Like most Indian parents, my parents made me believe that engineering and medical were the only two “successful” career options in the world. Since I was too chicken-hearted to tolerate the bloodshed if I refused, I chose engineering and joined the herd.
At that time, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life because, let’s face it, career counselling is a farce in India. Then, college life began and I went from one semester to another without knowing where I was actually headed.
If there was one thing that kept me sane during that time, it was the friends I made in the college hostel. In fact, now when I look back at college, I only seem to recollect memories of my hostel days…
Binge watching with my roommate
When I went to college, we didn’t have TVs in the hostels, and social media hadn’t yet taken over our minds and souls. We were still in the SMS age. So all we did was watch things.
My ex-roommate, now my bestie, still blames me for introducing her to the binge-watch life. Every Saturday, we would gather a few of our friends (and their snacks, obviously) and watch movies till wee hours of the morning.
Digging into everyone’s stash of homemade snacks
Only someone who has stayed in a hostel will understand the pain of surviving on hostel food. Which is why anyone who brought snacks from home wasn’t considered anything less than God. I still remember my roommate getting us mathris, chiwda, namak pare, shakkar pare, gujiyas, and many, many bottles of homemade pickles.
Every time we didn’t want to eat dinner at the hostel mess, or we just felt hungry when we were studying or watching a movie, we would bring out the snacks and dig in.
And when these snacks were over, they would be replaced by beloved maggi.
These sessions would mostly lead to…
Gossiping with no sense of time
Hostel, in many ways, is just an extended sleepover. I remember how my roommate and I would lie on our respective beds, prop our heads on a pillow, and talk about school days, home, and the dumb boys in class. Because college is basically high school with higher stakes.
Nowadays, when I’m lying down on my bed, after a hard day at work, I find myself going back to those memories, reminiscing about when I had the energy to talk ceaselessly into the night after hours of mind numbing classes.
Speaking of energy, I really miss…
Partying until the sunrise
You’d be surprised how hard a group of girls can party after the warden goes to bed.
On weekends, my friends and I would gather in the room that was the farthest from the warden’s and commence the revelry. The preparations would have done the week before, everything from food to music and decorations.
After that, it was just a matter of dancing the night away and forgetting about assignments and tests for a couple of hours.
While these were the fun parts, and I definitely miss these moments, I’m grateful to hostel life for a completely different reason.
Hostel life taught me tolerance and made me independent
My parents would win all the awards for helicopter parenting. Which meant that, apart from being needlessly sheltered, I was also never allowed to do anything for myself. They tended to all my needs, right from washing my clothes to serving me food.
So, when I went to hostel for the first time, I felt like a fish out of water. I cried for days. I refused to wash my own clothes.
Slowly, though, with encouragement from my friends, I started to do my chores on my own. And soon I was totally comfortable with managing my own life.
I also learned how to live with different kinds of people, and to figure out how to peacefully adjust with them. Until then, I only had to share space with my brother at home.
In hostel, there were people from every part of the country. I grew from being a pampered kid to someone who was tolerant and understanding of other people’s needs. It also got rid of my prejudices about different states, and I’m extremely grateful for that.
If you have ever stayed in a hostel, congrats! You have memories for a lifetime. And to those of who are going to start their hostel life, you're in for the ride of your life.
Pro tip: learn to wash your own clothes before you get there or risk needing your very patient roommate to teach you.