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  • Writer's pictureTrisha Bhattacharya


Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Hiii, okay this interview is really an exciting one. Let me be honest, this was really not that planned of an interview like the ones before. A day before, while doing my daily workout, I had this random thought of interviewing my hostel warden. This thought may have been a part of my farewell thoughts as I was about to leave the hostel completing my degree within a few days. On further thought, I found it right to interview the warden as throughout the entire hostel life, I have witnessed girl students playing the protagonist and the wardens, their antagonists. Hence, it came natural to me to explore and understand what our "beloved" (or not) wardens think about their work, a work that involves constant arguments and bickering with students and definitely certain hearty moments (just like this one where I interview her) *winks*.

We, students, often ponder about where our wardens' arguments come/hail from and what makes our wardens do what they do- being so adamant about the hostel rules, cancelling our leaves for what joy and importantly not caring about certain mild misogynistic comments passed on the girl students, a lot of the times resulting in heated arguments and cries after. But is it that simple and just to judge them based on that? Well, some times the irritation of the students towards the wardens are justified, I can bet on that because I, too, was a hostelier. Let's dig deeper into the minds and hearts of one such warden, SS ma'am (name not revealed for privacy), who is a regular face in our block. Are the wardens really the demons we have made them to be, are they considerate, and most importantly, are their mindsets orthodox? You will find out.

P.S. typing this out definitely made me want to relive my hostel life, minus the bitter warden experiences of course hahaha!

Tell me a little about yourself.

I have been working as a college warden for 8 years here in Vellore. I am from Chennai and live in Katpadi, Vellore with my husband and two daughters- one working in Chennai and another in her final year of college in Vellore studying BA English Literature. I have BA in economics. I also have a diploma in teacher training. My husband was a ward counsellor which even I was, for 5 years for DMK party. Now we are not involved.

How did you grow up and get treated as a girl/woman at home? What was your upbringing like?

I would describe my husband as half open-minded and half male-chauvinist. He does believe that girls are inferior to boys, but he wouldn't interfere in my decisions but I can't independently take the whole decision, I have to discuss with him beforehand. My sisters have done love marriage, they are happy with their lives, I am also happy but I feel my husband is sometimes dominating because it is an arranged marriage and he is 10 years older to me.

Do you like your job? Does it align with your interests?

Earlier, I was living a luxurious life because my husband was in politics. We had servants for ourselves. Then, in one election, our party failed and we lost some lakhs of money so I decided that even I have to work to take care of the family and he was happy to support my decision. He is supportive that way. He brings me to the hostel and picks me up when my shift is over, daily. Sometimes he acts in a chauvinistic way, sometimes I, too, react but let it go later on. We have been married since 23 years now. I like working here now as a warden however.

What makes you the most happy about your job? Something that you maybe accomplish in a day?

To be able to interact with students. Some students consider me like their mother. Parents are also hopeful to leave their kids with us as we assure them we will take good care of their kids. The students are not only their children, we, wardens are also their second mother. Personally, when I address or advise them, I make sure to tell them that I don't want to act like a warden to them. If they want to take advice from me, they can either take it or leave it. I am happy and I like the student crowd, in general.

Whatever our mood is at home, we make sure it does not affect our warden duties and our interaction with students and staffs.

What are the few problems faced while dealing with students? How do you deal? Any learnings on the way?

See at our homes, if we have 5 children, all are not of the same character. So accordingly, we have to deal with each one of them. Some students are polite and soft, they will agree to what I say to them, some are rude, I try to understand them even when they are rude and where they come from (literally). For the rude ones, we have to make them understand our point of view better and with more effort for them to agree and accept. When they understand their mistakes, they apologise to us by themselves, even on the next day. They also tell us the reason they had been rude. My aim is to not lengthen the argument, I simply tell about what power I have and how much I can do with that power. I always direct the students to the higher authorities who might permit what they demand with which I don't have any problem. Everyone is from different backgrounds, different situations and problems. Culturally, the students can be different, food habits are different, celebrations are different, but I treat all the students in the same way. We have seen north-indians prefer to have a night life, it's not much like that in the south. So putting them inside hostel by 8:30 would automatically make them feel caged. I tell the same to the other wardens too.

My aim is to not lengthen the argument, I simply tell about what power I have and how much I can do with that power.

A lot of girls don’t like what wardens have to tell them about their clothing, what’s your view on that? Why do you think clothing in a particular way is important?

They can wear fashionable clothes but it shouldn't go against their safety. Wearing what you want to wear is your own choice but there are limitations, women are built differently. We get to hear so many bad things that keep happening, it is in most cases that the girl is at loss. Inside hostels, they can wear what they wish to, while going to classes, there must be a dress code.

Whatever fashion is there, it is cool with us. Now we can't say, "Put on a saree." But also see, compared to other dresses, sarees are very sexy. The dresses shouldn't expose oneself is what we believe. The mindset of people here are different and we have to dress accordingly for basic safety. We have seen many a times boys and girls not being in their best of behaviours around the college premises, we shut our eyes to that. As a warden, we feel bad. we don't say anything but it is also not our place to say anything if it's outside hostel premises.

Sarees are very sexy.

Do you think the rules laid down on the girls in the hostel are fair compared to what it is like in the boy's hostel?

Boys do have less limitations. Only one word- safety. Compared to our college, other Tamil Nadu colleges, are very strict. Anything can happen anytime. As a college, we put some rules to minimise wrong- doings. Beyond the rules, we are aware we can't control everything. After studying, students can do whatever they want to. While studying, it's the parent's money at stake. Every rule has loopholes. We test and trial.

Beyond the rules, we are aware we can't control everything.

How do you get treated in your workplace by the management?

We do our duty, the pay is fine, however, the management is friendly. For our mistakes, they warn and correct us. Academic and hostel operations are different in terms of rules and regulations.

Anything that you want to change about the rules/do differently? Which rule for you is the best?

Throughout the whole day, students go to different buildings all across campus for classes in the heat, something can be done with respect to that as it's a lot of trouble. Room shifting is also difficult as students need to change their rooms every year. Leave approvals are tough, we are also afraid to approve them. If anything goes wrong, they check who approved the leave and do so many enquiries. Students plan so much before leave approval and at the end we see their disappointment when they don't get their leaves. Parents allow but not the higher authorities and, we are stuck in the middle. That is a bit unfair too.

An important rule for girls to adhere to is the outing time limit for safety. Not everyone is educated in Vellore, people can take unfair advantage of pretty girls like you all.

Any changes you want to see in the society’s mentality and actions towards bringing equality?

Mindset change for boys is the most important, they have to see girls equally not as show dolls. Boys shouldn't play around with girls. Parents feel scared all the time about their girls. I hope, in the next generation to you all, everyone reaches the mindset of equality or stops their heinous actions towards girls.

What does freedom mean to you?

Sometimes I am afraid of my husband, it shouldn't be like that. If there is freedom at home, there will be freedom in the society too. In some houses, husbands are dominating, still ask for dowry- be it houses of any status. This shouldn't be the case. My sisters are not that close with their mother-in-laws, who if were friendly, families could have easily come together. Husbands should also treat their wives equally. For me, freedom is to be able to take your own decisions.

Freedom is to be able to take your own decisions.

What can be done to bring harmony and agreement between students and wardens? Will u be happy to implement such an initiative?

Some rights and power should be delegated to us, wardens by the management, registrar and the board. Communication is important. If we can't take decision at homes, at least we can do that here. That's when I feel arguments won't arise between students and wardens. We can then give our own advices and implement rules freely.

Any message to the girls (and boys) who will be reading this?

You can go follow any extreme modernity, but keep your limitations regarding your safety. As a mother figure, I would like to say, "Adapt to different cultures when you go to a different place than yours. We have experienced a lot of things, so we can say that do definitely enjoy but don't spoil your life and possible bright future with your bad choices. So many people go into stress because of all this. Be safe, be happy."

Thanks for an open conversation! I am happy to share about my personal life and hostel with you.

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