Dorm- a way of life
Women in our country lead very sheltered lives. From their parents' homes, straight to chez in-laws, there is usually very little room for them to grow and develop their individuality. Here's where living on campus can step in to make a difference.
“I found the true meaning of independence and became the person who I am today because of that part of my life that I spent in dorm” Says Parvin (name changed to protect privacy). We encountered this self-confident young woman a few days ago, and decided to have a little tete-a-tete to find out some more about the lifestyle she so fondly remembers.
The first thing that struck us was the fact that this situation is very character building. Without the cosseted existence at home, with family members and domestic hands to help out with every little chore, 'independence' is a hard lesson to learn indeed! Learning how to cook on your own, putting up with one's roommates' mood swings, those annoyingly long lines to use the toilet, needs a lot of getting used to. Especially in a girls' dorm these traits are a must have in order to survive.
“One of those simplest sources of entertainment for us is that big screen T.V in the hall room till late at night. We'd form groups while watching cricket matches and bring out rallies, screaming and cheering afterwards. At night, girls would take refuge in each other's rooms to gossip till the wee hours of dawn time for prayer” Parvin tells us.
Dorm dwellers normally lead a laid back life, but right before the final exams, the scene changes dramatically as the girls flock to the reading room and indulge in a back and forth motion with their books held in front of their eyes. “Its amazing how girls actually manage to face all the difficulties of the dorm yet come out with flying colors in the finals” Parvin marvels as she recounts how she had to cope with all the demands of the roommates; an early sleeper would want the lights off within 11 while the other one being nocturnal would be awake for hours at night and study. “We would use clothes to make a shade for the lamps so that it would focus on our table and not disturb the ones who are concentrating on dozing off. And little gestures like that meant a lot to us.” Roommates pretty much divide the everyday chores among themselves, starting from sweeping the room floor, cooking and so much more, to lessen the load.
“A very interesting fact about the dorm was the messenger culture. People coming to visit us would stand there with a placard with the name and the room number written on it, asking the passing residents to call her, and we would shout out the name and the room number standing in front of the respective dorm”
In a particular dorm, extracurricular activities like debates, cultural shows take a whole different colour as the residents roll their sleeves up to prepare for the occasion. The Nobin Boron, farewells, Pahela Boishakh, Puja and other special occasions are coloured with cultural shows featuring the students with their routines of dance numbers, dramas, and songs.
“Dorm life has its downsides. A common toilet causes a lot of sufferings. After a long day at Uni, we come back to find a huge line awaiting us in front of the toilet. And then there is the “Balti (Bucket) Culture”; even if one is not present in the line, her bucket is, and this line extends for God knows how long. There has always been shortage of space as a room allotted for 3 people has more than 6 people living in it. And the authorities hardly even pay any heed to such a problem” Parvin points out few of the many hardships they have to face.
Even with all the hardships like unavailability of doctors, poor building maintenance, the dorm dwellers somehow manage to live with an optimistic view or simply see the humorous side. “It's after 10.00 pm when we truly get to see a very interesting and funny scene. The girls who sit in front of the hall with their special someone after those 'never enough' moments together have to come back before the gates close, suddenly realize the obvious; and as they part (for a whole 9 hours!) they hug and bid goodbye in histrionics similar to those corny Hindi movie scenes, and upon entering their rooms they would pick up the phone and call to coo and whine and ask if they have reached safely, had dinner or just listen to their voice.”
So this is life for Dhaka dorm dwellers, a story told by Parvin from Rokeya Hall. Their life away from home. Be it good or bad, they have learnt to live like a family, and some are still in the learning process. Those long hours of adda, the free counseling; learning to live with the oddities of life; incorporating tolerance; these dorm dwellers live in a different world where there is space for everyone.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007