Those days, back in 1987, I was undergoing a training in Taj Coromandel, Chennai. I got an afternoon off. Ask any trainee from those days and they will tell you how difficult it was to get even one afternoon away from the clutches of the hotel.
Someone would question why and that was that. The fear of no getting through the campus interview just because of one negative feedback was so high and Taj being one among the three potential employers that you coveted in the entire hotel industry that you quietly went back to work and never asked for a few hours off ever again.
But somehow, I got it.
I went across to the nearest bus stand in Nungabakkam and waited in the sun. I had to be able to take a bus to St. Thomas Mount or to a nearby destination. Some minutes later, I was on my way.
They dropped me off near the college that I had wanted to go to. Let's say XYZ college of Engineering. I asked my way to a particular hostel that I knew from the letter that I had.
I remember the hostel exactly. Overgrown weeds in the garden. Me stepping over hypodermic needles. Smelly surroundings. Bunk beds. Rolled up beds. One scruffy looking red eyed guy motioning me ahead when I told the name of the student.
I didn't find my friend there. They told me he'd gone off somewhere, where no one really knew. And they laughed hysterically at me. The group of four.
That day I knew that my friend was prey for these seniors. And this college would scar him for life.
And so it happened.
I never saw this friend again in life. I know he's there in a town somewhere in India. But he doesn't meet people. Old friends, not at all.
And you thought men have it easy?