Living in a men’s hostel can be very edgy and itchy at times. The place can be interesting if you have the ability to thrive around crowds and when you have lots of friends to hang out with. I am a little short in both the above mentioned qualities. I love loneliness and silence to read, write and watch movies.
Hostels can be a great place to come across different kind of people from different situations and backgrounds. I love talking to people while at the same time I draw a secret pleasure by analyzing them and picturise their life, situations and fantasies.
I was back to hostel after a very long day at the bank. I decided to seek for solace at the feet of ‘idiot box’ in the common room. There was only this guy in the common room. I had found him as a very striking personality who always ran through the newspapers in the mornings and news channels in the evenings. The young people in the hostels rarely have such a routine. He struck a conversation with me by commenting on the large, old fashioned, thick glasses I wore.
The conversation turned to my hometown, our friends and the jobs. I was impressed by the language he used and the way he spoke. He gave off the impression of giving a speech. He used the best words from literature- both English and Malayalam. He looked very young and at the same time very learned.
Slowly he turned the conversation to religion. I realized I had ended up in a trap. He belonged to a version of Protestant Christian who lived with a terrible superiority complex and other Christians have to be lead shown the ‘right’ path through arguments. The last thing I would want to get into on a tired night was argument.
I made sure that I didn’t argue back. Although he seemed to be so sure of himself, he sounded so illogical. But I was fascinated by the way he spoke and the passion he generated. My tactic of staying silent worked. He did stop his religious discourse and told me his story.
Jobi is just a high school graduate. He was just an average student, but was confident of getting through to college. Sadly he couldn’t make it. He couldn’t stand the ridicule of people around and decided to learn some useful trade and went off to Chennai. He apprenticed himself to a Tamil to study welding. Life turned hell for him. He was made to do all the menial works from cleaning the shop to fetching water. His working hours started from 6 in the morning to ten at night. At nights his quarters doubled up as drinking haven for his boss. Working without protection in front of radiation made his eyes water when he tried to doze off. He sat up at nights dazed on seeing himself rot away.
I sat listening to his story, feeling sorry for myself. How I used to sulk at a job where I do not have to do anything menial and left me a good pay packet at the end of month.
After some three months, he learnt of a christian elocution competition happening back home. The prize money was huge and the competition seemed very stiff. He had to fight it off with theological students who spent best part off their life practicing the art to earn a living. He was very unsure of himself. But then a good politician-friend helped him polish off the rough edges. The other tough part was the huge distance he would have to travel for the right rounds.
The judges were mighty pleased with his raw ideas in the first round. He started climbing up the levels when he managed to get a place to stay which made his preparation easier.
As the fairytale goes, he won the competition and managed to get a job as the manager of book stores run by the management. He told me how he was surrounded by load of books with none to disturb him. He still goes off to preach gospel- but for wages.