Dear diary, what have I done?
The sun shone bright in my face as I stared out the window, I could barely gather my thoughts. I had no idea what my life would be like, and I had no clue whether I had made the right decision. I just knew that my heart ached. Yet, something kept me going. I shut the blind, put on my WAKE ME UP FOR FOOD sign and let myself drift off to sleep… A new chapter of my life had taken off with the plane.
Dear diary, I have gotten used to this weather now. I like my three friends. I have an Indian accent now so I must forget about my friends back in Morocco. My stomach can digest street food (sometimes). I can eat (somewhat) spicy food now. I have found love in the sugarcane juice at the camp chowpatty near Nucleus.
If you’ve been with me since my New Girl in Pune series, you know all about the waterworks, the culture shock and the whole “should I stay or go back?” saga. It took about six months for me to admit that I was actually starting to have fun. I had found a free life away from the shackles of “Indian kids don’t do this” – my parents’ favourite line when they wanted to say no.
One whole year in the city – one entire year of tears, rains, wardrobe changes, rickshaw rejections, McDonald’s binge eating and liver damage – and I had graduated at life in Pune. I had shed my title of ‘new’; I was now just a Girl in Pune, and thus began my real journey. Little did I know that new adventures lurked just around the corner.
When I first moved here, I obviously didn’t know anyone, so my parents felt safest leaving their barely-Hindi-speaking daughter in a hostel. Having formed most of my judgment about India based on Hindi TV Series and Hindi Cinema, the hostel life I had expected was very different.
After watching Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, 17-year old me had come prepared with a large variety of mini-skirts to strut around in. Imagine my sheer disappointment and surprise when told that that I had to dress modestly! Not to mention that the only boys around my girls hostel and girls college were the Riksha-Walas and the guys selling Dabeli.
There were absolutely no dance-offs in the middle of hall-ways nor was there outsmarting the wardens and drinking on ‘campus’. The closest we came to that was spending an afternoon drinking at Toons, then coming up with an excuse for getting back late. Actually, there was no campus to begin with.
Unlike 3 Idiots would have us believe, there wasn’t much competition either. Everybody was in the same boat, afraid of not passing and cramming in one room huddled over their books. There definitely weren’t any budding romances, nor did any of us meet the love of our lives in college unlike our favourite Bollywood movies had us believe. We were more like over-exhausted pigeons who had suddenly come to value our sleep more than anything else in the world.
What we did have though, were endless conversations into the wee hours of the night. Maggi cooked using our kettles in steel dabbas. Haldirams Bhel made on a newspaper and gobbled with our hands. People from different backgrounds, childhoods and lives coming together with one thing in common – everybody was a stranger. We forged unforgettable friendships and a sense of humility that only the initial stages of college and hostel life can teach you.