Tag Archives: Hostel

Sunday Breakfast at the Mess

Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “Many of our fondest memories are associated with food. Describe a memorable experience that took place while preparing or eating food.” 

Back in the day, when I was just another student at architecture school, I used to love Sunday mornings. Apart from the fact that they were filled with endless possibilities, the doom of a Monday deadline at least a whole evening of procrastination away, nothing could quite compare to waking up and enjoying the feeling of nowhere to go as you sank your body deeper into the pillow and mattress while birds chattered somewhere in the distance. And it was always made better by Sunday breakfast at the mess.

Now, I have to say, food at the mess was not always good. But I enjoyed Sunday mornings in particular because it was dosa day. Not just any dosa day, but dosa-with-creamy-potato-masala-and-peanut-chutney day. Sometimes, I would wait for all week for Sunday morning to arrive because of the lingering taste of these crispy pancakes made with wonderful rice and lentil batter that fermented so well it exploded with bubbles when poured on a hot stove. That, and Oh Lord, the potato masala… Creamy, yummy potatoes with undertones of onion, ginger and chilies, cooked until they turned to butter in your mouth. And the peanut chutney: gritty, rich old peanut chutney to balance the zing of the potato masala. There was something so homely in those meals, that as I washed it all down with piping hot filter coffee served in a stainless steel tumbler, I never felt I was far away from home or family. Oh, how I loved Sunday breakfast.

One such Sunday morning, my friend H woke me up and together we ambled along to grab the last of the dosas before the mess closed before lunch, but not before we stopped by K’s bed and asked if she was going to join us. She muttered something from under her pillow before we walked off; it wasn’t unusual for K to miss breakfast anyway.

I spent the rest of morning working on some drawings to the happy feeling of doa-potato-peanut-filter coffee in my belly. And then lunchtime arrived, and H came by to get me again. This time we went straight to K, still sound asleep in her bed, and shook her until we got a satisfactory answer from her.

“I’ll join you in fifteen minutes.”

Fifteen minutes later, at the mess, H and I sat in front of our plates as the stray grains of rice and dal on our fingers and empty plates dried up. Still no sign of K. They literally had to kick us out of the mess to close the doors in preparation of dinner, and we went straight back to K, still no farther from her bed than she was when we left her. It was 2.30pm now. H was furious.

“Well, if that’s where you like to stay, that’s where you’ll stay!” she announced. K remained silent. H grabbed a piece of rope to be used in an architectural model, and playfully began to bind K’s hands and feet to the bed. K’s protests, though feeble for her well-rested state, fell on deaf ears. And I had turned into the mob, laughing along with H as I pinned K’s hands and feet to the frame. After the work was done, H stepped back and took a picture for posterity.

“Guys, let me go.”

“You aren’t going to achieve anything by starving yourself”, said H.

“What are you going to achieve by tying me to my bed?!”

“It’s a punishment.”

“Guys”, K was so soft spoken, her sternness came as a surprise.

“Alright, but you have to promise not to skip your meals like this.”

“Ok, I promise”, she said, rather quarter-heartedly as we began to untie her.

After she had brushed her teeth, she went straight to her shelf and picked up a bag of spicy crisps and chomped away as H and I looked on in slight disgust.

“Is that your ‘breakfast’?” H asked with air quotes. K flashed a mouthful smile at us in response.

“I give up! I can’t make this girl eat her meals properly anymore. K, your mother will hear of this soon”, threatened H.

K switched on her computer as she turned to us “They gave up on me long ago!”

On hindsight, I suppose K was never attached to food emotionally the way H and I were.


What To Do When Perverts Come Knocking at Your Dormitory Door (Or Window)

Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “Tell the story about something interesting (anything!) that happened to you, but tell it in the form of an instruction manual (Step 1, Step 2, Step 3….)”. Here goes!


I have so many wonderful stories from my 5 years as an undergraduate student in a girls’ hostel in Chennai, India. There was hardly ever a dreary moment. Gossip abounded because some women were always trying to steal other women’s money, or books, or food… or sometimes underwear. Sometimes they were just trying to get in another person’s underwear. There were women of every kind in my hostel: different shapes, sizes, colors. You didn’t have to do much to watch drama unfold over something as trivial as a misplaced toothbrush.

But some of the best stories I have are of perverts hiding in the bushes trying to sneak a peek of the ladies through their window. It didn’t take much to get the female student body to unite over a matter as ‘serious’ as this.

Here’s what to do when on a perv-alert in the dormitory:

STEP 1: Determine the distance between yourself and said pervert. Continue to Step 2 if the lecherous bastard is at least 20 feet away from your window on the other side of the fence or compound wall. If, however, the monster is right outside your window, call the warden. If, God forbid, he’s knocking on your door, stay calm and CALL THE POLICE.

STEP 2: If you have ascertained a safe enough distance between yourself and the pervert, keep a watchful, but discreet, eye on the creep. You may skip to Step 8 if he walks away within five minutes. In the event that he stays put, move on the Step 3. If he comes back again, or begins to issue projectiles (not the kind explained in Step 2a below), skip to Step 4.

STEP 2a: If, while keeping any eye on above-mentioned pervert, his hands begin to stray to unmentionable regions, do not panic. STARE HARDER. If it doesn’t shame the bastard into stopping, and you think you may be seconds away from watching him spurt his sap, call out to friends at the top of your voice until Pervy Numbnuts gets the message. You may even point and laugh if it so pleases you. If he walks off with his shame tucked in his pants and his tail between his legs, skip to Step 8. If you, and your out-of-breath friends, have just witnessed the gut-churning scene of his ugly climax, say a quick prayer for the wasted sperm, and you may proceed to Step 3. NOTE: Remember to always keep puke receptacles handy.

STEP 3: Turn off the lights. This is usually the most effective step to drive away unwanted perverts. You know what they say: out of sight, out of mind. Also, it is highly likely the jerk thinks you’ve been enjoying the show until now. You really don’t want that.

Now, if all goes well and Creepy Boy doesn’t come back to his point of surveillance, go ahead and skip to Step 8. But if he comes back within the space of 24 hours, or tries to bombard your room with projectiles like stones, mud, foreign objects, etc., continue to Step 4.

STEP 4: If you’ve come as far as this step, you’re pretty much at war with Horny Man now. Get a good glimpse of your perpetrator, run to the intercom and call out to your homeys to join you in battle. Get the Warden involved too, even if it’s 2am in the morning. Chances are this is the most action she’s seen in a long, long time.

STEP 5: Split your army into teams: Frontline assaults, surveillance, yell team and runners are a few good examples. Instruct frontline assaults team to arm themselves with the heaviest and sharpest objects they can find, Surveillance to position themselves on the terrace watches, Yell team to convey the message the old fashioned way, and Runners to… well… run. Because the chances are Douchebag wasn’t thinking too clearly before arriving without reinforcements.

STEP 6: Do whatever it takes to nail the bastard, even if it means jumping the gate. Oh, and yes, if you live in a ‘gated community’, you may need to use the choicest words to wake the watchman up. In all probability, his blissful snoring is the only thing lying between you and your visions of kicking Mr. Perverson in his nuts. If after all this you manage to nab him, continue to Step 7, and if not, skip to Step 8.

STEP 7: If you’ve come this far… congratulations! Now leave your perpetrator’s fate to the Executive Warden or the Vice Chancellor. But it is always better to forgive. Only, memorize his face like a road map before you do that, and watch him whimper every time you bump into him on campus.

STEP 8: Now go to sleep. If he comes back within the space of 24 hours… lather, rinse, repeat. But don’t sacrifice your sleep.

At the end of the day, this exercise is futile because somebody in the future will probably accuse you of having enticed him… like the boy who genuinely cried wolf, but nobody cared because the boy who cried wolf when there was none ruined it for him… only the second boy is fictional.

But I digress. Just have fun, and treasure the mental image of hockey stick-wielding women rolling up their sleeves and crying out slogans, because maybe you’ll never see quite something like that again.

How I Created Three Commandments of Drinking Party Etiquette, and How I Broke Them All

Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “Tell a story about a time you got drunk before you were legally old enough to do so.”

The thing is, even today, I wouldn’t be able to tell you the minimum age to drink legally in India, because they’re always changing the limit when some kid’s night on the town goes horribly wrong. I never really drank underage myself, but I couldn’t resist this prompt either. This piece I’ve written today is about another form of illegal drinking. 


My experimentative years were offset into my mid-20s, having spent the major part of college night life, begrudgingly, behind closed hostel doors. So when I moved to Ahmedabad, I was relieved to find that grad school was a lot freer. No curfews, no patrols. Heck, even the terrace floor had no parapet walls, and you could sit by the edge, if your heart allowed it, and dangle your legs over the 30 foot drop onto the concrete catwalk below.

I soon learnt that bootleggers lurking in the college parking lot were not an uncommon sight. The state of Gujarat is one of the few in India where prohibition is still enforced. Not exactly the best scenario when you’re a grad student in desperate need of an outlet.  What’s that thing about people only wanting that which they cannot have? We soon came to rely on a classmate as our bootleg liaison. Of course, this also meant we were at his mercy. And so, in spite of my father having introduced me early to the ‘finer’ things in life with a glass of apple cider, within months I’d moved way past cider and, I’d imagine, also way past ‘fine’.

At the beginning of the program, parties were innocent enough. A few plastic glasses and some soda always accompanied the beverage in question, and light banter and raucous laughter was exchanged over the crunch-munch of Lays and Kurkure until the surly, mustachioed watchman would come by to lock up. And if we weren’t ready to go home, a hushed conversation over an extra plastic glass was always enough to buy us time.

The semesters went by and the parties became more rowdy, ‘outlets’ in the true sense of the term, and one evening I watched varying degrees of drama unfold in a smoky, crowded hostel room before our last assignment. When finally the host of that particular party flew into a tantrum on not being allowed one last drink (or so he said), and collapsed on the floor in a fitful of sobs, my three commandments of drinking party etiquette were born.

COMMANDMENT 1: Thou shalt not drink and dial.

Drunk-dialing, IMHO, is the most annoying thing anybody could do at a party. It’s just rude. It’s also very embarrassing. Especially if you’re the one who has to point out to your friend that while she thought she was whispering sweet nothings to her boyfriend the night before, it was really some other guy. And the only way you knew this was because you grabbed the phone in between to call the boyfriend a damn loser. I mean, if everybody goes about drunk dialing, where the %&!# is the party?

I suppose that’s why this was the easiest for me to break. It was an intimate gathering, three girls in a hostel room, one of them knocking down neat scotch for the very first time, the other a serial drunk dialer, and the third one… well, me. In two hours, the first one was flat on the bed, moaning into the phone by her ear, the second one was outside, needless to tell you what she was doing. As I sat there wondering what happened to old-fashioned conversation, I picked up my cellphone and made an international call to an old friend.

COMMANDMENT 2: Thou shalt not drink and bawl.

That last thing you want when you’re having a good time is for the party to disintegrate into a Greek tragedy. But unfortunately, this happened very often.

The truth is that I had a really rough time in grad school. I was always up against the odds, and if anybody should’ve been going home swimming in their own tears after every party, it should’ve been me. But I preferred to cry on my own time. Until my graduation day that is. After the ceremony, a couple of us gathered at a friend’s house. Whoever the bartender was, he wasn’t doing any of us a favor with the stiff drinks he poured. Pretty soon, most of us were reduced to blithering likenesses of our sober selves, which isn’t the bad part… really. That started when somebody thought this was a good time to get some 3-star hotel coffee.

I still do not remember what the name of that hotel was, or what it looked like. Nevertheless, we placed our orders. The conversation shifted to grades and I don’t even remember what the trigger was at this point, but I knew I was thinking to myself how much I’d busted my ass to graduate and that there was no recognition of my effort outside of the degree that was handed to me. I remember thinking how unfair it was because some others had it easier than I did. And that’s when the waterworks began.

I’m really thankful that my good friend Pailu was there that night. She took me outside for some fresh air and helped me get the whole thing out of my system. That’s the only time I’ve ever drunk-bawled, but I always think, that if I hadn’t  I would’ve never set my mind free from all that pain.

COMMANDMENT 3: Thou shalt not drink and hurl.

99% of the time, I’ve had the ability to know my limits when it comes to alcohol. I guess I inherited it from my father who knows to enjoy his drink without ever getting drunk.

This was the last commandment, and the most surprising one, that I broke. I was long out of grad school when a few test tube shots of Romanov at a birthday party (never again, never again!) proved to be my undoing. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty. And again, it was the first, and the last.


Grad school is now a distant memory. I have asked the God of Silly Things for forgiveness since breaking each of these above mentioned commandments. I still try to abide by my self-laid rules, but I don’t drink that much, save for a glass of wine now and then. It turns out I’m always the designated driver. Ah. Shame really for someone so well-versed in keeping it together.