Hunger Pangs at Night

It was nearing midnight when Chhaya Chordia completed her round of the hostels. She was the Director (Hostels) and resided on the campus of Amity University, Noida. Random visits were her way of feeling the pulse of the hostels. They gave her insights into the problems of the students. Sometimes she would come across pranksters or stumble upon cases of indiscipline. Then there were cases, which belonged to the grey zone––one would wonder whether or not to treat them as flouting of norms. In over a dozen years in the business, she had developed a knack of resolving the issues of the young adults.

Today was a day when she would use that knack.

The wardens and the assistant wardens had submitted their ‘All Correct’ reports. There was silence in the corridors. Most students had gone to sleep; some were studying and some others were netsurfing. Occasionally, a student would step out to fill a bottle of drinking water. Peace prevailed.

Chhaya stepped out of the hostel to return to her residence when she saw someone walking towards the hostel. He had a carry-bag in his hand. She hailed him.

“Who are you?”

“Ma’am, I am Amit Sharma (name changed). I am…”

“You are II Year B Tech Biotech student,” Chhaya cut him short. “You are supposed to be in your room. What are you doing here on the road at this unearthly hour?

“Ma’am, I fell asleep in the evening and couldn’t eat my dinner in the cafeteria. So I ordered food from the dhaba across the road. I have just collected the stuff from gate number 4A.”

“Didn’t the guard on duty stop you?”

“He wasn’t there. He had gone to the loo when I collected the food packet.”

“You are a II Year student. You are fully aware that outside food is not allowed on the campus. Why then did you order food from the dhaba? Don’t you know that consuming food obtained from these roadside vendors can lead to food poisoning?”

“I’m sorry Ma’am. I was very hungry and every outlet in the food-court was closed. I promise, it will not repeat”

“There is no reason that I can allow you to consume this food. Please throw it into that garbage bin. And don’t repeat it.”

Amit complied grudgingly.

“Which is your room?”

“Room number 2 LGF in Hostel-6.”

“Now go back to your room and see me in my office at 11:00 am tomorrow.”

“Good night, Ma’am.”

Amit walked back towards the hostel gate as Chhaya headed for her residence. On her way she called the attendant on duty. “Malati, come to my residence right away.”

Back at her residence, Chhaya took out some food from the refrigerator and heated it. IMG_4039She baked some chapatis. Then laying out the food on a tray, she told the attendant, “Malati, take this to room number 2 LGF of Boys’ Hostel-6. Amit Sharma is the name of the student.

At 11:00 am in the Hostel Office.

Amit walked in and touched Chhaya’s, “Last night I had returned to my room much annoyed with you. I’m so sorry. We have always seen you as a strict disciplinarian. Never knew about this trait of yours.” A tear rolled down his cheek as he added, “You are a godmother.”

The Little Coin-Collector

I just phoned a friend. I fall back on Banjo for solutions to many problems. Today it was to know the right word for ‘one who collects old coins’. His prompt answer was ‘numismatist’. Now, that word is a little difficult for me to spell and more so to pronounce. And, I guess not many people are familiar with it, at least in India. So for this post I’ll stick to a simpler expression: ‘coin-collector.

IMG_4035I had just been introduced to this new hobby. I had started with a few coins, which my grandfather had given me. I had not seen them in common use. Some were shapeless and not as shiny as the coins I was used to seeing. I washed them with soap and water but there was no improvement in the looks. I tried other cleaning materials to no avail.

“How do I shine my coins?” Now, this was a worry wearying me out. I was five then.

Where there is a will there is a way. In a different context, unrelated to my problem, I heard someone say, “Petrol is a good cleaner. I use it to clean my cycle chain.”

“Coins! Petrol! Cleaner! Eureka!” I had stumbled upon a solution to the nagging problem that had taken away my sleep. “I will clean my coins to a sparkle and surprise everyone,” I was determined.

“I would need a very small quantity of petrol to clean my coins. Where do I get it from?” The solution to the subsidiary problem came instantly. We had a moped.

“I’ll draw some petrol from our moped. How do I do that?”

Where there is a will there is a way. I took a piece of sponge fastened it to a metal wire and lowered it into the petrol tank, dipped it in petrol and pulled the wire. It wasn’t easy.

The piece of sponge got detached and fell into the tank. My efforts to take it out failed. The problem was that the inside of the tank was dark and I could not see the piece of sponge. “How do I see it to be able to fish it out?”

Where there is a will there is a way. I’ll light a match and illuminate the inside of the tank; locate the piece of sponge and fish it out. Simple!”

I ran inside our house and fetched a matchbox. I took out a matchstick and struck to ignite. I failed to light it. It was destined that way. Before I could strike the match a second time, I saw my eldest brother approaching.

A word about my eldest brother: Born on December the 25th he has been a guardian angel to us, the younger siblings––warding off our troubles.

I staggered when I saw him approaching. Not that I was afraid of him; I loved and adored him. Just that I did not want to seek his help in this endeavour. I wanted to go it alone and surprise everyone.

I shelved the project for sometime.

In due course, I had other pressing issues to deal with––my homework, a game of football with my friends in the neighbourhood…. Coins, sponge and petrol were forgotten. A big tragedy was averted.

Not really! When it strikes again the second time, my guardian angel would not be around to steer the path for me. I leave that story for another day.

Anything can ignite a child’s mind.