“Don’t worry. We will come and see you every month. And don’t forget to apply oil in your hair daily and sleep early every day". My mom went on throwing spears of advice which broke down in front of my shield. I wouldn’t have really bothered about her sayings, if we had been at home. I know for sure that she would do the work for me, if I didn’t care about it. But here, in a hostel, it was an entirely different matter. It was all due to the neighbor living across the street. I had always felt that he had disliked me for some reasons and it was a matter of time before which my prophecy was proved right.
My parents had gone for their evening walk, when they ran into him. As it happens, the topic of discussion started from the incompletely dug and ill maintained roads, then about the state of affairs of the economy and then the employment scenarios. Heck, that did the trick. Two things that will grab the attention of any parent in India (other than politics & cine world) are job opportunities and marriage proposal for their children. My parents got riveted onto his speech on how bad the days were and unless one scores very good marks, one won’t get admission in a good college, and hence, no campus placements and no jobs. “Your child would have to roam around the city looking for jobs”, he said adding emphasis on the words ‘roam around’
The site of their only child roaming around the city would have seemed unbearable for my parents. “Is there no way out of this”, asked my Mom who would have hoped that some kind of yagna or puja would have warded off any evil incident which might happen in future. “Yes, if your son scores high in his boards, he wouldn’t have to face all that”. “Please tell us what to do in this case”, asked my mother. The neighbor who was lucky to have caught the attention of two innocuous people, went on. “No need to worry, sister. Even my brother’s son was like this. But we made him join a coaching institute specially meant for the Boards. Those people ensure that your kid scores well”.
That sealed the fate for me. My parents got the address of this coaching tutorial and I was plucked (withdrawn) from my current school, and joined in the new school. We met the warden, who turned out to be a skinny bald fellow. He looked quite malnourished himself.
My father told him “Please Sir, make my kid score well. I know he has enormous potential but he is very lazy. “Don’t you worry sir, we ensure that even a donkey turns into a horse. He looked at me with a scornful glance, and said “Mend your ways, boy. Your relaxing days are over” Leave your child in our care, we will do the best for him, he said to my parents.
After the meeting, here we were in my so called hostel room. My parents had to leave the place in 30 minutes.. Hence, after cleaning & setting the room for some more time, my parents started to leave. I wonder if there are any tear banks inside our eyes. As soon as they left the hostel, the tear banks opened up and gushes of tears started flowing down. Somehow, I felt strange and odd standing there alone. This was real. I won’t have my parents near me to pamper me, or give me pocket money. I would be spending the next 2 years in this dingy hostel room. This meant no filter coffee before sleeping every night. The truth hit me quite hard and it was mighty enough to open my tear banks for some more time.
There were 2 other beds put up in the room. The other 2 inmates weren’t in the room yet. I decided to go out and explore the surroundings. As I approached the hostel gates, I found another guy standing there bidding farewell to his parents. He was standing there, with his tears banks open and streaks of tears drops in his face. I tried to console him by saying that I understood how he felt missing his parents. He looked at me in a strange manner, and said “I wasn’t crying because my parents left. I was crying because I came to know that our day starts early by 4:30 am and goes on till 11:30 pm. Can you imagine that. Full day studies with no entertainment.” He then went away wiping his tears. My tear banks were in a ready state now. The news itself was quite heart breaking and miserable to open anybody’s tear bank. I guess , it would have been a rumour,I consoled myself.
I dragged myself back to hostel. When i reached it, I found a new inmate sitting there. I came to know that he was Gopal and that he had been living in the hostel since last year. His parents had joined him an year back immediately after his 10th boards. I thought maybe he too had a evil minded neighbor who hated him more than my neighbor hated me. Maybe life is impartial in some ways. “I guess you are a newbie to hostel life.” I nodded my head. Before Gopal went onto narrate his hostel chronicles, another skinny fellow entered the room surrounded by baggage. “Hi, Iam Prabu. I have to get the warden’s signature. Where can I find him”, he asked in a meek voice. “Go to the second floor, last room to the left”, said the all knowing Gopal. Prabu came back after 30 minutes. We exchanged our intro’s. Prabu was also a newbie to hostel life. Apparently his train had got delayed and he missed the hostel admission timings. His parents had left him and then the security guard had asked him to meet the warden immediately. After some chit chat, Gopal lead us to the student mess for the dinner. “We have to be back in our rooms by 8:30. This being the first day, the warden wants to meet all the newbies”.
It was around 10:30 that we came back to our rooms and lay in our bed. The food was ok kind, but what was unbearable was our daily schedule. It was like the other guy said, drill like – a hard routine. I wonder if the warden was training us for some secret Indian espionage agency. As my eyes started drooping, I had very little idea on how my life would change over the next 2 years. How a single person can enter your life and change it forever.
To be continued...