10 years living out of a suitcase

living out of a suitcase

Two suitcases actually. And no, I wasn’t traveling extensively or living an Instagram worthy life. I started as a student, turned into a software engineer, working in different cities, trying to find my place in the world.

Like most students, I left home at the age of 18 and moved into a college hostel to complete my Engineering degree. And with that began a decade-long journey of hopping from hostels to paying-guest(PG) accommodations and learning to live out of a suitcase.

The hostel life

Although exciting, the four years in the college hostel had its own challenges. I shared a medium sized room with three other girls and a bathroom with 15. You can imagine the mayhem on days when everyone had classes early in the morning. There weren’t any 24 hrs running water facility, so often I would fill a 20 ltr plastic bucket at Matron Madam’s home and carry it all the way, through the garden, to the bathroom on the first floor. Hah! now you know the secret behind my super-duper upper body strength.

I had extremely long hair back then, which required ninja-level water management techniques on days when I had to wash them. Sometimes, I would just go to the Matron’s garden and wash my hair right under the tap. Taking cold showers in winters made me spit incomprehensible words, and the one time I decided to have breakfast in the hostel kitchen, a baby roach was found floating in my glass of tea.

Living in a hostel under the strict eyes of seniors and superintendent teaches you a whole bunch of lessons that no other place can. The rush in the evenings to reach hostel before curfew time, respecting each other’s privacy and space, following a dress code and joys of winning group competitions against the other 8 boys’ hostel. In my final year, I became the hostel monitor and from what I have heard – my juniors used to call me Hitler. Now that’s a story for another time.

Chennai

I got placed in an MNC in my third year. A year later, along with three of my friends, I moved to Chennai. We found a nice place near our office through an agent and decided to stay in one of the rooms of a 2BHK house, but the agent wanted to put two more girls in so that he could earn a total of Rs 10,000. The room already felt crammed with three, adding two more would be suffocating. I know a lot of girls living in hostels can relate to this. In the end, we decided to pay him extra. For two years, all I had was a bed, a cupboard with two shelves, and two suitcases (and a few bags full of shoes). I never fully unpacked my luggage as there was barely enough space to put my toiletries and other daily items.

Those years were quite exciting too as I learned to not soak whites with colored tees, that you don’t need two cups of water to cook a handful of rice and peeling a potato with a knife was probably the most difficult task in the world. For many weeks, I ate runny overcooked rice and all my vegetable curries tasted alike.

Homeless in Chennai

Life was pretty basic until one day we woke up to no electricity and water. And a visit from the agent’s birdbrain secretary, asking us to immediately vacate the house as the agent lost a court case against the actual owner of the house. 6 girls gobsmacked. 6 girls homeless in a minute. I called up S (my husband, then boyfriend) and a few other friends to help us with the move.

There we were, in the middle of a mess, packing and cursing. Soap went into the Rice box, Dettol along with tissues. Mirror between towels and lentils inside the blanket. Yup, our emergency packing skills were pretty abysmal.

S had recently moved into a 1 bedroom house, so we decided to dump some of our belongings there and then decide the next course of action. One of my friends luckily got a place in another hostel, while the two of us crashed at S’s place. That night, I laid down the mattress on the floor, slept next to our fishbowl and dreamt of all possible ways to exterminate the agent and his secretary. [Read – Chronicles of Homeless Princess ]

For two weeks I stayed late at the office and then crashed at S’s place for the night. After that, I found a place in a PG accommodation in Velachery. Fortunately, both of my roommates had moved to the same place but different rooms. My new room was not only expensive but was also barely as big as a king size bed, which I was sharing with a senior from my college. But at least they provided food as cooking wasn’t allowed inside the house.

I had a short stint in Kolkata too, which was probably the most comfortable of all the stays as I was living in a company provided serviced apartment.

Bangalore

I moved to Bangalore around a year after staying in Velachery. The new PG was in a location where the dogs would wake you in the middle of the night by their constant howling. I shared a room with a sweet young girl who was a light sleeper, so every morning I would tiptoe into the bathroom and get ready in the dark in case I woke her up. Try applying an eyeliner in the dim light of the early morning sun, quite a challenge I tell you. It is only a  miracle that I didn’t end up looking like a raccoon. I had only one suitcase in the hostel while the rest of the stuff was at S’s apartment so I had to juggle between the two places.

We had also initiated our application for an Australian PR visa. By the time we were married, our application was already in process, which meant we never really got to decorate a home. In fact, we were more worried about selling the car and the kitchen appliances that S had already bought. 6 months later, we sold/moved everything to his hometown, packed our life into two neat 40 kg suitcases and flew to Sydney.

Sydney

We landed in Sydney on a cold winter night and stayed in a shared accommodation for a few months, till things settled down. Remember my post on the mysterious fog in the house. A couple of years later we moved into our own home and that was the first time in more than a decade did I live in a house with a living room or even had something called a “guest bedroom”. The first time I had a closet or the TV all to myself. I know, simple joys of life that I didn’t even know I was missing.

I thought this was it, but as the fate may be, I am excited to tell you that we are soon going to move into our new home and I am incredibly grateful for it.

 Looks pretty cool huh! (from the real estate site)

When I was 18, I could barely muster enough courage to travel alone on a bus. Today, it feels like a different era. The whole journey has been extremely rewarding. From learning to drink Vodka with Soda, to realize that I can be extremely embarrassing after a glass of wine. From living with a housemate who scratched her roomie in a cat-fight to my roommate who tried boiling eggs in a pressure cooker without any water (it didn’t turn out well). I still have that suitcase with me, on which my Dad had painted my name before I flew for the first time to Chennai.

Unfortunately, even after living out of two suitcases for so long, my packing skills are deplorable.

20 thoughts on “10 years living out of a suitcase

  1. What an exciting and adventurous journey you have had. While the travel during all these years might not be insta worthy, but the experience and memories are truly priceless. Loved reading about your stays in so many places and your current pad is absolutely gorgeous.

  2. I have never stayed in a hostel – we don’t really have any in america. I don’t think I would do well in them – I am an extremley light sleeper. In college Freshman and sophmore year I had 1 roomate in the dorm, and even though we were friends I hated sharing a room. Junior and Senior year we moved into better dorms and we had 5 bedrooms (only big enough for a twin bed, a dresser and a desk). and then shared a living room, kitchen and 2 bathrooms. In between each semester I Kept most of my stuff in a storage unit so I didnt have to keep bringing stuff back and forth. For summers I would go back to my parents house – about a 6 hour drive away.

  3. You’ve gone through a lot of adventures and now you are on an adventure of a lifetime. Living in a foreign land. I’ve been to Australia as a visitor and I loved Sydney in the Winter.

  4. That’s some interesting life, Rajlakshmi that you have lived. Mine is a very boring one, compared to yours. New places also mean traveling, seeing new things and meeting new people that opens up your mind. I have only lived in Ahmedabad and then a brief soujourn in Paris and now in Mumbai for last 12 years. I would like to move more often and live out of a suitcase. 🙂

  5. What an exciting journey you’ve had! Seeing places (not necessarily Insta-worthy trips) is such a life-changing experience. Loved reading this post. 😊

    Ps: my packing skills are quite questionable too. 🙈

  6. Enjoyed reading the post. Its impressive how you managed well in those challenges. Since I have never lived in hostels, I can just imagine how your journey would have been. Absolutely loved your new place, it looks like a paradise. Many congratulations for it! 🙂

  7. Absolutely loved this girl…..I can relate to it and I also have that suitcase with alphabet stickers on it which I had carried to hostel during my PG and then on, it has been a companion. Congratulations for your new home🤗

  8. I simply love reading your posts that have such an awesome dash of humour sprinkled throughout!
    You sure are super-experienced where travel and living out of a suitcase is concerned…And, what an enriching experience it must have been!

  9. I hav enever had the pleasure of hostel life as I was a sickly child and my mom was too scared to send me off. But I had my share of PG s and the nightmare that emanates from there when I moved to Delhi to work. Life became easier when I got a place of my own and yes, the feeling of finally able to put clothes on a hanger and hand in a cupboard is priceless. I lived out of a suitcase for 5-6 years and it was bloody tough to do that!

    Love reading your zany posts Raj!

  10. Thankfully I never lived in a hostel. I stayed in a tiny PG dieting my MBA and such fun it was. Even when we were in the US, we moved 3 homes. This was such fun to read and so nostalgic too. Congratulations on your new home.

  11. love you posts. Especially this one. One of your best. It’s like you took us through your whole experience to making it on your own through two minutes!

  12. Loved your write up. I have stayed in a hostel all my life. Reading your post reminded me of the time I spent in school and college and later work and yes after marriage… Since for many years I also didn’t decorate my house.

  13. Hostel life has its pleasures and pains. The worst bit is sharing the loo. I remember waking up early to avoid the early morning struggle. In Mumbai our hostel room had no plug points at all so when I got married and had my own home I remember running around the house counting the plug points and feeling very smug and happy.

  14. Rajiakshmi, thanks for an entertaining post. Wow, what a life you lived. I spent my first fifteen years after leaving home hopping from one house to another, but at least I got to unpack (for some months) before moving on! Thankful Thursday Week 42

  15. That is some tale! The hostel life though exciting, is pretty challenging! Best way to learn life lessons! I hate living out of suitcases, even on short holidays I unpack my stuff into hotel wardrobes. I can’t imagine how you managed to do this for so long! Loved reading about your exploits through the years with your faithful sidekicks.the suitcases!

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