Student on campus – Life in a University Halls of Residence

It was a pleasant night in May and I was hurrying through the last round editing of my writing portfolio. I was a few hours away from the submission deadline and was feverishly giving the finishing touches to the prose, poetry and drama pieces I had written for the final assessment of a major course. My sleep-starved eyes were drooping and the glare of the laptop screen gave me a headache. It was then that I heard the muffled sound – a thud and some indecipherable noises. My tired brain signaled that the sound was familiar but I carried on my battle with grammar and syntax. They were winning and I was fighting with the last ounce of energy left in me. Then I heard that noise again, I ignored it; and again, this time followed by a giggle. That was when I knew what it was and snapped.

Now let me give you a bit of background on the location. I was living and writing in the University Halls of residence.

My cubby hole at the Halls (and yes that’s a Panda on the bed, her name is Switty :p)

My little study bedroom in a flat shared by six students was, well, ‘cosy’ to put it mildly. Of course I loved it and thought it was charming and comfy, but it had a weird way of getting in your way leading to much bumping into things at the slightest movement (and this coming from a puny 4 ft 8 inches tall individual). The corridor was narrow and the shared kitchen well equipped, but like the rest of the rooms – tiny.

Looking out of the bedroom window you could see the low buildings of the campus sprawled out below you or the woods and the campus bar, depending on which side of the blocks your room was placed.

View from my window- Campus bar

There must have been around 400 students-international and British- living in the various blocks of the campus and there was always a constant hum of conversation, drunken revelry or music from different parts of the world. Most residents of the Halls in question, studied Business/Law/Nursing in the same campus and only a few like me whose classes were held in some other campus were placed there due to unavailability of rooms in the Halls close to our campus.

Flat Corridor

The study-bedrooms were all in a row and shared walls with the rooms on either side of the flat. It wasn’t much of a problem in the day time, but for a person like me who sits up all night writing, it was a breach of privacy. Not mine but the neighbours’! Due to my nightly writing I knew when my neighbours came or went, flushed their toilet, got homesick and skyped their parents on the other end of the globe or in the worst privacy breach – brought home a date. Most times when I wrote or read for pleasure or for a deadline far away in the future, I just shut out the noise by playing music or chewing gum. But that night was limits. A deadline loomed and I was not satisfied with the portfolio. The last thing I needed was yet another hour of making-out noises. What the irritation and my snapping led to is history but I recall it till today as the night when a pleasant friendship almost ended and I made the decision of moving out.

It has been two months since I moved out of the Halls of residence into a private apartment block and it has been a strange eight weeks. On the one hand I am relieved to be out of the cramped room, the noises and the crowd but on the other hand I miss it all! Gone are the days when I used to be woken up by the strumming of a guitar or banging of doors when students hurriedly left for classes. The apartment block I live in is tranquil, isolated and well ventilated. No resident drunkenly chants ‘Omlette au fromage’ in the middle of the night or throws stuff at the window of a neighbour to wake them up. Nobody sets off a fire alarm just for the fun of it and there are no midnight snack fests.  In fact, our contract clearly states that we were not to hold any house parties or play loud music or in short sound alive! I have not seen more than one neighbour in the last two months and the sounds of a baby crying now and then and some stray notes of Western Classical music drifting up to my room are the only sounds of habitation I have heard all these weeks.

Woken up by yet another fire alarm

The campus Kitty. He must be the cat with the most number of names in the world. I call him Garfield.

Oh how I miss the Halls! I had so wanted to live on campus and as I had stayed with my parents during undergrad and later on in rented apartments with friends. It was like a dream come true when I was accepted at the Halls and I was ready to overlook all the shortcomings and make the most of my stay. But the time came when I put comfort over a dirty but lively flat. Anyway this is my ode to the nine months of life on campus that lived up to all my expectations and so much more, taught me patience, cleaning (:p) and sharing and left an ever-lasting impression on my mind.

So guys, if you ever get a chance to live in student accommodation, grab the opportunity with both hands. The going might get messy but it’s a lot of fun. 🙂 Do you have any on-campus stories of your own?

You might also like Bangalore to London 2 and London through my eyes.


Midnight in London

Have you ever been so taken in by a place that you would ditch your perfectly sound, normal life to go and live there? Would you be so in love with an era that you would do anything to be transported back to it? Right. Midnight in Paris. And the lesser known fact that I am such a person.

I am an incurable romantic. I love history. I love fantasising. Put all these together and you have a recipe for disaster. No wonder I have ended up as a dreamy eyed retard who lives in the world of fantasies.  If I count the number of hours I have spent reading up and fantasising of bygone eras, it would account for half of my lived life.

How else do I explain my constant fixation with anything that would qualify as ‘old-worldly’?! As a kid sitting in history class and listening to the lectures on times long past, a chill would creep up my spine and I would get goose bumps while I imagined the Kings, Queens, revolutionaries, wars and struggles in flesh and blood. Even after the lecture was long since over and we had gone home I would not be able to get them out of my head and I would read and re-read the text book and dream about them with my eyes wide open. My parents sensing that help was needed would buy me fact books filled with details of historical milestones and I would read them all in one go and ask for more of them. My journalism undergrad degree had a module of history in the first semester and I still remember it as one of the most fulfilling semesters. I would scrounge the University library for history books and encyclopaedias and had created extensive notes that got termed as the ‘Guidebook for 1st sem history’ aka the notes that were photocopied by all my classmates and the succeeding junior batches thrice removed. It was sure fun to watch them all try to make sense of my indecipherable handwriting that got nicknamed the ‘jalebi’ writing.

And did all those antics satisfy my thirst for romance and history? You wish! Outside of class work, I read historic romances, novels with a historic theme or anything that referred to or was set in the days that involved lamps, horses and elaborate dresses. God, this is crazy, I know! But beat this; I was so taken in with the London of Sherlock Holmes, the period dramas of the Bronte sisters and the magic created by Dickens that I quit a job, chucked everything and moved to London to write. (Thank you for the applause and I can hear the soap opera style guffaws too.) There are times when I walk the streets and think, “I wonder how this street would have looked in the 19th century” (This had happened in Delhi too, especially at the Red Fort). My friends have termed me mad, my family is perplexed and I am astonished with the lengths I will go to live my fantasies.

Another place that sends a chill up my spine- Hampi, Karnataka

And then I watched Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s Oscar winning movie and it rang a bell. Actually a siren went off in my head saying ‘wooooo wooooo familiar territory wooooo wooooo’. After watching the movie I am half relieved that I am not as much in love with London as that guy is with Paris to start seeing things but a bit sad that I will not be picked up in an antique car at midnight and be transported back in time to the golden ages to rub shoulders with the literary giants that I look up to. Man, I would give anything to go back in time and meet Conan Doyle, Faulkner, Dickens, Fitzgerald and the like and get my novel looked up by Hemingway! Brrrrrr. I guess from now on every time I walk a street at night I will half hope to be picked up by that ‘time machine’ car.

Midnight in London
Picture courtesy: Timeout London (I guess)

And now I can’t get the jazz out of my head. And I can’t stop looking up the Eurostar prices to Paris. I can’t stop thinking about how wonderful it would be to be transported back to Victorian London even if it was for a few hours. Looks like I will have some interesting dreams tonight. Anyway time to hit the bed and before I do that, I might just look up the schedule for the upcoming Shakespeare’s Globe festival. No missing it and yeah I might as well look up the opening time for Warwick castle too (wink wink). And meanwhile let’s sing along with Cole Porter: 🙂

Birds do it, bees do it

Even educated fleas do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

In Spain, the best upper sets do it

Lithuanians and Letts do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

The Dutch in old Amsterdam do it
Not to mention the Fins
Folks in Siam do it – think of Siamese twins

Some Argentines, without means, do it
People say in Boston even beans do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Romantic sponges, they say, do it
Oysters down in oyster bay do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Cold Cape Cod clams, ‘gainst their wish, do it
Even lazy jellyfish, do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Electric eels I might add do it
Though it shocks em I know
Why ask if shad do it – Waiter bring me
“shad roe”

In shallow shoals English soles do it
Goldfish in the privacy of bowls do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

If I had 2 extra hours a day…

Nov 3, 2011

Gasp..! Puff…! Breathe! Gasp…! Two extra hours in a day?  OMG…OMG! Dear Diary, I am welling over with emotion. Sniffle! This is such an emotional moment. I can’t believe this is happening. Before you think I am some kind of retard, let me tell you about my moment of extra-terrestrial communication today morning. No, by extra-terrestrial I do not mean communication with aliens. (Grow up dude.) I spoke with God dammit! Ya.. ya…you won’t believe it and extra-terrestrial is not the right word, but listen..this is what happened.

I was in my room today morning doing my 3 surya namaskars. Don’t laugh. Try doing 3 surya namaskars and you will know how tiring that is. My poor feet…! So..where was I? Ya… it was 9.30 a.m. Look I am tired of your giggling. Yes I do surya namaskars at 9.30 a.m. There I said it. Now shut your mouth and listen. So in the middle of the 2nd surya namaskar I heard somebody calling my name. I looked around from under my belly, the world looking weird upside down, but couldn’t see anybody at the door. I continued with the namaskars when I heard it again. I am still hungover from yesterday night’s drinking, I thought and continued to the Kapalbhati. (Ramdev effect you see.)

I had shut my eyes and was trying hard to ignore the growling of my empty tummy as I squeezed my abdomen muscles in and out, in and out, when I saw a blinding light, right in the middle of my forehead. What the F..?! I almost fell back on the floor. This is crazy I thought and went to the bathroom to splash my face with some water. I should get a health check-up soon I muttered as I walked back to my yoga mat to continue with the Kapalbhatis.

I started slowly this time, my tummy providing background score with its growling. Then the light flashed.. again, blindingly this time and I heard the voice calling my name clearly. I couldn’t open my eyes. It was as if my eyelids were stuck together with feviquick. “Pallavi daughter…” the voice said. My jaw dropped open. All I could see was the blinding light. The voice seemed to come from somewhere deep inside my head. Now I realised that I couldn’t move…not even a limb! “Don’t be afraid, I am your supreme father,” the voice said. Haan..? My father is back at home and he speaks to me over the mobile phone not from inside my head, I thought. The voice seemed to know what I was thinking. “No, I am not your biological father. I am the father of your father, of everyone you know,” it said. Grandpa, I thought. “No stupid child. Don’t you get it? I am God, the supreme father of all creations,” the voice said. God…? God…! GOD…? Ha ha ha ha I went. PATAAAAK! One tight slap landed on my right cheek. Owwww I sobbed, tears welled in my eyes but wouldn’t fall, I couldn’t move but my cheek burned. Now I was listening. “Look child, I do not have much time to spare, but this is what I came to do. I heard your prayer yesterday while you were submitting your assignment and was moved by your tears. You wished there had been at least an extra hour in the day so that you could complete the assignment and looked up to me and asked why I don’t listen to your prayers. Hmmmm…I am going beyond protocol and giving you not one, but two extra hours today. Study, write, do your assignments, whatever you want in those two extra hours, but do not tell anyone. If you do, I will be angry…very angry. If I feel you deserve it, I might even give you extra two hours every day for the rest of your life. Now get to work and don’t ever say I do not listen to your prayers.” The blinding light dimmed and then vanished altogether. My ears were buzzing and sensation returned to my limbs. I could move and I jumped up shrieking. I must have fallen asleep, I thought and pinched myself hard. But it wasn’t necessary..My right cheek was still burning and I could see in the mirror that it had turned a bright red.  Did I just speak to god? Did I just speak to GOD I asked myself and almost ran to the door to tell my flatmates what I had seen and heard. I stopped in my tracks.. He had said he will be angry. Brrrrrr…. No, I won’t tell anyone I thought and shivered.

Then the realisation set in. I have two extra hours today? How can it be possible I scoffed! But…but..he said…and he is the creator. A shiver ran down my spine. Ok…cool..relax..I told myself. I then had the following soliloquy. “Breathe. So I am supposed to have an extra two hours today. It didn’t look like he was kidding, proof my right cheek. So I only have to wait and see whether it’s true. So if I am supposed to have 26 hours today, then it would end tomorrow morning. Wow! But how can I count if I will be sleeping by then. I do not wake up till 9! No, no I can’t let that happen. Idea! Let me eat and sleep now, and then wait from night to morning to see if the clock stops for me.” It made sense. I clapped my hands in delight and ran to the kitchen to get some breakfast.  I met my flatmate there and almost broke the news. Then my right cheek stung and I clasped both hands over my mouth and ran out of the kitchen. It was tougher than I expected. I went to the kitchen again when I was sure no one was around and gobbled some food. I came back to my room and hit the bed. I had a mission to accomplish. But I couldn’t sleep, try as I might I couldn’t. I day dreamed for a while, tossed around for some more, listened to music and finally decided to write this diary entry.. I must have drifted off around 1 ‘o’ clock.

Nov 4, 2011

I woke up to hear someone banging on my door. Oh crap!  My mouth tasted odd, the room was dark and I felt lethargic. I started to get up but plopped back on the bed again. Then I remembered my right cheek. Oh shit! God…! Time…! I have to wait I told myself and switched on the lights. It was 10 p.m. oh great, at least I woke up; I thought and opened the door of my room. It was my flatmate, come to check if I was all right. “I am ok..just a headache, so I slept,” I lied to her and came back to the room. I was hungry and I didn’t have food in the fridge. Damn I had to cook! I cooked some sambhar and rice and joined my flatmates in watching the cricket match on TV. When I finally escaped to my room it was cindrella time. 12! Perfect, now I could wait. But what would I do all the while waiting. Oh! He told me to study, I should complete the assignment maybe, I thought and opened my books. I do not know how the next few hours passed but when I came back to my senses I was sleeping with my head on my textbook, drool all over the pages. F#@! I jumped up and looked at the time. It was 3.30 a.m. Ouch! There is no stronger lullaby then a textbook, I thought and went to the bathroom to freshen up. Maybe I should have a shower, I considered; that would fully wake me up.

I emerged from the shower to see the first rays of the sun piercing the night sky. Wow! I have never seen a real sunrise before, I gasped and opened the curtains to savour the scene. I watched mesmerised as the sun rays shone, meekly at first, changing colours from gold to red to finally brilliant yellow.  Wow! It’s good to be alive, I exclaimed and with the smile still on my face gazed at the clock. It was 6.10 a.m. Woah! Just a few hours more, I told myself and sat at my study table. I did not feel like opening my books again. Maybe I will listen to some music, I decided and booted the laptop. The next few hours flew by with Facebook, twitter, Youtube and WordPress. I left enigmatic messages on ‘love of God’ on each one of the sites. When I checked the time again, it was 9! I couldn’t contain my excitement. Lesser than an hour to go; I began my vigilance of the clock.

True to his word, the clock stopped at 9.40 a.m. and stayed that way. I couldn’t get enough of looking at the clock in amazement and I stared and stared. After a long, long time the hands of the clock moved again. I jumped up laughing, bobbing up and down in delight. It happened, it happened I shouted. I was still hopping about when the blinding light struck my eyes. I shrieked and I heard the voice thunder. “Fool! Stupid child. What have you done? What did you do with the extra hours I granted you? What did you do with an entire day? You whiled it away. You whiled it away!”

“Sorry Father..” I was sobbing now. I was afraid.

“You didn’t deserve it. This is why I do not grant wishes to you human beings,” he thundered and the light vanished.

I was crying now and was deluged in my tears. I understood what he meant. I was ungrateful and undeserving. I wasted an entire day and an extra two hours. “I will not let it happen again. Sorry Father,” I whispered. I had to make amends. I dragged myself back to my study table, opened my books and slogged over them for the better part of the day. That night I slept peacefully. I dreamt that someone stroked my cheek, but otherwise the night and the following day were uneventful.

Nov 6, 2011

I have just submitted my assignment at the Faculty office, in time and complete. As I was waiting for the University bus to the flat I decided that I would tell people of my experience. It would make him angry but not angrier than he was when he found out I had wasted his gift. It would make him glad to see people realise his presence, his love and use their precious time in the right way. So here it is…I have told you what I did in the extra two hours God granted me and how that taught me to use my time constructively. Cheers!

The Prologue

New Girl in the city O

Every story has a beginning. Mine has one too. Oh no, not the- I was born on this particular day in this particular clinic etc! (On second thoughts the adventure of my just-to-be-born self with the doctor’s forceps would be an interesting story but I will save it for another post.)

This is a stage zero post, a docking station for the already launched ‘New girl in the city’ series. It is a prelude to the series which has been very close to my heart. If ‘New girl in the city-1‘ was a self-consolation, ‘New girl in the city-2‘ was a pat on my own back. This post is none of those; it’s a self-deprecatory rap on the knuckle.

I have whined enough about the loneliness I faced when I moved to Bangalore for work. But have I bothered to look beyond Bangalore, to the time before I started living on my own? Was I never lonely before Bangalore? The answer is yes I was. So how come I never blogged about it as this blog is pretty much my personal diary of a public nature?

Well that’s how we justify our arguments isn’t it, by telling ourselves that the other side of the argument is redundant? But covering up is another form of distortion, even if it is from one’s own self, and I have covered up enough! I had even successfully convinced myself that the loneliness was a by-product of living away from home and friends. I feared to dig deep beneath the surface and tell myself that it was not the case.

Loneliness has always been my companion. I think it’s the case with a few people. Give them all the people and opportunities to bond with, but they will still prefer to wait for ‘their kind of people’ and stay lonely in the process. True that very few of them will want to discuss it on public forums, but the fact remains that some individuals have an affinity towards loneliness.

For instance juxtapose the cases of me and my friend who were both living away from home and were buried neck deep in strangers and the strangeness of a new city. He made friends everywhere he went, never felt ‘lonely’ (or maybe did not tell me). I on the other hand, pined for ‘my type of people’ and sulked and wrote countless blogs on it. My affinity to being lonely you see.

I know it sounds hare-brained but how else do I justify that I felt lonely well before Bangalore, in college too. In college for god’s sake! That too in a place like Manipal teeming with multiple thousands of students (and I lived with family too!) When people in my college were freaking out, I preferred to bury my nose in books for lack of ‘my type of company’.  Its nuts! In the recent past I have avoided doing the burying nose in books part, I have partied till I dropped, travelled, went on countless outings but still managed to remain lonely in a room full of people. Lonely must be in my genes.

So do I discount all the hard-earned gyaan in the ‘New girl in the city’ blogs? Well not exactly, maybe it’s all relative. To what you ask? Well to the happiness of other people around you and the state of mind while writing the blogs of course. So have I found out a sure shot way of getting over the ‘loneliness’ condition? Heck no. Life is much more fun with all the idiosyncrasies you see. Loneliness deserves a chance too, if only to make us more aware of how precious the moments are to be lost in whining away about it. 🙂

Of life, revelations & kahaani mein twists

Every living soul goes through at least one life changing moment in which a revelation strikes like a thunderbolt, out of the blue, giving that moment in which the mind is suddenly crystal clear. For some great souls like Budha if the moment spells enlightenment of the greater mysteries of life, for lesser mortals like you and me it can as well be a “What am I doing in life?” kind of observation that when answered could lead to interesting kahaani me twists.

I had this “What am I doing in life?” question dawn on me exactly three years ago as I sat under a tree (No not Peepal tree) in a densely forested park near the famed Bull Temple in Bangalore. I had just graduated from Journalism school, was unemployed, was in search of my true calling and was living in a dingy PG in Bangalore to escape questions from family and friends back home.

There was no drum roll, no bolt of lightning, it just happened- a stream of bird shit dropped on me as I sat under that tree, free of responsibilities and questions. One moment I was hopping angry, the next I was asking myself what was I doing under that tree in the first place, what was I doing in life? That is when I answered it with- Nothing!

The nothing seemed so disgusting to me, I almost puked. I decided then and there that I was not going to squander away my life doing nothing. I walked back to the PG, made a few calls to friends asking them to refer any jobs in the media & communication field and made that one decision in my life that has been game changing to say the least. I have never sat doing nothing since then.The bird shit did it!

I had another one of the thunderbolt revelations a few months ago. It was bang in the middle of running hitching up my sari down a high security venue to be inaugurated by the Prez of India seconds before the Presidents convoy reached the spot. Spectators were confused, police befuddled and I hoped the earth would open up and swallow me. It is and I hope will remain my biggest goof up ever. But the point is, as my limbs were in action my brain had that moment of clarity. The “What the Fuck have I done?” observation. I answered it with “utter shit”. That’s it! I swore I will never take ANY undue risks in life and that I will think twice before moving a limb. Sigh! Hope the plan works. I do not want an encore of the Prez-wala incident. Brrrr…

So there it is folks, the secret of game changing decisions- the one moment of clarity, THE revelation. When you do get that one moment, grab it with both hands, it’s like orgasm, it’s wonderful while it lasts.

Chicken Pox Diaries

Ya so I was down with chickenpox the day I turned 24! A little late in life it seems to contract a child’s illness, but as mom and dad say, the extra care they took of me and sis in our childhood made us cheat the pox and its cronies.

So it happened that the much awaited long birthday weekend in my hometown got converted to a sick leave of 10 days. Nothing much happened in those 10+ days except that I reached new heights of ugliness, spent a lot of time lying on my back day dreaming and got a new perspective on life- albeit the dormant one. 😀

When you look at life from the horizontal (you know what I mean) viewpoint, many of the mysteries of life dawn on you. For example, did you know that ants loveee human skin? They clamour for discarded bits. Ehww ain’t it? Pardon my lack of social etiquette but this is a fact I found out with a lot of trouble you see. Worth sharing! 😀 Another mystery of life that I decoded while I was at it is the “Bum balance”. When too much of sitting or sleeping turns your ass sore (yes it does) you balance yourself on 1 bum cheek, when that turns sore then the other and so on. And Voila! After 10 days you have a perfectly toned ass. I am considering patenting this technique.

Add to the soon to be patented knowledge the bliss of having a reason to getaway from work for 12 consecutive days without having to answer the 5Ws and 1H, minimal interference from visitors (people were scared shit of contracting the chickeny thing from me) and all the pampering that I can only hope to get in a spa under normal circumstances, and I am ready to forget all the bland food that I had to feed on until a month later and all the scars!

I came to recognize every contour of my bedroom, befriended the sugary sweet kitties in the wall posters my sis had stuck in the 3 years I loaned the room to her and even appreciated her “artwork” of fish, butterflies and sparrows in rainbow colours on the walls. Shudder!

Maybe the chickenpox was a blessing in disguise for my overworked, workaholic bones. A weight loss programme fate threw along the way, a time to re-connect with family and my soul. Either which ways I have utilized it fully, completely and to the best of my ability.

Now to get my 1 minute of fame with the patent. Muahhh! 😉

New Girl in the City-2

I write this post sitting at home in my home town, quite unlike the other posts written in the shabby rooms I rented in Bangalore. Not only are the surroundings neater and cleaner, there is no nicotine to lay my hands on. It’s 7 ‘O’ clock, not midnight and I sit across my mother as I write, not my roomie, taking care to play music that would not shock mom out of her wits. Hmm…home feels good..but back to the post.

The post New Girl in the City-1 was written out of vengeance- a “Look I made it by myself” kinda post, an attempt to console myself. It was a war cry against the loneliness that almost sucked the sanity out of me- the kind of loneliness that makes u feel as if you are alone in a room full of people. No wonder it seems so preachy when I read it now. I was trying to prove that I survived- to the people who had sidelined me. The bitterness is all but gone!

I write this post not out of vengeance, not out of bitterness, not to prove anything. I write it to tell myself it’s ok to let go. After 3 years of living in a strange city which I could not comprehend, life remains as mysterious as ever, but I have learnt to accept it’s myriad hues, to take life as it comes, to trust myself more than ever and most importantly to enjoy my own company.

Just like it’s important to love oneself to love others, I feel it’s very important to enjoy one’s own company to enjoy the company of others. Then not only are you happier in your own mind but you radiate happiness too. There I go all preachy again :D.

Life! my dear Watson, as Holmes would have said it.

The new girl in the city has learnt from life a miniscule amount of gyaan atleast. :p (allow me the writer’s freedom in stripping the sentence of it’s grammar).

P.S: Is it weird to watch a movie alone?