|Hostel 2, MREC (c) Ajay Deewan|
The hostels are made of stones – they absorb heat and cool off instantly. So are the students – they get into tiny fracas here and there, and again get back to their normal routine – attend the class, complete the assignments and party hard with friends. Like the agelessness of the stones building the hostels, the bonding between the hostellers lasts forever.
Circa 1999-2000. I was placed in Hostel 2. The fact is, nobody wants to land in the hostel in the final year. Hostel 5 is the darling of final year students. All students, from all faculties, from all states of India and abroad, who are just a year away from celebrating their metamorphosis into engineers, get to stay together in a hostel which is more than a home. And the few unlucky ones are dumped in the Hostel 2.
As there is a silver lining in every black cloud, you get more time to study hard in the step-hostel. You slog through the boredom but have enough time to incubate the creative ideas that come to your young and restless mind. In my case an interesting incident happened that changed my perspective towards friendship.
It was daytime and one of my friends was resting in his room.
He hears a knock on the door. He says, "Come in". But the knockings don't stop. He opens the door to the sight of a man in his early fifties.
The intruder politely says, "May I come in."
The man steps in and goes near his bed. "May I sit on this bed."
He sits on the bed – a metal cot with thin mattress and a regular bed sheet. He feels the connection, relaxes, looks at the ceiling and again stands up. He rises up, goes near the study table and asks, "May I sit on the chair."
My friend says, "Yes, please."
The man fumbles with the pen from his pocket and seems to scribble something on a piece of paper. He is expressionless. His mind seems to be swimming in void.
Sitting on the chair, he reaches the switch board and asks, "May I switch on the fan."
What an irritating man! My friend, holding down the vexation, says, "Please Sir, go ahead." He repeats with emphasis, "Do whatever you want. Think this as your own room."
The emotionless man's face turns bright. "Thank you my friend," he utters in his glorified tone. "Twenty nine years ago this was my room. The bed you are sitting on was mine. The chair, table and the fan, all were mine. It's been 29 years and now they seem foreign to me."
Tears start trickling down from his eyes and he breaks down. My friend finds it hard to console the man. Thanking him, the man leaves the room. Feeling curious, my friend follows the man from a distance.
The man heads to the central lawn of the campus. Two men of similar age join him and hug each other. They lie down on the grass, break into tears, laughter and joy. After 29 years.
Later we came to know that the other two men had also knocked on the doors of two other final year students. They had also posed the same set of questions and broken down at the end. The three men had graduated from MREC and had been working in the Silicon Valley in the US.
In those days, social media was a mere dream. Thanks to Alumni.net, they met in the virtual world and planned to meet in reality – at their beloved campus. They also met their teachers, hostel warden and roamed around the campus streets, canteen and lecture rooms.
This day whenever I think of MREC – the hostel, the room, the cot, the chair, the table and the fan – they still hover round my head. The memories are indelible.
I long to get to MREC and indulge in the colour of friendship, once again. But I am waiting for my friends to poke me and instigate the desire. To be there. With them. After 29 years. Like the three men in the college.