You know the Thought Experiments. This is the back of the envelope.

Friday, January 14, 2011

For 214, A-10, 201, #3 and #5

Life's been a study in variety these last seven years. I've lived in varied places, with all sorts of people. When I first left home for Delhi in 2004, all I understood of the concept of studying in a different city was that I would not be living at home. Not exactly thrilled at the prospect of having to make do with phone calls and emails instead of family dinners and bear hugs, I didn't even realize that living outside not only meant living away from family - it also meant living with people I didn't know, to start with. Since I hadn't given it any thought, I didn't react to the fact when I came face to face with it. My moment of truth came when the Section Officer handed me an acknowledgment card bearing my Univ enrolment number, and Dad said "And now for your room."


And that's how it began. From not having given it any thought in particular back then, to cherishing all that life in Residence, hostels and flats has taught me and come to mean, I've been on a constant trip - pun fully intended. On various occasions, I've been asked if I'd have chosen any other way to live these last seven years. The No comes quicker, I've noticed, than my response to who is my favourite author - and that's saying something. A lot of my day-scholar friends still wonder how. Most of them tend to think of life away from home as either perfection, or an impossibility. It is only those who have been in the gray area in between who understand that there is a gray area. Each room I've lived in left traces of itself in me. No kidding...sometimes, I can single out a trait and tell you exactly where I acquired it. Like sugarless black coffee, constant music and staying up late from A-11; the "Okay, I'll deal with this" approach from 214; all-nighters and a broader acceptance of human nature from A-10; the dubious ability, on occasion, to sleep through alarms, and the comfort in opening up to a bunch of strangers, from 201; the capacity to let go and unwind from Room# 3 and Room# 5 - as also the joys of bonding and sharing that only someone who has spent a lazy Sunday in a  house with  twelve other women, would know.

No, I really wouldn't have it any other way. If you asked me to go back and do it all over again, I wouldn't ask to change anything or anyone from these seven years.

In the course of all these years, I've lived in...wait a minute, let's see...eleven different rooms, not taking into account the flat I stay in now. And I've had twenty-one roommates in all. Single rooms, twin-sharing roommate, two, four - been there, done that. I've lived in a building with 200 other girls in it, then in one with 52 others, then 15, then 60. So, yes, I have had my fair share of away-from-home experiences.

So I was more than prepared to come and live all by myself in a two-bedroom place in Bhubaneswar when my employers took it into their heads to send me here. I don't mind staying alone - on most days, I am thankful for the solitude. That's another trait that living with new people builds - emotional self-sufficiency. You can live all alone and still not miss anything; you can share a room with half-a-dozen relative strangers, laugh and talk, have enormous fun and share a tremendous lot, and still not lose your space if you don't want to. You don't quite notice when you inculcate this just notice, when you need that kind of strength or stability or patience, that it's right there. That is not to say you won't feel lonely or claustrophobic at times. You will. It's just that you are also extremely likely to find a way to handle it that much sooner. Also, you learn to build and enjoy independence; and to own up to your responsibilities and mistakes...not to forget, how to pack up an entire room - tutes and clothes and posters et al - every summer, and unpack it all manfully when you return.

And, of course, surviving entire weekends on Maggi, and developing a liking for the oddest food combinations - think biscuit-chutney and salad crackers. Goes without saying that when you run out of said culinary oddities too, you learn to walk brazenly into the neighbouring room - never mind that it is 3 a.m. and they're lost in the dreamless - and ask if they have any.

You learn that it is good to share - not just books and the occasional sweater, but also what you're going through. Funny happenings during the day become funnier when shared that night; good things become better. And no matter how severe the heartbreak, or how lousy the day - it will still stand a very bleak chance against the kind of comfort a conversation with the right people can provide. Life teaches you - on its own - exactly how easy or serious you need to take it. Also how easy, or seriously, you need to take yourself.

Anyway, so as I was saying, the whole idea of living all alone here seemed like yet another experiment, and I was more than keen to get started. It hasn't been smooth, truth be told. Maybe it's a combination of factors, maybe it's just me...but it can get lonely here sometimes. Having said that, I wouldn't give up this sense of freedom and space for anything. I do, however, reminisce about Rez, K-14/20, L-7/3 and 32 U.B. more than often.

And so, this is for all the women I have shared rooms with. I'll probably also write, at some other time, about the women who weren't roommates, but who I lived with nevertheless, and about what each place means to me...but for now, here's what I'll always remember each of my roommates for -

TP, for empathizing with me - we were both, after all, confused, hassled girls trying to figure our way about 8:40s, bad breakfasts and worse lunches, and terrifying seniors.

PS, for being the perfect first roommate...and, to date, one of my favourite people from Delhi.

TT, for being fellow-Eco-fuch, Baby Beyonce and hostel-life-coach all rolled into one.

PK, for initiating me into life as a first-time employee and being the protective mother bear and annoying older sister at the same time.

G, for teaching me how to laugh through the madness.

SG...honorary roommate. I loved your attitude to everything that bothered you. Still do!

AA...grace so perfect, it bordered the comic. Maturity so great, it bordered the perfect.

GM...our Little Miss Muffet.

DJ...ballet dancer extraordinaire and the ultimate diva. don't always have to spend a lot of time with someone for them to think of you fondly for the rest of their lives. Thanks for showing me how, with a carnation and a text message., lady, taught me how to negotiate my way over wafer-thin ice.

PS, a week is all it took for me to become a lifelong fan. You were perfect.

AJ and SG - I had to mention the two of you together. What do I say about the two of you that you haven't already heard me telling you between guffaws, in all-night heart-to-hearts, childish arguments...and in my sleep?

AK: Interesting. Always.

NM and VJ - short and sweet, eh? :)

LA...I spent six months with you in one room - and we exchanged all of 56 sentences. How did that even happen?? By far my quietest roommate...

TV - For giggling (and giving out wrong information) when you were nervous, for panicking meaninglessly before exams, for subjecting me to endless queries on what looked good and went with which bag and watch...for going from girl-next-door (literally) to one of the people I miss the most.

MP - tall, talkative and lovable. I've never met anyone else who invited me home in the first thirty seconds of conversation! brought life full circle.

I spent anything from a week to fifty-two with these women...and I wouldn't trade any bit of that time for anything. 

This one's for all of you, ladies...for being one of the most integral aspects of the most interesting phase of a life of 25 years.

Miss you guys.


Absolute Chemystic said...

Out of curiosity, are you in touch with any of these friends now ? I mean consistent not like an on-off thing.

Crossworder said...

With five of them, yes...we generally know what's going on in each other's lives...three of them are still 4 a.m. friends...with the others on the list, it's more of a Facebook/gtalk thing now...but I think I get the drift of the question :)

Absolute Chemystic said...

Sometimes I think we are generally blue, and we tend to search for reasons to justify how we feel. Sometimes even the smallest of things/memories affects us. The reason I say this is because of the number of times I have moved in my life. I think its 7. I have left 7 countries over just a little more than a decade. And the one thing I have learnt is you never need a reason to explain how your blues. No reason is good enough and no reason is too much. Its alright you know :) more about this in my email later.

Crossworder said...

I'm waiting for the email...and I still have to write the longer reply I mentioned last week. :)

You'd think someone who has moved multiple times in the last few years would be a good mover-on...but here I am. :p