Staying in NDDB hostel was an extremely pleasing experience from the days of Manibhuvan, where we had to observe some discipline-at least in terms of the time for waking up and store water in drums and buckets as municipal water supply timings were very odd.
In the hostel, we had the luxury of getting up at leisure as long as we made it to the office in time.
Office in time! Yes, I can talk about myself, I mean my routine.
Once Raoji took responsibility of the hostel mess, life became more cozy. I never locked the door from inside.I used to get my morning tea served in my room (no.23, south-west corner room in the old hostel). He would leave the cup near my bed, wake me up with साहेब, चाय पीलो and close the door behind while leaving. I never bothered to look at the watch, but gulped the tea while half asleep and promptly went to sleep again. It happened day after day after…..
Raoji would then come in again at 9.30 am to collect the cup and announce, साहेब नाश्ता तैयार है, and that was the real alarm. I would rush to the bathroom – thankfully I didn’t have to share it with anyone- and get ready in 20 minutes. Raoji knew that I will be down by 9.50 am so he kept the breakfast ready and served it as soon as I sat on the chair.
Eight minutes were enough to finish the breakfast and at 10 sharp, I would be in the office. Life was great- sleep late, wake up late, still make it to office in time, have a hot lunch in the hostel with the hostlers and officers/staff who commuted from Baroda/Ahmedabad and opted to eat a hot lunch in the hostel.
It was all going very well, no tension of cleaning the room and attached bathroom, no tension to search for food, sleep late and till late on Sundays and other holidays, eat hot lunch and dinner and for me especially, a plate full of fried green chilies lightly sprinkled with salt with each meals etc.
The pampering was at it’s peak and I was really getting used to this rather unnatural lifestyle.
I wished it had lasted a little longer, but after a few months, I was allotted D-11. Life had gone full circle and days to sleep on floor returned unexpectedly. Since we had moved to furnished accommodations on the campus, I had disposed off whatever little furniture I had. So, I was left without a cot, without a bedding and pillow and with it went out the privilege of morning tea by the bedside. No stove, hot plate or cooking gas, so dependence on hostel tea was now with a difference-get up early, dress up, walk up to hostel and get your first tea.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner however continued as before. Life was still pretty Royal.
But even this privilege didn’t last long. The hostel mess was designed to cater 25 persons, but we were now close to 70 at lunch time there. It used to be quite chaotic as everyone wanted to quickly finish his lunch to be back in office in time.
It was during one of these chaotic lunch times that Dr. Kurien walked in with a guest. He was taking him around and showing the facilities that gave NDDB campus it’s unique character.
When he came towards the dining side with the guest, he noticed quite a few of us having lunch while standing. It looked more like part buffet and part sit down lunch. The scene was quite chaotic with Raoji and his assistants running back and forth from kitchen to serve the hungry crowd.
When Dr. Kurien saw this, he asked, “How many of you stay in this hostel?”Few hands went up so he asked others, “What are you doing here?” “Having lunch sir, we eat here every day, someone replied.
“Are you not aware that the hostel kitchen is meant only for hostlers”?
And with this question, from that day, we lost the privilege of eating in the hostel mess.
So, in a short span of barely two months, from Royalty, I was on a barebones living in D-11, with floor to sleep on, and no cooked food to eat.
But life couldn’t go on like that. I picked up from where I had left when I shifted to Chummary. Set the bedroom first, got a gas connection and tried hands at cooking. I had never cooked before, but had keenly observed my mother cooking, so I had some idea of the process. Soon I learnt to cook vegetables and daal, and relished it with freshly baked bread from Ambrosia bakery located at Jagnath temple.
A couple of months later, a friend of mine from college visited me and I gave him a glimpse of my newly acquired culinary skills. He loved the food and asked me, “When did you learn to cook and who taught you “.
My one word answer left him scratching his head. I never elaborated on it and left him guessing.
Do you want to know who taught me? It might leave you scratching your head too, but guess who-Dr. Kurien. I know you are grinning…..