self-transformation that I was very glad about.
Hostel life is the most beautiful experience in one’s life. Adjusting with people you hardly know is anything but easy. But amongst them, you too must have found your best friends as I did. I had some major tiffs with my roomies but I had the most memorable, enjoyable and crazy time too which still brings a grin on my face!