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.

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What Independence Day means to me


As the nation celebrates its 65th ‘tryst with destiny’ I cannot feel the pride and happiness coursing through my veins as it had for all these years. I just feel fear, hopelessness and frustration. 65 years and we have only achieved half of what we could have if we had wholeheartedly committed ourselves to development and efficient use of the country’s considerable resources.

My countrymen are more worried about protecting their religion and culture, even if it means beating up women on the streets and pointing fingers at other communities at the slightest provocation. (Just read all the comments below the story. Girl gang-raped by 8 men, dumped near Agra highway) The politicians are only worried about filling their deep pockets and getting re-elected even if it means looting the tax payers money. Massacres have been committed for the sake of religion; education & healthcare are a joke in rural India and politics has become a dirty word. If Mahatma Gandhi had seen a glimpse of this India, he would have suffered a heart attack!

It worries me that we are oblivious to our potential as a country and choose to accept all these significant hazards to the nation’s growth as a part of life. Did the clerk at the Tashildar’s office ask for a bribe? Well that’s how the system works. Is the public transport a mess? Adjust karo. Did the police refuse to take down your complaint against marital rape? It’s your fault that you are not doing your duty as a wife! I am tired of all the explaining away we do to stay in the comfort zone. Its time we stopped adjusting!

So this Independence day I will mourn for an India that could have been. The history that could have been written, the progress that could have been made. I am not a cynic… just a hurt citizen who is afraid my country will go to the dogs. Period.

Also read Being Indian: Independence by a fellow blogger.

India at the London Olympics


London 2012 has been the best Olympics ever for India. With a total of six medals – two silver and four bronze – India has put its best foot forward this Olympics. Why am I, a non-sports enthusiast blogging about this? Well, this last week has been a very proud one for me.  As an Indian student in London I have had some very special moments this Games when my country bettered its records and gave me a reason to walk with my head held high.

Biggest ever Indian contingent at the Olympics 2012

I have seen the stupendous support and sponsorship that the British home team has received in the lead up to ‘the Games’ as it is called here. In addition to the world class training facilities, this kind of support and fanfare has gone a long way in ensuring success for the team. When I juxtapose this with the kind of luke-warm response India gives for any sport other than cricket, it doubles the respect I have for the Indian athletes who pursued and gave their best shot at various non-cricket sports. These athletes who are pretty much overshadowed by the cricket craze gripping India making it neglect its own national game, have given me a reason to stop and think what cricket and its commercialisation has done to Indian sports! A couple of articles I found that voice my thoughts on the subject.  Cricket, Cricket, Cricket! Why? , How cricket has killed other forms of sport , Why Just Cricket?

This post is a dedication to all those athletes who represented India at the Olympic Games and the six who won even in the face of inconsistent judging and bias.

Gagan Narang_Men’s 10m Air rifle bronze medallist

Mary Kom_Women’s 51 Kg boxing Bronze medallist

Vijaykumar_Men’s 25m rapid fire silver medallist

Saina Nehwal_Badminton Women’s singles Bronze medallist

Yogeshwar Dutt_Men’s 60kg Freestyle wrestling Bronze medallist

Sushil Kumar_Men’s 66 Kg Freestyle wrestling silver medallist

And a pic of the cute little mascots, Wenlock & Mandeville in Diary milk chocolate to celebrate the victory 😀 (and they tasted yum).

Wenlock & Mandeville

It has been an amazing experience to be here in London during the Games and watch the lead up to it and the whole event up close and personal. When I made the decision to take a year and a half of sabbatical from work and move to the UK for a Writing degree this was something I had not considered but now that I have seen the Games in its entirety, I can only say Woah… What an experience! 🙂 I was lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. 🙂

Bangalore to London 2


Four months after moving to Kingston it has finally dawned on me to blog about my ‘first impressions’ in this London borough by the Thames. (Am a whatever! I know…) As the prologue has already reached my readers, (those of you who have read the post Bangalore to London would know what I am talking about) it is but natural that the story should continue. So here goes…my usual commentary with some pictures all from my first week in Kingston. 😀

 I arrived in Kingston bent with approximately 50 Kgs of luggage on a Saturday night on the 24th of September. I had never crossed the Indian border before, let alone set foot in the UK and I had no idea how I would locate the University Halls of Residence or whom I would call if I did not find it. Luckily I found a black cab at the airport, the famous taxis of London driven by know-all-the routes drivers and the cabbie after much consultation of maps and discussions with colleagues over the radio managed to put me on the doorstep of the Halls in record time and without any haggling. I was already smitten by London and the town of Kingston.

I had been expecting to walk into a cold, drab, colourless, hateful town and I was naturally taken aback by the greenery, beauty and the order around me. I am a hardcore Indian by heart but I should admit I felt…relief! Clean and green just as I liked it and add some order to it (orderly traffic, neat roads, no haphazard parking or crammed rows of buildings) and I am sure to fall head over heels in love with any place that could boast of these three things. Maybe it’s the effect of growing up in a little, unpolluted town or maybe the effect of living in an overpopulated, chaotic city for the last three years, but the result was there to see.  I loved Kingston and I was ready to ignore the absence of rainbow colours of an Indian city. The weather did not bother me too. It was still summery in September and I felt at home.

The moment I checked in and was shown to my flat I crashed out. It was like in a Tinkle story- the traveller who arrives someplace after a tiresome journey to find a nice little room and immediately he pulls out a sheet from his bag and crashes out. Well that’s exactly what I did. I was knocked out flat flat for more than ten hours and when I opened my eyes it was nearly ten the next morning. I showered, called up family and decided to go out for breakfast and explore the town. But not in my wildest dreams was I prepared for the ‘adventure’ that day.

I met a flatmate and following her instructions walked to the bus stop nearby. If the previous night I was smitten, then that morning I was madly in love with the place. My Halls are in a campus called Kingston Hill and though I did not see any hill nearby, it did not take me long to realise that the campus was a conserved area, bordered with woods and teeming with squirrels and birds. I walked with a spring in my step to the bus stop and waited for a bus, got into a trademark red double-deck when it arrived and only then realised that I did not have change to pay. All I had were notes of 50£ denominations and just as expected the driver exclaimed ‘50 pounds?!’ when I presented it to him. I got out of the bus red-faced and decided to walk instead. I had been told the town centre was a 20-25 minute walk away and I trudged along taking in the fresh morning air. That’s when I started getting a creepy feeling down my neck. Something did not feel right. I kept walking but I was not sure if I was going the right way and that’s when it hit me. There was nobody on the street to ask directions…not one soul!! Nearly eleven on a Sunday morning and the main road in town was deserted. I almost freaked out…was there a curfew of some kind or something that had happened in the town I wondered. But I was not sure and hurried past closed storefronts and houses with no signs of inhabitation. There weren’t even any vehicles on the streets, only buses and a few bicycles.

Then I came into the town centre and finally saw some human beings… It felt like I had come out of the theatre after watching a spooky movie. 😀  I was plain stupid and had not realised that people took weekends seriously here. I found a sandwich bar and bought some coffee and breakfast and as I sat eating on a bench in the town square I saw people slowly emerging, first in ones or twos, then in crowds, women pushing buggies (prams), children skipping about, men with families… I could see the town literally ‘coming to life’. And then I heard the music, a violin playing and I went after it…following the sound around the square till I found a street musician playing in front of the mall and people stopping to listen to him… That did the magic. It all felt strange and I was still homesick but I had been won over.

Then on it has been a rollercoaster ride. There have been the lows when people have been rude to me, when I had problems catching the English accent, when I had to go through the tedious (for weird old me) process of making friends etc etc but there have also been the highs such as the pure pleasure of learning new things every day, the kick I get out of exploring London, the peace in the mornings while I wake up to the strumming of a guitar etc etc. It’s nice to be a student again and it’s nice to have all the time in the world to do what I want to do- write.

Sometimes I do ask myself whether I did the right thing in quitting a well paying job, spending a ton of money for a ‘phoren’ degree and coming to live in a strange country amid strange people. But then I remember this saying (Audrey Hepburn’s I guess) “The most important thing is to enjoy your life, to be happy, it’s all that matters.” As long as I am happy with what I am doing, I guess am doing it right and that’s all that matters while I take life one step at a time.