It was a struggle to get into the College hostel…..but the bigger struggle was to actually live there. The first part was because many were lured by the cheapest accommodation possible & the dreaded Mumbai local trains need not be a part of your routine. Moreover this was just across the street from the institute that in an emergency your schedule can be
8:45 am : Wake up; Already (f#$^ its 8: frigging 45; daaamnn!!) .
8:50 am : Brush teeth ; Hope against hope there’s water at the wash basin. The sadistic authorities had a real fetish for saving water and shut out taps by that time
8:55 am : Hope one of the 2 functional loos for 16 people are empty but the one drum of water (again for bathing, brushing, washing for 16 people) is not empty.
8:57 am: If nothing worked some opted for the “washbasin bath” (also called Dumbo bath after one of the main exponents of this style) where u plaster your hair with water and carefully comb it backwards – classmates would assume u’ve had ur bath.
9:00 am: Change and rush to class. The %#ing lecture has started; will have breakfast during the break (mebbe at 10:30) .
9:05 am: Just a wee bit late, but looking fresh n smart n glowing despite the few days old stubble; the wannabe corporate warrior walks into the class ; ready to take business world by storm
Each room had 4 occupants each. Each room had a fair bit of superstition associated with it. My bong friend B had got a hostel room in the first year itself and had booked Room 308 for the second year. The lure was that all 4 previous occupants of this room (our seniors in MBA) had got placed in the first day itself. And so I moved into the lucky Room 308; with B ; SSS the financial wizkid from Chennai & R-a Puneite Tam who seldom used to be in the room.
Our hostel was a common one for us MBA guys, Engg Collge guys, Degree students & students of Buddhist studies. Occasionally after an extended daaru session involving vodka, u reach the hostel & see the apparition of a shaven headed monk in purple robes right in front of u; it didnt mean that u had a drink too much…it meant that u have reached the right hostel!
U say Mumbai, u say Men's hostel ; one would automatically associate it with wild fun, booze, dope & cigarettes. But alas!! this one was different. The quirkiest thing here was a 9 PM prayer where a crony of the warden recites some indecipherable Sanskrit phrases which the rest repeats . This understandably not being the most exciting of activities vis-a-vis the diversions Mumbai could offer at the same time; was made compulsory by the warden Worse was a 11pm deadline; the grill was closed at that time. when u consider that this was the city which never slept; was an absolutely atrocious rule. But rules are rules & hence meant to be broken or worked around. Will come to that later... .
Our room was Self sufficient: We had a Music System, a bike (my faithful steed KB125 ) and the best of all- a Mobile Phone !! Remember this was a couple of years before Ambani told everyone to "Kar lo Duniya mutti mein" (he meant his own mutti prob but i guess it worked) and everyone right from the Vadapav wallah to the Auto driver started brandishing better models with Saathiyaa ring tones
The ownership of the mobile was contentious. My friend Bong bought it with the money his rich uncle had sent him from Sweden. We shared and bought the SIM but it was in my name as Bong never had a valid ID Proof which ws required for the purchase. The official users were 3 of us- Bong, me and SSS. Official here, means "billpaying". I'm talking of a time when mobile calls outgoing were 4 bucks and so were incoming. There were at least 15 in the floor who had given this no: as the c/o no: to their parents. And thus Bong acquired call center skills much before the BPO revolution; speaking to various parents n friends of the hostellers in various mother tongues …..
And so it was a major occasion when the Itemized Mobile Bill came. Out came the calculators and each of us had to identify the numbers in the list and own up for those. Home numbers of us 3 official users were easy -3 Cs for our Mobile Bills-Chennai, Calcutta, Cochin. But trouble was with the neutral ones….
Remember that oft repeated Court scene in a Hindi movie where the lawyer asks the defendent " 14 OCTOBER KI RAAT 9 BAJE TUM KAHAN THHEY??"
Similar questions used to come very handy in settling disputes on who was responsible for a particular long duration call with an obscene amount against it. Each of us used to display amazing memories of each other’s schedules in this matter. For eg: "That day; after we returned from Cost Acc class your cousin from Andheri had called and you talked for half an hour? That number on the bill starts with 63 ; ie Andheri number; we have cost accounting class on Wednesdays; see the date ; its Wednesday…so (triumphantly) it's ur call !! After all the calls were owned up for & accounted for ; we had to share the burden for calls for which we couldn’t figure out the perpetrator and each person’s share was calculated. The finance whiz (ICWAI Qualified) then added tax on the bill as per the latest budget (i could never figure out this part) and voila the bill is ready..
The right to keep the mobile generally was not a contentious issue unless we were at the interval of a movie and had stepped out to the foyer. At such an occasion the right to brandish the mobile was the divine right of Bong. He would stand under the spotlight (or whatever available light) lovingly flick it open (he had insisted on a Samsung flick open model after he saw Tom Cruise flick one open in MI2) ; pretend to check (non-existent) missed calls & messages (again non-existent) ; make an imaginary call making sure he’s the cynosure of all eyes.
All our hostel room doors had a rectangular glass window. This was for the warden to peek in to every room and see if the occupants are up to well... some mischief. As people did not particularly enjoy satisfying the voyeuristic instincts of the warden or others on the floor; all these were covered by an equally rectangular piece of newspaper. Though we were fined Rs 100/- each after a surprise inspection on the room doors, we thought it was a small price to pay for privacy.
(Of course, the comparison is with the celebrities such as the Beckhams who have to install high walls with electronic cameras, burglar alarms, disguises, alternate hairdos, decoys and alternate identities to maintain their privacy.)
(To be continued)