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The other day, when my colleague mentioned the movie ‘Chhichhore’ and how it is reminiscent of hostel days, I went into rewind mode thinking of my engineering college days. Anybody who has experienced hostel life will never forget it and the invaluable life lessons learnt. Your roomies tend to become your brothers, albeit from different mothers, not to mention the number of embarrassing skeletons we carry in our bags. It’s been 29 years since my first day at hostel, and till date, it evokes nostalgia.

You have to be a South Indian to know the pressure of becoming an engineer; even if your parents are OK with you not becoming one. Then comes the time when you have to pack your bags and leave home for four years, in my case, five. Advertising taught me that you can say flunked, creatively. My future advertising prowess was on display, when I convinced my parents that I fell short by one mark in my second year, so I lost a year! Post my graduation, I did tell them that waiting for the eternal call from NDA was the real reason. The only regret that I carry till date is not becoming an Army man.

Coming back to hostel days, I reached Osmanabad and went looking for a guy (let’s just call him US) whom I had met during the admissions. When I heard him calling my name from behind, I discovered that the dude, with long hair and an attitude, now had a closecropped haircut, wore rubber chappals, jeans with the shirt hanging outside - a uniform code for freshers. I followed suit. I met up with the other folks from Mumbai on the same day. My first roomie turned out to be a guy (JS) from Kerala.

My dad dropped me off and left in the evening to catch the train back to Mumbai. On the dinner table that night, at a dhaba, while having ‘chole’, wrapped in my first bite was a big bug. I quietly removed it and continued eating; at the behest of my seasoned roomie. Needless to say, from that moment, I also became ‘seasoned’ and thereafter food in any form always found its way to my stomach. The first night at the hostel, I felt home-sick. I was quietly shedding a few tears in the dark, and so was my roomie. That’s when he told me he wanted to cry out loud and I said I did too. So, the two of us howled away to glory for the rest of the night!

In the following week, my roomie changed and I was finally with the Mumbai gang - US, my other Mumbaikar roomie, DM and VR, from Hyderabad, completing the set. In a month, we were a gang of about 15 with SM leading the pack. SM, a senior, told us, “Gaa***log tumlog Mumbai ka naam kharab mat karo. Kal se hero jaise aana... koi chu*ya senior puchega toh bolna…SM ne bola hai…”I kid you not; I have never seen any averagely built guy like SM wield such absolute power!

Over the years, of the entire lot, eight of us, struck it out through thick and thin, and we still do… forever young SP, gentle giant RM, deceptive VB, casanova SK (who we lost to cancer), intelligent gaan*u PG (the only non-Mumbaikar), the ever dependable US, total dhamaal DM, now the Paris import leader SM, and I with the nickname Tarzan (that’s another story). After 29 years, we still laugh, cry and debate over the same stories (even our wives know them by heart now), and we still have skeletons hidden in our cupboards, which come out when it’s just the eight of us holed up together. Nitesh Tiwari, in the remote instance of you ever reading this, should you want to do a sequel to ‘Chhichhore’, you know who to ping!

(PS: In the interest of safeguarding my health, names have been replaced by initials!)

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