I walked through the gates as my dad stood aside;
It’s the Ladies Hostel Bhai! How could a man step inside?
The gate was so low, leaving me to wonder:
was it designed for dwarfs or was it to slow down an intruder?
I stepped over the iron bar and held my neck down;
lest I stumble and fall like a circus clown.
It looked like a jail, though I was no criminal,
It was only for four years yaar; why get sentimental?
The hostel Supri wasn’t bad; just an obedient man,
who followed his wife’s every command.
The kind of questions she asked, even a mother would never;
But it didn’t matter, in the very first year;
All we cared was whom to fear, and whom to revere.
It didn’t take long for our outdoor interests to be curbed,
a new form of bird watching, around us, had developed.
The popular ones of LH mingled outside the gate;
While we, the simple ones, drank tea and were made to wait.
Sitting on the steps of LH in our nightee,
we ogled at the visitors and the visitee.
Pilamane…., I tell you it’s no laughing matter.
I was not the only one who’s not sought after.
We breezed into the freedom of second year;
LH still the exotic destination, was what we hear.
A father visited his daughter, one burning summer day;
He wanted to come in, but Hostel rules were at play.
We rebelled – what the hell! We are no fresher!
Han han! We can take care of this matter!
We commanded our junior to bring her father inside,
And any problems, we said, we’ll handle in our stride.
Why didn’t we think of this approach before?
Will this be the beginning of a riotous uproar?
We could bring down the gate or maybe a window rail;
Through which, not air could pass; it was worse than Tihar jail.
We ushered the uncle into our rooms, and parted with a grin;
Aarta Bhai, the guard and the caretaker, panicked and rushed in.
Na na Apa, Semiti Kari Habani
We ignored him and savored the moment,
There was so much hope and yet so much to lament.
Aame Kahaku Darinu, we said aloud;
For, a father must be treated with respect, and not be looked as a lout.
In a matter of minutes, the Supri came over;
Asking for an explanation, for such a blatant takeover.
The junior said, Sir! You must consider! After all, it’s my father.
The Supri was clear,
And sans any rage, he kept his composure;
With all of us as his witness, he showed no regret;
As he uttered these words, which none of us will ever forget:
“Sie sina tamara Bapa, sie kana samastankara Bapa?”
(He is your father. But is he everyone’s father?)
We stared at each other in utter fright,
Thinking in our mind, Did we just hear that right?
How could we agree, to such a thought?
Even at nineteen, we knew what was right and what was not.
Third year brought out,
all the fun and some clout.
A few were drafted into positions of power,
others called the shots, from the shadowy cover.
We got a new Supri and this time it was a “her”.
We kept our fingers crossed for someone better.
She talked sweet and put flower in her hair;
Our hopes arose; we said, “Finally things will be fair”.
We thought to ourselves, she will understand,
Girls are also humans, and should not have to withstand.
These suffocating rules and restrictive hours,
which don’t apply to boys, shouldn’t just be ours.
LH is still LH! Not your uncle’s villa.
The new Supri was no different from the one before,
and treated us like street urchins, furthermore.
Complaints about food fell into deaf ears;
The front gate still remained closed for visitors.
Freshers that year, were a pack of daring girls,
they followed few rules and dared to break the shackles.
We looked like angels in front of the newbees;
They broke the curfew, letting in the fresh morning breeze.
We fought less and less for our LH rights,
because what we wanted, was right in our sights.
All that mattered were our friends and their friendships,
within those jail walls, we were prepared for all hardships.
We were, now, like the cream floating atop,
Life was casual, like a cozy flip-flop.
Khaali Maja! Ooo Hooo!
As desperate boyfriends delivered letters and flowers,
the gang gathered around, discussing into the wee hours.
We spent countless time on Linda Goodman’s “Sun Signs”,
matching each of our friends with possible valentines.
Even the day scholars had, by then joined in,
after all the real party was, about to begin.
We spent nights-outs, singing songs of Jagjit,
life had become a sweet ghazal, us fully lost in it.
Hai Bhagwan! My grades had again slipped!
My dad got miffed and asked me for my transcript.
“In second semester, you were the topper.
What happened to you this year?”
I promised to pick up pace,
But found the going tough, as life was such a haze.
Our hostel woes didn’t get any better,
we left the juniors to deal with the matter.
We bunked classes, ignoring the profs advice,
we were constantly hanging out, with tea in our hands and dreams in our eyes.
We worried, from time to time, about our future jobs,
But more important was laughing with friends, and our daily hobnobs.
Chhodo Na Yaar! Something will pan out eventually, we rationalized;
The last few months at LH had become the most precious, we realized.
We valiantly held on to those sweet memories,
Spending long nights on the rooftop, sharing many intimate stories.
It’s not graduation but an adulthood transition,
we weren’t ready to embrace the full impact of this notion.
Would we survive without each other?
Was this really over? How we wished there was a year or another.
It’s like sand slipping through our fist;
as the inexorable time passed, bit by bit.
Aah! We sighed and wished it wouldn’t end in pain,
though we knew it was a wish in vain.
Oh LH! Our beloved castle!
What wouldn’t we give to stay there again, just for a little?
The bonds that we made at LH are here to stay;
The memories through the silver years, will help start a golden day.