When I left for college, it was the first time I was moving away from home. I was slightly older than the rest of my classmates, but I was still very naive and was just starting to make mistakes. I landed in Pune with all the dreams and hopes of a normal young girl, and honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I got into one of the most prestigious colleges and the college campus itself (with its Victorian architecture and all), left me in awe. It was a beautiful campus to say the least, but the ladies hostel...well, it felt more like a prison than a hostel.
My parents were adamant that living in any college hostel would be better than living in a rented flat or in a PG. I understood their concerns and initially, I too wanted to stay in the hostel itself. College went on like any normal college would, and in a year’s time, I had made some really wonderful friends. I was blessed with a wonderful roommate who took care of me as though she were my sister and she made my life in the hostel tolerable. I have no other praise for the hostel and perhaps I never will have anything good to say about it. The curfew time was set at 8pm, and since the campus was located in the heart of the city, it was impossible to not want to stay out a little longer - chat with your friends over tea, coffee or some beer. But since I wanted to create a good impression in the hostel, and considering that it was my first year in the college, I always came back before the curfew. The girls in the hostel were very judgemental and I couldn’t make friends with most of them, because our thoughts just never matched. While my classmates used to go out and party all night long, I would be in bed by 9pm. I kept reminding myself that I had come here to study and that whatever my friends were doing, was something I too will do, someday.
I stayed in that hostel for a year. How I managed to do that is beyond me. It didn’t have the best of amenities, sometimes the water would run out, the food was terrible - the only saving grace was my roommate. To this day, I wonder what I would have done without her. My first year got over and we went back home for our holidays. When I went home, I told my mother how much I hated being in that hostel and now that I knew the city better, it was time for me to move out. But she still felt that I was safer there and I couldn’t argue with her, there was no point.
The vacations got over and college started and I went back to the miserable hostel. Two weeks later, a very close friend of mine invited me and a couple of other friends over to celebrate his birthday. We chose to go drink in a pub right in front of my hostel because they knew that I had to be back by early. A few shots down and plenty of beer later, we were all a very happy bunch. It was 7:30pm and I had to get back to the hostel. Two of my guy friends walked me back to the hostel and then the trouble began. The guard seemed to be scandalised that “men” had come to drop me back. They asked my friends what was wrong and we casually told them that I had had food poisoning which is why I needed someone to drop me off. After they left, I went into my room and off to bed. Everyday at 8pm, there was roll call in the hostel, and that day I slept through it. The hostel warden came into my room to check on me and she could smell the alcohol on me. She told me to leave the hostel immediately.
It made no sense to me. I came in on time, and I wasn’t even drinking in the college premises. So, I told her that and that had her temper rising. She then brought up how “men” had come to drop me off, and then she forcefully took me to a nearby hospital to really check if I had had food poisoning. I hadn’t, of course.
We came back from the hospital and I was asked to leave the hostel in 2 days. They told me I didn’t follow the values that my college held and had become a general bad influence on the rest of the girls in the hostel. I was to vacate my room in 2 days and for some reason, as much as I hated being there, my heart broke. Where would I go? I had nowhere to go. I called up my folks and told them the truth and they spoke to the warden asking her to let me stay. None of their pleading worked.
So, I left with a heavy heart. I kept thinking about how for one whole year, I did nothing wrong. I always followed the rules of the hostel.. One night out with my friends and I was kicked out of the hostel. I regret the night terribly. May be I shouldn’t have had so much to drink. May be I should’ve come back alone, may be I should have just gone for the roll call. But it's in the past and I can’t change anything, no matter how much I wish for a do-over.
Once out of the hostel, I moved into a PG and was a lot happier there. The hostel still stands tall and proud. Every time I walk past it, the guards still smile at me and I respond with a smile. It was one terrible year but that year made me stronger and taught me a lot. It wasn't all for nothing.