Go back down the years and recall if you can
All the warm temperate times; you may find with surprise
That they’re all squeezed in to a headful of thoughts,
and a handful of summers.
– Gordon Forbes
Some time quite recently, they brought down the remnants of the old H10. After a short encounter with its faded remains during our silver reunion, it is quite a relief to know the old hostel is no more. This requiem of sorts was hibernating until a chance encounter on social media with someone triumphantly circulating pictures of a rare flower blooming in their garden – whoa, wasn’t that the H10 cactus? Innocence and ignorance are such a heady mix; we’d enjoyed its fragrant nocturnal displays without realising it was quite such a rare bird…
The first morning’s shock of waking up in a strange place was leavened by the sight of roses bobbing their heads outside my window.
June 1983: memories of being transplanted from my southern hometown, and also, of feeling pleasantly at home on the rain-drenched campus. The first morning’s shock of waking up in a strange place was leavened by the sight of roses bobbing their heads outside my window. A Shalimaresque luxury – a hostel lawn fringed by rose beds – that was best viewed from the ground floor wings customarily allotted to freshers. Whatever I had expected to find in Bombay, and in a hostel, this was definitely not it! One quickly learnt that ground floor rooms also came with other privileges like visiting earthworms that squeezed in under the doors.
If it looks like my IIT/H10 memories are primarily of the flora and fauna, that’s a fair reflection of the kind of place it was – an urban jungle with a few buildings thrown in. The main road outside the gates was quiet enough so you could grab an ice cream and quickly cycle to the Guest House lawns to eat it before it melted.
Hostel was a self-contained and intimate place with its door-lined corridors that frequently appeared in my vacation dreams!
Further afield, we had plenty of opportunity to experience the wide outdoors. Memories of a monsoon hike to Matheran on my very first IIT weekend have triggered a smile every time I had a querulous child in the back seat asking “Are we nearly there?” I had embarked on that adventure in a similar state of cluelessness…
Hostel was a self-contained and intimate place with its door-lined corridors that frequently appeared in my vacation dreams! Hostel-sickness was a real possibility. It was probably a bit too self-contained in some ways – it took me an alarmingly long two years to discover Vihar Lake or go on a butterfly walk to Koldongri.
The music room-cum-library was a haven for folks who couldn’t go home on the weekends. It was well-stocked, with yearly additions chosen by every batch that passed out – a tradition that appears to have died out. Watching Chitrahaar on TV with live (and lively) commentary from the most unexpected sources was another weekend ritual.
Quite unawares, we were likely there at a time when the hostel was at its best, before the Internet took the conviviality out of hostel life, and while it was small enough so you could possibly get to know every single B.Tech freshie and veteran research scholar; all under the same roof, for a few summers.