“Nayi hairaniyaan, nayi pareshaniyaan,
Bas naya sheher nahi.
Abhi bhi baigana saa, kabhi darawna sa,
Par ab apna sheher yahi.”
(New surprises, new anxieties,
It wasn’t just a new city.
Still a little strange, a little scary,
But now this is my city)
Since the time my childhood fantasies shooting from games of doctor-doctor and kitchen-kitchen have matured into more concrete aspirations,Delhi University has been a dream. I’m a traditional who has grown up listening to her father’s and uncles’ DU stories. I’m an orthodox who has been awed and charmed by the prestige that DU connotes. And I am the modern Indian student who leaves behind the shelter of her hometown to make way into the campus of India.
In my father’s stories, the protagonist has always been the hostel tales,of how the boys from Patna made not only DU but the Dilli sheher their own.And with this,in my dreams of being amongst the best of students, faculties and academicians,joined in the thrill of leading my very own hostel life.
But this thrill was duly shown its place as soon as the comfort of my queen size bed was replaced with a single one planked with two similar unsure faces.When the scorching heat of July is even more daunting as we fetch autos and haggle with auto-waalas, the comfort back home is no more a cage and this independence no more freedom.Reality check hits in its harshest form as we yearn for vacations to arrive, take the first available transportation network back home and fill our suitcases on our way back less with clothes and more with a survival kit of chai,masalas, and a bunch of snacks to deal with the midnight cravings.
Then what makes hostel life stand out in every student’s life, something that they recount for years to come? What overpowers all the anxieties and homesickness,making these few years one of the most beautiful set of memories?
From my extremely brief rendezvous with this independence, away from home life at a hostel,I can say that surprisingly it has made me feel sort of empowered a lot more than weak or alone.
In the first few days,I was roasted by the sun as well as the auto-drivers and that made me want to run back to my drivers back home,or to the roads that I knew too well to be cheated on by public transport.But by the second week,as I fell in the habit of catching autos smoothly,haggled like a pro,and directed him confidently through the maze of roads that seemed Latin until now,it was empowering.The first time I squeezed in next to the driver himself as the backseat was full and class was only in a few minutes,I did not miss my nice car but had a giddy feeling at being a little of all the ‘independence’ that I had heard about.In fact,I had happily clicked a selfie and scared my mother a bit too.
When hostel’s food got cold by the time I came back from class, and when I couldn’t argue over my choice of sabzi or daal,meals had become an obligation.Many a times,cravings for a favourite dish that mummy would have fulfilled in a snap die in the rumble of my stomach due to the perennial broke state we are in.And early mornings are the worst,when you have to drag yourself to make coffee when you can’t even manage to open your eyes,and terribly miss the joint efforts of the entire house in getting you ready to catch the school bus on time. As all chores of doing laundry, cleaning the room,buying necessities and so many other things that stare back at me from my to-do list, I missed the days when all of them were done without me even noticing. But then, as I took instructions from my mother over the phone and handled the stove all by myself for the first time,it was empowering. And the original midnight preparations I myself cooked was much more precious than any gourmet meal, even if it was just Maggie. My mother and I laughed along as I persistently called her for advice as to how much detergent to add, what all to purchase and even something as small as the recipe for lemon tea, but then had an eerie feeling of pride as I sipped a near-perfect lemon tea, came back satisfied with my shopping and did my first laundry- and so did my mother.
Maybe the transition was huge for me than the usual,for I have lead an extremely comfortable and protected childhood and the breakaway from home was less of a wish than a necessity that I wanted to find myself and my worth. But in my hostel, I have seen people from all over the country- Jaipur, Bhopal, Kanpur, Guwahati and places I have never heard of before- all of them here for the dream of Delhi University,and for the drive to “live by myself.” And maybe in different degrees,we have all sensed a feeling of empowerment as we make excited phone calls to our parents and share all the tiny ‘achievements.’
Of course, something that is over and above all of this in a hostel is the beautiful relationships you forge.Miles away from our biological ones,we all find a family for ourselves amongst these strangers.As we share stories from home and school in the wee hours of the night,we enter in a shared nostalgia where all of us feel a little alone at one moment,and yet safe as see the same feelings mirrored in the eyes around us.And before we know,we have become friends from strangers and family from friends.We don’t even realize when our seniors become our second mothers, and sneak in for us our favourite sabzi post lunchtime,or open the gate for was when it is way past the curfew.All of a sudden, hostel isn’t hostel anymore as we start, “ghar jaa rahi hoon” while heading back from college.
People have rightly said, “DU toh DU hai”, and I’m enjoying every bit of it.But the hostel life is a cherry on the cake.There is a concept in psychology known as ‘eustress’, or the good stress that makes you feel motivated and stimulated for the tasks at hand.I think hostel life at Delhi University has been the eustress for me. I have started to break the cocoon from all the little empowering lessons. I know the wings are only forming,but I feel much more confident about the colorful flight I’m going to embark on some years down the lane And for this,I will like to thank Delhi University for being what it is,standing as the maybe only powerful emblem of the harmonious diversity in India,and welcoming me with the same warmth and vibrancy that mt father used to talk about.