Life in Shifts

After my post graduation I came to Mumbai for job search and chose to stay at a working women’s hostel in Vaashi, a well planned New Mumbai suburbs. This was the first time I actually lived away from my family, even after coming to Mumbai i spent three weeks at my Uncle’s house waiting for the availability of hostel room. It was near my Uncle’s office and he knew the folks there. All the women there were working with the customer care of Reliance Industries.
I landed at the hostel around 11 in the morning after having good time with my adorable Aunt’s quiet but kind care. My Uncle came to see me off and after the necessary office work, I was shown my room which I shared with three other ladies. There were hardly any one in the hostel at that time, it was a working day after all. Few girls were sleeping after the night shifts they have worked for.
It was a different city, different place, different environment and different people. I was living in this metro city for three weeks now and was getting used to the life. The trains, the buses, the rush, the people and the unspoken, unwritten rules through which the system runs efficiently were already part of life as I attended to few interviews and exams but moving to hostel was altogether a new experience.
There was no such feeling as home, it was a place and I was unaware that it would need some efforts to make it a home that too if I would wish it to be one. I had a sinking feeling in that new place, I had no one to speak to at that moment. No one was there to smile at me and that made this feeling even worse. I tried to settle down, was not sure if I should open my luggage, take my stuff out and use the closets. I sat on the bed looking around, I was not even sure what to think. After sometime I took out my books, arranged them on top of a shelf and felt a little better. I took one of the books and tried to learn on a topic which I had failed in the previous interview but it was very difficult to focus.
I closed the book and decided to go for lunch, hoping to meet some people out there. I entered the mess and there was one lady sitting on a corner table. She never looked up from her plate and was eating as if nothing exist around her and she is the only one on this earth. Food was kept a table behind which an attendant sat lazily on a chair. I took the plate and approached the table, he saw me approaching without any expressions and I kept wondering how many sinking souls like me he see everyday to be so indifferent.
I served myself and while serving was contemplating whether I should join the only lady in the mess or should I sit by myself. I hadn’t still decided when I turned to sit and saw that the lady was already done and leaving the mess. I sat there, managed to eat somehow and returned back. There was still no signs of anyone in my room or near by rooms.
The rooms were connected through a common room, the walls small and doors big. It could have easily be a big dorm if for the few small walls. Around 4 in the evening, ladies started to return, few said hello, few just smiled. A big introvert myself I wasn’t making much efforts either to go out and seek any conversation. I spoke my first words in that place when my room mate Sarita came in with a big smile and started talking to me as if we had known each other for years, she vanished quickly to join others in TV room. She was a jolly person who became a good friend and we almost cried when I left the hostel after a month and half.

I was left alone again. I took out my books, I had an interview to attend after three days and this time I was able to focus a little as there was a bit relief that I am still surrounded by humans and not just by the walls.
Seema, my another room mate came soon after. A kind and mindful lady, she quickly understood my problem at that time and she tried her best to made me feel home. She sat there talking to me instead of going out, offered snacks which she had brought from her home town. Later I joined her for dinner.
I still had that sinking feeling when I met other ladies at dinner. I was introducing myself humbly not emphasizing much on my PG qualifications and slowly day by day I was getting used to the life there. Life which was running in shifts there, some starting up at 2 in the morning for a 4 o’clock shift and others sleeping through the day to start the shift at 10 in the night. Theirs were not high paying jobs, neither required high qualifications unlike me who though didn’t had job at that time but would eventually have it. But life was bursting always with all those laughter over the sometimes crappy customer calls.
As I started the process to make the place home, I get to know about Sridevi who was a divorcee and left her two kids with her parents at her home town. I get to know that Sridevi goes to the telephone booth every night to talk to her children despite having cell phone because the land line is cheaper.

Anitha wrote me a card one night to say that she admires me for my hard work I put in for my interviews and that made me write her a letter back because Anitha was working to save for her higher studies as she saw that as a burden for widowed mother.

Anitha loved to speak with cards and letters, I just reciprocated her love and there was Sarita who was the youngest in her family of seven children, whose father and two elder brothers were working hard for repaying the loans they have made for marrying two of her sisters and who does not want to marry at all for life women have in the dowry sicken society she belongs too. She ran away to Mumbai and living at her own.
A month went by and I was still jobless which made me little nervous but I was confident of my qualifications and abilities. I had worked at a small start up for a year in Indore and was looking for a better opportunity which I never felt as a problem especially living in that hostel.
Except the few days when I had to attend interviews, I used to be at hostel all the time, buried in my books even when others around me talking and laughing. I landed on a wrong planet, Seema used to comment. They never bothered me, in fact all of them inspired me all the more to turn my abilities and good fortune into something big. I was so unsure whether I should be happy or sad on the day I got this job with a MNC with a salary which was four times theirs, it was time for me to leave the place. I had a month before my joining and I was going back to my home. My company had offered me initial accommodation, a nice flat in another suburb and I knew I would not return.
They all celebrated and cheered for me with so much affection that after so many years I still feel warm when I remember that day.
Sridevi, Anitha and Sarita were close to me and I knew them well but everyone there had a reason for the choice of job they had made and despite that life, despite the changing shifts, despite the low salaries, despite the cut throat competition for meager salary raises, there were smiles, there were laughter and there were hopes and thus all was well with the world.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “No Cliffhangers.”


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