Dhanwantari hostel was also shaped like a square bracket, with two additional limbs jutting out from the outer surface of the bracket making it seem like a crab if one could get an aerial view of the hostel. Inside the bracket, right about its middle, where the belly of the crab should have been, was a shorter arm consisting of the mess on the ground floor and a common room with a television on the first floor. The belly did not have a second floor, the rest of the hostel did. The doors of the rooms on the limbs of the crab faced east, those on the main stem or the body of the crab faced south. In front of the hostel, between the main gate and the building, was, yes you guessed it right, a circular driveway. The rooms were single occupancy only and were occupied by MBBS students after they had graduated from first year, and also by Interns. At the end of each lobby was a block of washrooms which, though far from being in an acceptable condition, were still an improvement from those of Ruiya hostel. Graduation to Dhanwantari hostel was, thus, something to be celebrated. One was officially a ‘big boy’ once one started to live in Dhanwantari.
As our cars circled around our former hostel, we noticed that the main gate was blocked, and a side access had been built. From the side gate, a concrete path ran along the hostel lawns right up to the west end of the body of the crab. This was unfortunate that we would not be able to enter our former hostel through the main entrance and look at its main façade. We felt like intruders, snooping in on the property from a side entrance. But the excitement to see our rooms and mess hall overwhelmed any sense of disappointment that we may have had. Also, the considerable din that we were raising, the alumni with their family, was enough to interrupt any train of thoughts.
And thus, we made our way inside the hostel entering from the west end of the compound and proceeding towards the mid-section. Walking through those corridors again after decades felt strange. The hostel looked more dilapidated than I had remembered it, or maybe we were just used to different accommodations now. Scooters and motorcycles were parked here and there, and air-coolers littered the doorways of several lobbies. The hostel was deserted since it was the middle of the day and the boys would be away for work or for classes. The children followed me closely as I led them through the hostel explaining the layout of the place and where we used to live.
‘The room numbers go down from here, on the ground floor, till we reach room number one at the end of this lobby,’ I explained.
‘This is the main entrance,’ I said pointing left, towards the driveway when we had reached near the mid-section of the ground floor lobby, ‘and this way leads to the mess hall. We will come to that later. Let’s quickly go see our rooms and comeback.’
We reached the east end of the spine of the hostel building and I pointed to my former room, room number thirteen, ‘This used to be my room. I had painted the door myself, in shades of blue, and had sketched a portrait of woman’s face on one of the walls of the room inside.’ The door was closed but not locked. There was someone inside.
‘Shall we knock on the door Papa,’ the children asked?
‘No, I don’t think we should disturb whoever’s inside. He may be sleeping,’ I said. We clicked a few pictures of the room and then moved on. Turning right at the end of the lobby, we ascended the stairs to the left and climbed up to the second floor where Appu used to live.
‘This is the room,’ Appu said; Sutanu was close behind. We all crowded together for pictures in front of Appu’s room. We had spent a considerable amount of time together in this room, me, Appu and Sutanu, during one of the professional exams. Those were strange times, and there had been some strife in the college, and we as a batch had bullied and bashed up one of the seniors, and the administration was not happy. The senior in question had named a few people in his complaint to the university administration and our name had figured in it. Now, between long hours of preparation for the upcoming exam, we used to make frequent trips to the Chief Proctor’s office to resolve the issue. The university administration had toyed with the idea of barring us from sitting in the exam or even suspending us from the whole course, and thus, all those who had figured in the complaint had been pretty tense. Fortunately, the university had taken a lenient stand towards the erring students and we had been able to sit in the exam, but those memories still made us shudder.
All this and more flashed in our minds when we posed in front of Appu’s room on the east wing of the second floor of Dhanwantari.
‘My room is on the other side,’ Sutanu chirped, ‘Let’s go there.’ As he turned to lead the way to his room, the children and their mothers followed him, instinctively. Once again, we strode across the hostel, making our way westwards through the spine of the structure and soon arrived at the west wing of the second floor.
Sutanu pointed to his room and we all gathered around once more and clicked more pictures. I scratched my head, trying to stir my pot of memories and see what I remembered of Sutanu’s room, and drew a blank. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Well, it seems Sutanu had spent most of the time with either me or Appu in either of our rooms and not vice-versa, which is why I had no particular memories from his room etched in my mind.
To be continued………………………………….
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