Ruiya Hostel, in our times was an undergraduate hostel, where freshers were given accommodation when they first joined the MBBS course in IMS, BHU. And thus, this was the place where we, the boys I mean since it was a boys-only hostel, had met first and become friends and had started making our memories. The girls, on the other hand, lived in Kasturba Hostel. Ruiya was where we had unpacked our luggage, met our roommates and our seniors, and had endured the ignominy of ragging. Yes, that dreaded tradition was not banned till then and was very much in vogue. In fact, most of the seniors looked forward to the day when ‘freshers’ would be admitted and could be submitted to ragging, as it gave them some much needed respite from the gruelling schedule of MBBS. Most of us also remembered the rooms where the worst parts of the ragging occurred, and the people associated with them. Some memories were pleasant, some far from it.
Ruiya was a huge hostel, with huge rooms, designed like a rectangle with one of the long edges open. Enclosed within the bracket shape of the hostel was lots of open space with trees and also our mess and common toilets. The bracket had two rows of rooms running its whole length, one row opened inside the bracket and the other row opened outside it. Thus, the rooms were lined back to back, and side to side like a pen where poultry is reared. The rooms themselves were spacious, though dilapidated, and had enough space for two students, their beds, their table-chair, their books and, sometimes, their vehicles too. Most of the boys drove bicycles, and parked them inside the room, for safety. At the end of each ‘lobby’ of rooms was a pair of washbasins with running tap-water (wow!) which the students used for brushing their teeth. The toilet complex consisted of far lesser units than required, and thus one had to get up really early in the morning if one wanted to use them. The bathrooms, used, of course, for bathing, were frugal with a single tap in the middle of the wall opposite a creaky and cracked door. Bathing meant opening the tap and sitting beneath it for a sufficient period of time for the water to wash you, or as long as the person next in line would allow you. Yes, life was not luxurious, but it was fun!
Across the road from each hostel all over BHU, were playing grounds which students could use in the evening time or on weekends. The Mahamana had designed the University well. We, however, got little time to use those grounds, being buried, most of the time, in assignments and big, boring books. However, not all was boring in those initial days in BHU. There were frequent parties, extra-curricular activities, and even a class picnic. It was in Ruiya that we were introduced to the real world, and some of us cut our teeth there – including yours truly.
Our cars entered the hostel complex through the main door and parked inside the circular driveway, disgorging its contents – us! We were excited to be visiting our old hostels again, trying to remember where each one of us lived. I remembered my room and, together with Appu and his children we headed straight there. The room was as run-down as I remembered it, probably a little more than how I remembered it, and was occupied by three (instead of two, in our times) young men. We introduced ourselves and let ourselves into the room of the unsuspecting young fellows, with our children and wives trooping in behind us. While Appu chatted with the young men, I, the women and the kids looked around. What was I looking for? What did I expect to find here? Myself sitting in a corner, combing my hair or making my bed?
I looked over the room slowly. This was where my bed used to be, here was my desk and here I used to park my bicycle. Ah, my bicycle! When I rode that bicycle, I felt on top of the world. No BMW or Audi or Mercedes could now give me that exhilaration which my bicycle had given me in those days. I had altered it according to my sense of aesthetics and aerodynamics and had painted its tires yellow! Yes, Yellow! So, I had the only yellow-tired bicycle in the whole campus! Ha ha, that was fun!
We clicked a few pictures with the new occupants of our old room and exited the place.
‘They are paramedical students,’ Appu said. He had gleaned information from them while I had stood and daydreamed in the room.
‘The hostel has been given to nursing and paramedical students now’, he continued. That was disappointing! It was like coming back to your old home and realizing that it was sold and someone else lived there now. No MBBS student will come here anymore and make memories for a lifetime. But maybe the hostel will serve the same purpose for nursing students now. The hostel, though old, looked pretty much the same.
‘Maybe it will survive another century’, I thought, as we roamed around aimlessly in the hostel trying to see if any other surprises awaited us.
‘There is new construction where our old mess was’, Appu exclaimed. Yes indeed! The inside of the bracket had been altered to make way for a larger mess complex for the students. And some washrooms had been added at the end of the arms of the bracket. The children were bubbling with excitement, and questions.
‘Is this where you had food Papa? Where is the bathroom?’ the questions went on and on.
Me and Appu and Sutanu went to peep inside the new, tiled washrooms built at the end of the corridors and, while we were there, used the structure for good measure. It felt just like the old days; me, Appu and Sutanu standing side by side in the men’s room, talking, and laughing raucously over stupid jokes while the children stood outside and giggled.
‘Let’s go to Dhanwantari now,’ Sutanu said, ‘It is getting late.’
‘Yes, we should hurry’, I thought, ‘we have to visit the temple too and Vaishali would like to see her hostel – the Kasturba Girls’ hostel – another memory maker!’
To be continued………………………………….
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