One of my favorite dialogues in the movie Dil Chahtha Hai happens when the trio of Saif, Aamir and Akshaye take Dimple to a restaurant to celebrate her bday. After the celebrations, Dimple thanks them for having come. To which Saif brushes aside the thanks and earnestly says, "Hum cake khaney ke liye kahin bhi ja sakthey hain." (We can go anywhere to eat cake). To appreciate the full humor of that dialogue, you should have been in hostel at least once in your life.
Students staying in a hostel are a perpetually hungry lot. The crummy food from the hostel "mess" can never satisfy anyone's appetite. And when you don't earn, you cannot afford luxuries like always going outside to eat. So anything which makes its appearance in the hostel and appears to be food-like is immediately up for grabs. I learnt this the hard way in the first year of my hostel-life.
My parents had just come down to visit me. After a few delightful days, it was time for them to leave. Hearing my sad stories of my under-nourished state, they bought me a whole collection of goodies to keep my company after their departure. It was a LOT of food and I was thrilled. In my excitement I rounded up friends, neighbors, people-in-the-corridors etc. and asked them to help themselves to the food when they felt like it and not feel shy about it. And with a glow of contentment, I left for my classes. When I returned in the evening, of my huge food-bag I could see no signs. All I could find was a big bag with one last measly half-finished bag of snacks left in it! My friends and neighbors had taken me at my word and finished *everything*!
Lesson #1: Unless you really want to finish off all your snacks in one go in the hostel (if you are a sane hosteller, you will not be having any such desire) do not broadcast that you have food in your room to the whole wide world.
Having been brought up to believe that every day should feature at least three square meals, I was initially upset to find that some of the days I simply couldn't eat breakfast because the food was too tasteless. On such days I had to drink the white colored water (oopz, milk) that was a part of the breakfast and rush to my classes. But slowly I realized that it was a privilege to be able to miss the sorry semia kichdi and the atom-bomb like idlis.
Lesson #2: Bread can become your all time favorite breakfast item. I used to simply love the bread-kurma combination that we got on Friday mornings!
After my first year in the hostel, I got the chance to shift back home - only to return back to hostel in my final year. The first few days were a traumatic re-introduction to the hostel food. I remember that one of my day-scholar friends, A (bless her), brought me lunch from her house *every day* for a week till I was ready for the hostel food. But being a senior in the hostel has its own fun. I knew many people in the hostel, the resident tutor liked me and my gang of friends and we had the run of the hostel. When the food was horrible, we could laugh about it - when it was good, we had contests to see who could eat more. I remember that my friend P once ate a baker's dozen (13 slices) of bread in one go :-))! On another occasion, when the dosa and sambhar tasted exceptionally good, we had dinner for a whole 2 hours...
Lesson #3: Even hostel food can taste very good at times.
Most birthdays had midnight-parties arranged by the friends of the bday girl. These parties typically consisted of cutting cake, chatting and then dancing to the latest hit tamil/hindi songs. The cutting cake part always attracted the biggest crowd. Being of a shy nature, I initially went to a bday party only if I knew the bday-girl. However, as the year went by, I lost my inhibitions. I think the lowest point came when I attended the bday party of a junior. I think I had spoken two words to her till that point. Add the "happy birthday" and it was a total of four words. Nevertheless, me and my roomies joined the thronging crowd and lustily sang "happy birthday" and got our share of the cake.
Lesson #4: Hum cake khaney ke liye kahin bhi ja saktey hain!
Now you know why I laugh especially hard whenever I see that scene in DCH :-D!