It was a great year. Hostel life was fun. The first three months were tough times for us juniors who were ragged buy the seniors. I was to be the shadow of a tall girl called Rema who was to be a coconut tree. I had to follow all her actions like swinging her arms, bending in the breeze and all that a tree is supposed to do! Some seniors made us write their notes for them or fetch hot water for their bath. It was all done in a spirit of camaraderie with no intention to hurt. When I read in newspapers today, about the ragging that goes on in Hostels, leading to death and mental breakdowns, ours was very lukewarm. Something has happened to this ice breaking ritual. It has become a sadistic activity and college authorities do not take any steps to stop it.
Neerja was my greatest friend. We vowed never to lose track of each other and I do not know where she is now. My box camera was very useful. I had told Neerja about my secret ambition of becoming a film star and she thought I’d make it. On Sundays I would borrow a friend’s jeans and shorts and colourful tops and strike ‘filmy’ poses while Neerja clicked. I blew up the pictures and sent them to S Mukherjee’s Filmalay. We waited with baited breath for the reply. A few weeks later, our Warden, Sister Dorothy, called me to her room and threatened to send the letter I received from some ‘film person’ for a screen test, to my father, if I did not stop all that ‘nonsense’. That’s when I knew our letters were read by the Warden. Grandpa’s gift was too precious and I did not want to jeoparadise my chances. So I dropped my idea for the time being. To make up for it, I regaled my hostel mates by imitating my favourite actresses like Vyjayantimala, Mala Sinha, Nutan and Sadhana. Since I could speak Hindi, memorizing the dialogues was no problem.
Pics for the screen test!!
Neerja and I were up to many tricks to get out of the hostel for an evening out. Once, we cooked up a plan to get an out pass. Just when Sister Dorothy, the Warden was taking her night rounds, I started moaning loudly. She came in to see what was wrong. Neerja told her that I had a terrible ache in the right side of my tummy. The Warden was worried and she gave us an out pass to go to the Doctor. Neerja was to go with me. We went over to Dr.Shankarambal’s nursing home and since she was out, got an appointment for the next day. That evening, we walked up and down South Parade, looking at boys! The Doctor examined me the next day and found nothing wrong but told me to eat bland food. So, I had to eat just dal and cooked vegetable which was made especially for me. Neerja would smuggle some food into the room later. We got an opportunity to go out every fortnight as the Doctor wanted to keep an eye on me. But nemesis was to come. When I was writing my second paper in the final exams, I fainted and the hostel visiting doctor was summoned urgently. She fed me glucose while I finished my exam and later, was rushed to Dr Shankarambal who had not seen me for over a month. She poked and prodded and found that I really had to have my appendix out. The day after my exam, I was admitted to the hospital in Mysore. Dr Jayalakshmi, operated on me. She was dad’s good friend and I was given royal treatment. She was to deliver my first born, Arjun, six years later. My grandpa flew down from Secunderabad to see me. He gifted me a small Philips radio. He loved me and I loved him. If he were alive, I would have definitely become his junior lawyer. But God has His own plans for us.
Hostel life is a good exposure to being accountable to oneself. It is misused by many who get into self destruct habits like drugs, alcohol and sex. On the other hand, it is a good opportunity to learn about different cultures and food habits. One of my hostel mates, became the principal of the college.