Serving… A plateful of fun and hostel memories

There’s something about forbidden fruit that tempts you to bite in. You know you shouldn’t. You know it’s wrong. But there’s something about it that sucks you in.

As Ms Goody Two Shoes all my student life, I was always against mischief. My friends would scratch the wooden desk at school out of mischief, switch on lights during the day and feel ecstatic at their minor accomplishments of vandalism. I’d just look at them askance with disapproval. How could they! I’d never do such a thing.

Only, I did. In college. Thanks to an adventurous friend whose affinity for misadventures overcame my reservations and got me into doing what I once thought was undoable for me. Well, I indulged in roguery and I’m glad I did!

It was a dark and stormy night. Stormy because of me and my partners-in-crime. First year of college life in Bangalore, living in a big hostel with students from across the world. Life was good and was about to become great. One day, one hour before midnight, my roommate approached us with an earth-shattering idea.

Crafty and resourceful, she had snuck in 20-30 steel trays from the canteen. She proposed smashing those trays on the ground from our second floor balcony. Pierce the silence of the night, let the clink-clank of steel and stone announce our free-spirited selves, let’s add some excitement to the rule-bound life of fellow hostellers.

She gave a rousing, motivational speech, exhorting us, goading us. “If not now, then when!” she asked. She was quite persuasive, her excitement contagious and arguments reasonable. It appealed to the rebel streak of a youngster in me and got the better of my conditioning. Indeed, if not now, then when!

Lights were off, good girls were in their room. Great ones were out, hiding like a ninja, armed with their weapon of mass distraction. Destiny beckoned. This was their moment to seize it. And seize they did.

In a moment of bravery, accompanied by the invariable nervous excitement that strikes one during such high-pressure missions, the girls dropped the plate. Gravity did the rest. Pin-drop silence of the vast hostel campus was interrupted by the clang-bang sound of the plates, hitting the concrete in quick succession as if a chain gun has fired them.

Our surgical strike was a success. Stealthily, we ran back to our room. Within moments, all the lights in the hostel were on. In a tightly regulated hostel, this was an audacious feat, an applaudable achievement. A wave of excitement ran through the hostel. We had made a statement and it was loud and clear.

All the girls from our floor were immediately summoned to the warden’s cabin. Our warden thundered: “If you girls don’t tell me who did this, I will find out by morning and send you to the principal. Letters will be sent to your home. You will be suspended. So better tell me before that!”

Her threats notwithstanding, the pact of secrecy between us partners in crime about the whodunnit remained strong. We came back to our room, feeling extremely proud and satisfied, our aura oozing excitement. We enjoyed it so much that we just couldn’t stop laughing, a bit too smug at our little big accomplishment.

The next morning, the warden summoned all the girls again. She declared she had found out who the culprits were. Ah! That was it, we thought, that we’ve been made.

But we hadn’t been. We, the dark knights, had left no clue and she was merely groping in the dark. With the confidence of ACP Pradyuman and the aggression of inspector Daya, she went hammer and tongs at a group of notorious girls. Talk about the burden of reputation! She thundered, was sure they were the ones.

We stood in the background with other girls, wearing our best innocent, concerned expression, relieved that our secret was intact. The joy of our achievement multiplied at escaping unscathed. Joy multiplies when you get to indulge in tomfoolery without paying the price.

While my self-congratulatory mind was engaged in this confabulation, the warden’s interrogation was going on incessantly, she perhaps hoping the girls would crack and confess anytime. She threatened to even send a letters to their parents, condemning their unruly behaviour. By this time, I had started feeling guilty. I didn’t want anyone else to suffer for our deeds.

Even so, promises are promises. The perpetrator-in-chief of Mission Steel Tray had infused us with a steely resolve that we’d keep mum and take this secret to our graves. My roomie seemed to be an expert in this. Matter of factly, she’d reassure us. She’d say: “You just see, nothing will happen. In a few days, the warden will forget this. But let us enjoy this now.”

Although more than a decade has passed since that eventful night, I remember it vividly. It’s an episode that’s etched into my memory. Whosoever said you miss out on all the fun if you follow all the rules was spot-on. Live a little, make some memories, smash some plates, make some noise, bask in the glory, be the unsung hero, soak in the adulation. After all, who reminisces the nights they slept on time like a good girl!

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