Saturday, August 21, 2010

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch...

...but there always is a free ride, atleast on campus.

Its been a month (and running...) since I shifted out of home, Bangalore to Men's Hostel 'J'-Room No. 113,South Campus(affectionately called 'The Village'), University of Hyderabad -home for the next couple of years. The first thing that welcomed me as soon as I landed at the hostel was an open door to my allegedly allotted room, bereft of the mandatory fittings of a single steel cot and a Malaysia wood-topped desk. Since class started in half an hour investigations into the current state of my room was postponed to a later time. After quickly dumping my bags in the adjacent room, ablutions completed, I proceeded to trek the distance of 4.5km to the School of Social Sciences. Having located the class, I walked through the doors to my preferred seat in any class environment-the last bench. A sweeping survey of the faces of fellow classmates left me a tad disappointed and much older. The average age of the class should hover around 22 I guess and here was a bearded, fast receding hair lined student of 25 (I have been asked if I was married and was a father 4 years back!), vigourously swabbing his face and neck post the excruciating half hour walk trying to locate a seat in the back, right below the fan. It was only later while establishing credentials with some of the classmates (I still do not know a majority of them, plain laziness and more so disinterestedness to blame)that a girl sheepishly mentioned that the first row of students (invariably girls, though that trend has changed in the one month since) attempted to stand up as soon as I entered confusing me for a professor! A lot of other people I meet around the campus feel surprised that I am pursuing a masters, they naturally assume I am an M.Phil or PhD student. Be still my creaking bones...

Post classes, investigations were afoot to determine the cause behind my furniture-less room. A quick word with the hostel in-charge later I was assured that there was no foul play and that the original room which was on the ground floor was reserved for physically handicapped students and that I was allotted a room on the first floor. Further investigations revealed that my room-mate had replaced the original lock, before heading home after admissions and would be back only a week later. I shifted in temporarily into the room opposite- 114, which thankfully still had not been robbed of its cot. Purchases to set up room- bucket, mug, mattress, washing powder, et al. made I settled in comfortably, deviously grinning to myself that the whole room was mine, when most others had 3 students in residence. The weekend ensued. I continued to wait for my room-mate. The following Tuesday, I returned as usual to the temp room at around 12:00AM (with little else to do in the room apart from stare out the window at the enshrouding darkness, the main campus with its attractions of a shopping complex, canteens, classes[but naturally], library and the venerated 'Gops'- the quintessential melting pot of food, conversation and general hang out on the campus [fossilised souls who have spent years on campus opine that with the departure of Gopal, the man who lent his name to the eponymous gathering spot, 'Gops' has lost its charm. Apologies! I stand corrected. Gopal still occupies the store, nevertheless the captivation eludes, I believe reminiscing always makes you yearn for the good ole days] necessitates that you return to 'the village' as late as you can) to find someone else had converted it into their permanent room. I also noticed that my allotted room was not locked up and a tube light streamed from below the door. Quickly having explained and clarified the situation with my new neighbours I shifted in officially into 113. They had packed my belongings in a haphazard manner into my bags and neatly rolled up my mattress, though the case of a missing towel still remains a mystery.

I did not invoke the phrase popularised by Milton Freidman in vain. The prospect of walking 4.5km from the hostel to class and back again in the night with a good 3-4km stretch covered during the day in various short saunters around campus though a healthy option, especially for people of my slightly rotund disposition, can leave one tired and without energy for much else. The late night trek back in the fading moonlight is an ideal setting for some romance to flourish, but considering that the only residents in the direction of the south campus are men and largely sanitised international students, not to belittle my social skills (the first one week on campus was magically delightful thanks to Ms. T)I generally plod back in silent soliloquy. Unless of course you hitch your thumb out and wave an approaching vehicle down. Students generally halt be it on their bikes or bicycles. I generally do not bother the latter, though a couple of them have kindly offered to take me (though they offered to drop me only because they expected me to decline in the first place needs to verified). On one occasion the tables were turned quickly and I had to pitch in on the pedals while the offerer peacefully settled on the carrier. Official looking people, noticed by their smug faces, white shirt- unbuttoned at the chin till halfway down their gullet and strangely buttoned up at the cuffs can be a bothersome tribe. They do not slow down near you, but a few metres ahead of you and then make a strange gesticulation involving the left hand and head indicating they are not headed in your direction. There are exceptions to the rule though. Cars are a strict no-no on the hitch-hiking list. Ambulances can come in handy and one afternoon I was speedily transported from the village to the shop-comm on a stretcher, sitting, thankfully and not lying on it. Tractors too come handy, especially if it has a trailer attached. Ignore the mud and grime, but hang on for dear life when he takes the sharp turn to the right on the last gentle knoll leading to the village, light grips could land you on the road or even worse the stream running at its margins.

Conversation and experiences are never low in supply. Political Science being my subject I find the politics of the people around me more interesting. The campus is so small when it comes to gossip that if someone sneezes in south campus, the rest of the people all around should know of it by the end of the day. Politicking of the various student wings are restricted to poster-sticking and occasionally a protest march from the shop-comm to the admin block. Talks ranging from Kashmir Killings to the Telangana issue pop up on a daily basis. While fresh unwrecked minds could be brain-washed my cynicism protects me like a wall from such demagogic talk. Or maybe its my ignorance and sustained attempt to remain ignorant. In class too there is hardly a moment when Maoism, Hindutva, ideology and other such profanities is not called upon. Sides are made fast with the left oriented appearing to be in majority for now. Sometimes they appear very school like in their attitude with instances of clarifying doubts just for the sake of it, repeatedly coming up with an opposing angle to a particular subject and then looking back at his/her cohorts and sniggering, all attempts at one-up-manship- for what? Then there is the other issue of hiding books in complete disrespect to the Dewy Decimal system to prevent others from reading those particular books! I have decided I am here to learn and not take sides. Question everything and work on the reasons at the root of things

For someone who has spent all his life so far at home, the campus offers wonders- unrestricted freedom topping that list of wonders. Biting into a shawarma at 3:30 AM while strains of Uday Bhawalkar's sonorous voice stream from the open doors of the auditorium- I haven't tasted a better shawarma so far. Walking shoulder to shoulder down the stairs of Mayuri Bar with autorickshaw drivers post a session of MC whiskey and Congress mixture and top that off with a healthy serving of beef biryani at Kalyani Restaurant (though not as enticingly juicy as the beef doled in Khazana, Johnson Market, Bangalore.)Washing clothes is a completely new feeling when you land at the room at 12AM to realise they have been soaking in the bucket below the cot since the previous night. The mess remains my greatest enemy on campus for serving highly proteinicious food, read as dal, dal and more dal. Meals is very simply rice, some dal curry which masquerades as sambhar and a rather decent rasam. The highlight of the meal is the chutney and small portion of vegetables which features on your plate. The loos reek a distinct smell of dal post meals, pungent and nasal-hair destroying- making you ponder on the digestive abilities of the fellow mess-mates. "Please sir, can I have some more?" will probably never feature on your thoughts during lunch or dinner. Facing a full day can be heartbreaking when one stuffs voluntarily a whole portion of a sour rice garnished with groundnuts and topped with an even sourer chutney for breakfast. And so on and so forth.

A strange feeling of being disconnected arises though, specifically since I lack a laptop at the moment. The joys of trawling the net unrestricted, are to be postponed till I purchase a laptop and also till the LAN connections are open in the hostel. As of now I have seen trenches being dug to lay the lines, but given that its a central university, it might take a full semester or a year for the lines to become functional. For now I battle with slow ancient machines, waiting for five seconds before the full word which I type appears on screen. The battle is extended to students too during the day when it becomes impossible almost to sit down at a free system.

I switch off most times when jargon erupts during conversations. The deconstruction of the post-modernist cognitive perspective of the moral and social fabric evidenced in 'biped featherless chicken'-and I would probably excuse myself feigning a crick in my left little toe that needs to be attended to at the earliest, with an equal earnestness to will a large object like a grand piano or Fort Knox safe falling on the said person or being slowly gnawed away by birds or better still ants while the person lies awake, witnessing himself being cleaned to the bone without the powers to shoo them away- ok that might be slightly over the top, but an academic atmosphere does not mean conversing in such rarefied language. Thankfully the people I have got know better over the last month don't fit into such categories. Higher stuff will eventually start spouting from me too, but right now I need to solidify my base in the social sciences. As the Deep Purple song goes the next two years will be to-"Listen, learn, read on".

There is probably more stuff to add to this post, but-
a) I cant remember
b) I am too tired and lazy to remember...for now,
Ching ching!


Wasil Imran said...

Awesome stuff, but pity ur state about the food and stay.
Let me know the next time ur meeting at Khazana, would like to drop in.

Vivek Nenmini said...

Thanks! The stay is pretty chill, manageable atleast. A separate post shall come out soon on the dietary aspects...its not that bad, apart from the mess. A whole post on Haleem is in the making:)

Alex said...


'Just Visiting'^1

footnote 1: see the board game- MONOPOLY.

Vijay Bhaskar, Timken said...

Hi Vivek, How is life? Cheers,

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