Reminisce, Retrospect and Revive

“The founders put some brains in me, So I could choose instead! Now slip me snug around your ears, I’ve never yet been wrong, I’ll have alook inside your mind and tell where you belong!”

-The Sorting Hat, Harry Potter

Curfews and cats, late-night run-ins at Usha when Maggie sounds like salvation and lime soda is your poison; the perfect hostel experience is only when you have reached peak frustration with the food and are best friends with the warden (read guards in our case, folks). On some days, you miss home and home-cooked meals, but then you turn to look at the ones who are suffering through the same raw or overcooked chapatis with you. Only they can understand the words of anguish, those who have “been there and done that.” 

Hostels- not the ones reminiscent of motels with dirty ceilings and questionable surroundings, but think more along the lines of old houses with creaky floors, winding stairs, and dilapidated doors. The faded echoes of voices from across the hall, and the ring of laughter that carries through the paper-thin walls, make it home in your memories. Squeaky beds, the carnage in the corridors (in case there were monkeys prowling just in time for the arrival of your Zomato order), doodles, or scribbles in lieu of the seniors who inhabited the room before you. The place has a character of its own, like a multiverse of madness with plenty of worlds to choose from. There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. Think of the Sorting Hat with a pinch of sadistic salt, as you’re sent to inhabit a new building every year. 

Hostel nights are supplemented by barbeque or ice cream, where the music of choice is blasting through the speakers of the hostel and you’re jamming along with your favourite people on campus. Every semester, the hostels host these nights to bring people together beyond the boundaries of rooms or wings, where you find yourself letting loose to hits from all eras and genres with people you must have only interacted with in passing on the stairs or the corridor. You find out that there’s more to say to the one living in the room opposite yours than just occasionally knocking on their door to ask if the clothes in the washing machine are theirs or, “what’s there to eat in the north mess?” These are moments when the hostel comes alive. The nooks and crannies of the building light up in the wake of hundreds moving along to the beats of camaraderie. The common rooms or areas are the hearth in this regard. The way you’d discuss your day over dinner at home, here you jam to dance tracks or elite Indie and watch movies at the suggestion of ten-odd people who invited themselves to the screening. This is where the story unfolds, be it talking in the corridors on your way out or hollering to a friend on the other side to come to watch the match as the pace picks up. Missed breakfasts and lectures take the form of regrets as the day looks longer than it was before. Just when the sunlight’s slowly seeping into the crevices of your addled mind and the thoughts of academia turn to lunch, you find yourself seeking the fleeting window of respite from the tedious 9 to 5 (only if you’re lucky enough to not have a class at 8) before you have to head out again to do something or the other. The hostel is your sanctuary; the escape from the humdrum of your routine, and the end of the beginning.   

What if you had a Pensieve to look through the memories of someone who was in your shoes a decade ago? If you could read through their memories like old letters and journals, a scavenger hunt through time, and in their handwritten lines, you find a story that has been packed away for years. When Phoenix didn’t exist and Queen of Sheeba didn’t get you stealing tokens from the metro or dancing to a Tamil or Hindi number in the middle of a busy street. Stories become experiences in the span of the years one spends on campus. But what about the ones who lost a major chunk of their time due to the pandemic? Freshies who joined at the beginning of the pandemic had a two-year-long gap where they have only heard tales of the best parts of what insti has to offer in terms of hostel culture. Now, fostering close-knit ties amongst the residents is a Herculean task when there isn’t any common ground or even a feeling of belongingness they could resonate with. When farewells are just an obligation and not something they organise with all their heart. The traditions that seniors pass down the batches serve as bridges to connect the past and the present. Hostel culture comes with the shared experiences, and impromptu fundaes late into the night or the odd cricket or football match post-midnight. If we had a proper hostel culture, you’d see more faces in the stands or audience when a match is on. People would scream their lungs out as they cheer for peers and seniors alike, and the intangible bonds formed in these small moments would tide us over the hardest of times. It is easier to foster such relationships in school because everyone’s schedules and priorities are somewhat similar, here we have the UG and PG divide on top of the already existing fragmentation due to departments. 

Apart from the intrinsic value, hostel culture allows space and scope for social ties and fosters a strong sense of belongingness which in turn boosts participation in LitSoc, Schroeter, and TechSoc events. Hostel Culture improves our quality of life and raises the general well-being of both individuals and communities in the building by improving learning and health, increasing tolerance, and providing opportunities to connect and convince. Man is a social animal, and in this tumultuous phase in our lives, the hostel serves as a means of stability. Hostel Culture allows uniformity of experience and shared experiences are the best in fostering stronger ties amongst the residents of a building. Be it staying up all night to watch the Premier League or cycling all the way to the beach just to catch the sunrise, you are weaving the tapestry of memories which will last you a lifetime. The lack of hostel culture is not creating any issues in regard to individual experiences, but we are missing out on a holistic experience where we get to make memories as we get through different events as a cohesive group. The allotment of accommodation might be a draw of lots but the year’s worth of ups and downs that you breeze through in that building will leave you with a sense of belonging. The kind that makes us scroll up the photos to remember them. 

The events that bring the entire building together – LitSoc, Schroeter, TechSoc – right before the season dawns upon us, the slight murmur of comparing previous years’ statistics begins. The infamous Saraswati vs Godavri rivalry to Sharavati leading in the days of yore, you find yourself entangled in the race to be the best. From parades around the S.A.C to election candidates knocking on each door for votes, the pandemic doused the most invigorating parts of what the hostels were all about. Schroeter sees boys catching hold of monkeys to touch for luck to win the cup, while girls find themselves navigating the rules of a sport they have never played before. It’s all fun and games, till the first goal is in and the sun is right at the top of your head. The clock’s ticking at the slowest pace possible as you can’t wait to get back into the shade and beat the scorching rays. That is what the pandemic took away. When you ask people now, they can only talk about then: what they have heard about but never experienced. Hostel and LitSoc elections were on hold for a year, and even the highest echelons of LitSoc failed to bridge the gap that existed long before the pandemic came into play. Now it is up to the ones who have seen and experienced it all to bring back the glory of the hostel days and everything that it has to offer. 

As the breeze ruffles the leaves, you see someone cycling downhill on your way back to the comfort of the bed that is calling out your name, the street lights flicker and you take in everything that makes the campus home. The merry-go-round of memories starts on the ground floor and ends on the scorching hot top floor for some while for others it’s a building full of freshies who can’t wait to see the Aerowell and find the third elephant.  The corridors are a testament to the friendships forged over impromptu conversations in the hostel lobby while waiting for the washing machine keys or playing pool and bonding beyond language boundaries. A camaraderie of causality, a hostel is not just a building, but a scrapbook of DIY moments where the best are only yet to come.

Edited by Devika Deevasan

Design by Vignesh

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