Friday, October 24, 2008

The Summer of '08 [definitely, not the best days of my life]

How many things can go wrong within a span of two and half months? One, Three, Five, Ten?...well, start counting as I reminisce what happenned to me this summer of '08.

It was an all-important summer for me. I had just finished my 4th year at law school and was slated to start my corporate internship at two law firms. It was going to be my first major corporate internship and my recruitment chance was going to depend majorly on these summer internships. Moreover, I was to make that choice of which law firm I intend to finally end up at.

My first internship was at one of the leading Delhi law firms, which was to start exactly 4 days after my end-semester exams ended. Barely out of my exam hangover, there I was, in a Rajdhani Express, all alone, saying a tearful good bye to my parents, whom I was not going to meet for the next two and half months! After an extremely boring train journey (I mean, without any cute co-passenger) I landed up the next day in Delhi, my most favourite city after Kolkata.

My accomodation was already fixed at the Shakti Young Women's Hostel at 7/17, East Patel Nagar. My dad had previously gone to Delhi for official work and had paid in advance to reserve a room for me there. The owner Mrs Shakti Ahuja turned out to be a matronly figure with a kind face. Little did I know then, that I was to experience first hand and much to my misfortune, the age old adage, which warns that 'looks can be deceptive'.

As soon as I landed up at the Hostel, I was asked to pay up the rest of my charges, which turned out to be Rs. 7,500/- in all. I requested her to let me settle in my room, but she refused to budge. It was already 2 pm and I was dying for a shower and lunch. So I paid her up and followed the servant to my room.

My room for the next 5 weeks turned out to be on the top of the roof and extremely tiny with barely space for a single bed and an almirah. The loo was the dirtiest that I have ever seen in my life and beat the one that I had encountered the previous summer in a government hostel in Delhi. The inmate of the neighbouring room also warned me about frequent thefts that occur in the hostel and advised me to keep my stuff always locked. She also asked me to verify with the owner whether the facilities that are being provided to me are covered within the amount paid, since she is known to extract extra fee for electricity bill, mattress, gas etc, even after promising that these would be provided for free!

Now, I was almost at the verge of going into a depression. I already knew that I had to provide my own food, my room was the size of a servant's quarter in any affluent Delhite's house and I had discovered that there were just 3 dirty loos for some 40 odd women!

Added to my woes was the fact that it was the Holi week in Delhi, which means random people would throw water balloons from their houses, bikes, cars etc at me anywhere on the street. I learnt the art of navigating my way through the maze of raining water balloons to and from my office for one whole week, without once getting drenched. Really, the Delhiwallahs have a strange and pervert sense of humour when it comes to Holi.

I have always been a regular once-in-the-morning-and-once-in-the-evening tea person. If I went without my cups of tea, I used to end up with a headache. During my stay in Delhi, I realised that habits are not unbendable, since I used to have my first cup of tea from the vending machine in office at 9:30 am. I learnt the all-important lesson to forsake my favourite cup of freshly brewed tea and much more in that one summer.

My office was an amazing place and the sole reason why I didn't lose my sanity in that hell hole of an acco. Every day, I used to wake up, get ready and immediately start off for office at 8:30 am, though my office hours did not start before 10 am. I spent exactly 15 minutes in commuting by Metro and used to spend the initial hours by checking mail and other personal stuff. My offical out-time was 7:30 pm but I tried to be as late as possible so that I could eat and go off to bed fast. Wow! what a daily routine!

Weekends were spent in going to a certain book seller at Connaught Place, who would sell me books at a cheap price and also return half of the consideration if I returned the book later. Thanks to him that I was never bored for a moment. Thriller, romance, philosophy, comedy - he provided me with a variety of books, which were the best companions I could ever ask for in my moments of solitude.

But my worst days in Delhi came in sucession in one particular week of my stay. One day, during lunch hour, I dropped my phone just outside my office, which plummetted some three storeys below, landed in the basement and broke into two. I went numb with shock, especially because it was my second phone and I never thought I would be able to recover it from where the pieces lay. When a helpful man got it for me, I found that the LCD screen has gone kaput. I forgot all about my lunch, rushed to Gole Market for servicing, the went again after office to collect it and, in the process, burnt a hole in my pocket.
In the same week, I lost my Titan Raga watch in the Delhi Metro, while commuting in the morning. It was a gift from my dad for last year's birthday. The loss was immense and something that I mourn even today.
If I thought that it was the end of my losing phase, I was sadly mistaken. On 14th April, which also happens to be the first day of the Bengali year, I returned to my hostel and found that two of my office wear - a formal shirt and a formal skirt have been stolen from inside my room through the open window. They were the best and the most expensive that I had. It also meant that I had less option for the rest one and half months of internship. Since then whenever I remember my loss, I always curse that thief in all possible language and manner. I hope she loses all her clothes, or at least the favourite ones, or something worse and more sinister than this. I wish!
After this incident, I tried to get a refund of the hostel charges for the rest of the month so that I could shift to a better place. But auntyji absolutely refused to part with a single paisa. Her motto is once money goes into her tijori it will never come out. The options were to stay on or move out with a humongous loss of money. I had to choose the first, despite having seen the conditions of that hostel. There was no security at night and any body was free to come in and go out. The eldest son of auntyji had been accused of raping a hostelite some 10 years ago and the case is still sub judice! Almost every one complained of the methods that auntyji employed to extract extra money from the girls. She lied, went back on her word, refused to reason and did everything possible under the sun to harass the hostelites. But still I stayed on, only to save the money that had already gone into waste.
By this time, my luggage has lightened considerably. With my watch and clothes gone, I have already lost goods worth five grand. I was hoping to finish off my stay in Delhi without any more losses or mishap. My loneliness had become unbearable by then. I was waiting ferevently to reach Bombay where my friends were interning. But little did I know that the worst was saved till the last moment.
I finished my internship on a Monday and was to leave the city on Saturday. On the last day, I was invited by one of my friends and went straight from my office to stay over at her place. The next day, I was to meet another friend of mine at Sarogini Nagar for shopping. At about 3 pm, I returned to my room and found that my room has been broken into and my suitcase and bag missing! Luckily most of my stuff were in the almirah, but the most important thing - my train ticket to Bombay was in my suitcase.
I still remember those moments of discovery of the theft, when I felt absolute helpless and desperate. The only person I could resort to was one of my dad's colleague, whose office was at nearby Karol Bagh. He arrived soon and had a talk with auntyji. She was difficult and refused to take any responsibility for such action. I threatened to go to the police, but she ignored me with the confidence of a person who's used to bribing the police for her son's case. However, uncle was allowed upstairs for a thorough check of the hostel, accompanied by the servant Chhotu.
May be it was God's grace or Uncle's ingenuity, that both the luggage could be recovered from under an old mattress in the adjoining roof top. My suspicion strongly pointed towards Chhotu, who sleeps in that roof every night, but unfortunately I had no conclusive proof. Uncle did not think it was safe for me to stay on in that place any more and requested me to shift to his place for the remaining 4 days of my stay.
My previous stay in Delhi last summer was simply amazing in contrast to what I faced this year. Almost everything starting from my acco, food, daily commuting, weekends, people etc went wrong this time. May be it was time for me to learn that all is not rosy away from home. May be nothing is easy if one has to survive alone in a ruthless city like Delhi, where people are waiting for any opportunity to harm you. I love my independence, but beyond a point, it does get lonely and frustrating. I always knew what I was getting into, but I never imagined that it would end up so wrong. I was immensely glad when it was time to head towards Bombay.

1 comment:

FlotsaM said...

wow..wat an amazing experience in the capital of India...
u certainly have contradicted the popular opinion : 'Delhi Dilwaalon ki hai'... :P