When we were young everything happened in moderation. The weather was bearable. The stress was almost non existent. The water problems were there and people still managed to cook and bathe. The school tests were not so tough. Passing an exam was achievable.Gradually things started shifting. Bade halke se (very gently). For me, the first was getting into a college hostel. My parents wanted to send me to Bombay to study. One Aunt who was a local, married to a Bombay man had recommended for me to study in Mumbai. My parents were completely enrolled by the idea. They had no fears for their child's well being in a new city. When my results came, they knew I would get into any of the good colleges. The thing was getting a hostel seat. We had chosen Sophia College as that was recommended by the Aunt. Mom had asked her sister living in Mumbai to go and check out the place. Then we had asked a relative who was a Chemistry professor in a college to go for the hostel interview as I was in Dhanbad. We had no clue that my presence was a must for the hostel interview. The Aunt could not reach the college at the appointed day and time. I was not given a seat.
By this time, whole of Jharia and Dhanbad knew that I will be going to Bombay to study. An unheard of phenomena in those days. Gujarati girls did not go out to study. But not getting a hostel seat was scary. It was like where will I stay and what will I do in Bombay. We had ruled out my staying at relatives'. I did not know what to answer when people asked me about my admission. Then we stayed in Bombay for a month at relative's house on Carmichael road. We went to the college Principal every single day begging for a seat. Now that was stress! We requested the college office, waited outside her cabin for hours, waylaid her on her way to lectures. Finally she bequeathed an appointment. More appointments followed. My Grand Uncle found his walking friend s wife was the vice Principal. He took us to her house one night and we pleaded for a hostel seat. Mean while, another Uncle had got me a seat at Government hostel through political pull. Remember going to meet the member of Parliament.He issued a letter which we handed over to Mantralay and later secured a seat. Mom and me had no clue how to kill time. First half of the day was spent running after hostel admission. We did not know any roads in Bombay. Mom had never been a shopper up till now.So post lunch at the relatives' house, we waited for the evening. The men of the house came home and all went for a brisk walk. We did not have walking shoes or comfortable footwear or clothes for walks. Then dinner and talks. Mom did not speak English those days and I could barely converse in English. Bihar does this magic to you. You study English your whole school life but cannot have a conversation in English. The relatives were very kind.
Then I got my college hostel seat. All heaved a sigh of relief. Dad booked his return tickets for the same day. He and Mom left for Dhanbad the day I joined hostel. Amidst tears I bid them goodbye. As I walked back to my hostel, more stress started. I was unfamiliar with this word at that time. Apprehension, anxiety, sorrow, missing the loved ones, anger at leaving home being my decision and more emotions came to play. Stress was a new word I was going to learn.