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Living in a hostel is an experience like no other. Here is a list of the amazing joys, sorrows, and lessons of hostel-life.
Giggling, excited chatter, gossipy exchanges, teenage girls in groups, fun, freedom and feisty-ness are all hallmarks of living in a hostel.
I know I am probably biased when I say that every girl should live in hostel at least once in her lifetime. After all, I am a product of this place – where even a shy doormat of a girl transforms into a confident woman, ready to face the world. It is said that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Nowhere is this more evident than a hostel, where all your primal survival skills are put to the test, and you surprise yourself by discovering aspects of your personality that you never knew existed, as you struggle successfully to emerge a survivor. Here is a list of the skills that I, and every girl who has lived in a hostel, has picked up:
Rule number one of living in a hostel is to leave behind the fussy, picky, spoilt brat that you were at home. Because this is a place where Darwin’s laws apply. It is the survival of the fittest. Never mind if you have never stepped out of your comfort zone before, never mind if you have led a sheltered, protected life until now, never mind if you had an army of maids at home, who even made your bed. It’s time to let go of all that and learn to adapt quickly!
If you want to survive, you have to learn to eat any thing that is edible. I still remember fondly our hostel ‘rice plate’, costing all of 5 Rupees. With compartments for curd, one fluid sabzi, one dry sabzi, rice ‘daal marke’ (with a very miserly amount of daal and a few yellow coloured lentil grains on the rice), and some very oily pooris. It was a staple at lunch and dinner.
Too bad if you could not identify the shapeless sabzi disguised with plenty of oil and spice, you just ate it, and soon learnt to even like it.
Too bad if you did not like potato sabzi, because that was a daily must. Too bad if you did not like ‘baingan’ (brinjal), because you’d have to stay hungry. Too bad if you could not identify the shapeless sabzi disguised with plenty of oil and spice, you just ate it, and soon learnt to even like it. This skill – to be able to eat anything that is edible in times of a crisis, without complaining – is something every hostelite acquires in no time at all. It is a life skill that stays, and comes in handy even now.
Putting up with shared toilets and bathrooms, queuing up bleary-eyed for basic amenities every day makes a disciplined person out of the most reluctant, easy-going person. Basic survival skills are tested. Fight or flight? Well, you fight back the tears, pull yourself together and gear up for a daily struggle as you realise that living in a hostel in no flight of fantasy!
Being thrown in with hundreds of teenaged girls from various backgrounds, of differing habits and varied temperaments, but all working to become a part of the same profession is an eye-opener. You realize that there are people in this world other than yourself, who have grown up differently, think differently, and live differently. You learn to accept, tolerate, ignore what is unacceptable, and take it all in your stride patiently.
While you cannot be friends with everybody, you learn to still live with girls who may not be on the same wavelength as you. Your own attitude towards people undergoes a sea of change as you get to know the real personalities behind the facades. You learn never to judge a book by its cover. The best friends I have made in my hostel had nothing in common with me, and yet we connected as humans.
Hostel-living lifts the masks, bares the soul, and reveals the true you. Hostel friends know you, the person, with all your little oddities, your habits, good or otherwise, if you snore or not, if you stay up late or get up early, if you keep the room clean or are a slob, how many times you brush your teeth, how often you change your bed sheets. There you are with all your human imperfections.
If your friend has seen you at your worst and still likes you in spite of everything, you have made a friend for life.
If your friend has seen you at your worst and still likes you in spite of everything, you have made a friend for life. Hostel friends form a sisterhood that is cherished and valued for a lifetime. The bond that forms is based on memories of a shared, common past.
Living without family to protect and care for you is the toughest part of hostel living. Fending for yourself becomes the number one priority. In your own way you acquire armour to protect you. Invisible spikes grow on your persona, ready to attack if anyone threatens your existence. It’s true, hostel life instills in you a toughness to combat various situations, a strength to get you through hard times, and a steely determination to survive against odds.
It imparts an education that no books contain. It is a hands-on training in looking after yourself in times of illness, being mentally tough when ragged during the early years, coping with being away from your loved ones, and building a support system of hostel friends who will help you to overcome hurdles during your stay in the hostel.
In a hostel, you learn to part with your beloved possessions. Slippers, towels, soaps, mugs – all become property of your room mates too. There is fun in lending and borrowing clothes, sharing accessories with your hostel mates. The jar of home-made pickle given by your mother, that is meant to last for 6 months, only lasts for 6 days thanks to your appreciative, ever-hungry hostel friends who do full justice to her culinary skills! Besides material things, you also share your thoughts, open up and discuss crushes, and just about everything under the sun.
Money suddenly matters more than ever. When you live with your parents, you know they will bail you out when you run out of pocket money. But in a hostel, you are on your own, with no ‘Bank of Mummy and Papa’ to finance you, midweek. You value the money you have been given. Even small change is carefully counted and safely stored away. You learn to look after your valuables. Even if you lend a friend money, you learn to take back every paisa back after careful counting. You learn to live within a budget.
Living in a hostel surprises you with the discovery about your strengths and weaknesses. You discover facts about your personality that never existed – like how much fun you can be, how tough you really are when pushed to the limits, how angry you can get, how fierce you can be, how mean you can be when the situation demands it, and just how competitive you can be when making a beeline for the bathrooms in the morning of an exam.
You shed your inhibitions and realise that you can dance and shake a leg better than anyone else (or so you think). You forget what shyness means after endless rounds of ragging, which is an inevitable part of hostel life in the early months.
Hostel living is all about sharing beauty secrets and treatments that are low-cost and can be done on your own or by your friend. Learning to thread your own eyebrows, bizarre practices like applying mehendi-raw egg mixtures, all night on the hair to look good the next day (although with a sniffly nose), giving each other haircuts, were some of the many things we girls learned in the hostel.
At the time, we innocently presumed that youth would last forever and thought nothing of a haircut gone wrong (hair grows back doesn’t it?) or an eyebrow gone missing (well, almost) !
Hostel life is all about fun, freedom, and friends. Partying in the hostel takes on a different dimension. Without spending any money, hostel girls know how to have a blast. Singing, dancing, drumming on overturned buckets, sharing jokes and laughing into the night, feasting on whatever is available (including Maggi noodles, which by the way is the gourmet food of all hostelites) is what makes hostel parties what they are.
You get to decide what is right or wrong for you. You become an adult responsible for yourself.
You get freedom that you wouldn’t get staying at home, and that means setting your own limits and curfews. You get to decide what is right or wrong for you. You become an adult responsible for yourself. You are no longer the naive girl you used to be…you transform into a woman of the world.
As you can see, hostel memories stay for life, and hostel friends are forever. Confidence, along with the ability to face life and all that it throws at you, is what hostel-life gifts you for all the trials, tribulations, tears and triumphs that you experience as a hostelite.
Pic credit: Image of college girls via Shutterstock.
I love writing about anything that makes me laugh, cry, salivate, roll my eyes or
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