Supremacy in Titillating the Tongues
Embracing the life at the hostel had its contours of white and grey with the lentil soup (Daal) standing out to be the sole saviour in finishing off the plate full of rice that was a clear reminder of the grim tale of a poignant scene unfolding straight from either a Satyajit Ray or Shyam Benegal’s portrayal of man’s eternal struggle with and for food! The consolation in the form of either the stir fried vegetables, a piece of a pale fish non committal to its fate swimming in the water (curry), a solitary boiled egg doused in yester night’s curry or the finger licking good pieces of rubber that we know as chicken were the sad side dishes following a strict rooster of the hostel’s kitchen committee were to become a staple diet that could put today’s dietitians to shame.
An occasional overture from the Nona’s (cook) kitchen in form of mashed potatoes with its skin being the richest source of protein added intermittent spice to the ritual of meals along with the porridge (served only on Sunday’s and Holidays) before the classes in the mornings and the dinner, after an engrossing series of Teen Patti at the hostel rooms.
The hostel’s meal calendar was infrequently invaded with feasts during festivities, with the mutton gloating over on the regular meal items in ensuring its supremacy in titillating the tongues, in asking for more and forever!
Necessity has always been a mother to inventions and the two significant contributions made by the geniuses during my life at the Hostel were, first, the converting of a dimly lit room in to a full moon sonata by using wires, shaving blades and discarded fluorescent tubes and the second being the water heating elements or rods doubling as the electric kettle and cooker for preparing tea, coffee and Maggi!
The other notable discoveries were the secret passage to the Hostel Superintendent’s quarters by the voyeurs, handcrafted mechanised door knobs replacing door locks, multipurpose keys, especially to unlock the bi-cycles for the night shows (films) obviously without the knowledge of the poor owner of the bi-cycle and last but not the least, learning to survive on a dole after the 15th of every month. The fixtures who became almost father figures to our lives were the Tea stall, cigarette vendor, Bora Tarkari stall, road side thatched stalls serving delicious Dalmas and Macho Munda Bhoja and what occupied an elite place of pride during the first 15 days of every month were the joints like Eats and watering holes like Trimurti who were so conditioned to our plight for plenty that they chose not to recognise or know anyone of us after the 16th of every month for the fear of losing their place to being considered at par with the Chai and Cigarette vendors.
But one thing was agreed upon by most of the regular debtors like us was neither to contest the claim nor to offer any resistance to the creditor when they produced the roll of honours for the debtors in claiming a bill which inevitably carried traces of doubt on the sanctity of their claim, at the beginning of every month. We were to survive the current month and they were our father figures, no doubt!