As a child, I hated waking up early in the morning. It was lucky that my school was just a two minute distance from my home. That meant I could even wake up as late as 7:30am, brush my teeth, have a shower, eat my breakfast, pack my school bag, and yet be able to make it on time for the morning eight o'clock assembly. This was a boon during exam days. Being a last-minute person, I would be cramming up until the second I left the house. Higher secondary was not much different. Tutions and extra classes too were within a close radar, all of which made me quite used to this convenient and comfortable routine.
So when I had to travel a 65 mins journey from home to Medical school every single day, it was quite a brutal reality shock. For the first few days, I thought it was great fun. Spending a minimum two hours a day in commuting to Goa Medical College was quite a thrill. I would happily traverse the distance chatting non stop with a few colleagues. All this lasted until I experienced my first bout of motion sickness. I recall stopping to puke on the way. I had reached college looking like something the cat dragged in. From that day onwards, the 65 minutes to GMC would be spent with eyes closed, imagining all my favorite things, out of fear that I might puke if I stopped.
As the days went by, this phobia made me miserable. The 'last minute' studying habit had followed me to Medical school. But the motion sickness (or rather the fear of it) did not allow me to read while traveling. I was too afraid to open my eyes. Mr Vertigo could strike anytime. As the increasing syllabus and impending vivas threatened to cause a nervous breakdown, I realized the seriousness of the situation.
Wasting so much time in traveling could turn things ugly (for me). Besides, I would be exhausted by the time I reached home. The continuous lectures at college plus the daily traveling had started taking a toll. My back hurt. My neck strained. My legs cramped. Studying under so much physical and mental fatigue had almost started becoming impossible, and this had started affecting my grades as well.
The ultimate eyeopener, however, was when I flunked in Anatomy viva. That was when I decided I'd had enough. As I stood nervously stuttering in front of my professor, hoping for some divine intervention to whisper the 'nerve supply to all muscles of the upper and lower limbs' that I had not read a word of my ear, I had not read a word of, I had an epiphany. If this went on, I would royally flunk my exams. The syllabus had suddenly started to seem like an endless ocean of knowledge. I had not even finished reading half of it. There was hardly any time.
Clearly, I was doing something wrong here. All the problems narrowed down to one major issue. It was the journey that was killing me. I had to cut down my commute time and put in more study time. That also meant I had to make sure I wouldn't fall asleep as soon as I hit the bed (like would happen those days). That was when I had another epiphany---I decided to shift to the hostel.
Our hostel warden was a stubborn old woman who liked to play 'God'. She enjoyed designating rooms to students as per her whims and fancy. The girls who would get assigned rooms were usually the ones who threw a pity party (sobbed and wailed about their problems to her) or the ones who kissed her ass, neither of which I was. Hence, I was rudely brushed off, and my name was included in a super long waiting list of other candidates who had applied for a room but had no hope of getting one. That was when one of my best friends came to the rescue.
Apparently Tina had a relative who could help us search for a small studio apartment within close distance of GMC. Tina informed me that another of my colleagues, Jaya, was caught in a similar situation (No, not the motion sickness...the weak grades) and pooling in the rent seemed like a good idea to all three of us. Exams were just around the corner, and I did not have much time to waste on deciding. I plunged at the offer. Thus started our search for an apartment.
The ordeal continued for the whole of the next week. Tina's uncle put in a lot of effort to search around. We met a few brokers and tried to explain to them what we exactly wanted. Some managed to confuse us, some we managed to confuse.
A lot of disappointments (that involved high rent, space issues etc) and embarrassments later, we finally found a reasonable deal. Thinking back, had an online platform like Housing existed back then, it would have made our home search so much easier. With an amazing clarity in careful planning and execution, 'Housing' is said to be the new face of real estate today.
However, life was different back then. After a tiring search with a few frustrating encounters, we finally decided to make do with what was available. Due to constraints on time and patience, we had to compromise on the quality. But we reminded ourselves of the hot scorching heat outside and that beggars couldn't be choosers. The flat was a 1BHK, our best bet in that hour of need. Without wasting much time, Jaya, Tina, and me moved in. At least, we could hope to clear our semesters now.
The next one week was spent in adjusting to the flat and each other's company. Neither of us had lived away from home before. Gradually, we started getting acquainted to one another. Study patterns, eating habits, sleep timings got discussed and adjusted with. The chaos was slowly coming under control. Life was falling in place. The convenient location made sure we got ample time to study and make up for lost time.
Thinking back, the apartment was in no way perfect. But it did set many things right. I topped in Anatomy that semester. Jaya and Tina got excellent grades too. We became best buddies, discussing everything from past crushes to future responsibilities. Since the place was within close distance, we could go and observe deliveries being conducted in the labour room and cases being managed in Trauma & Casualty unit (something which is normally done only in year 3). The senior residents were only too amused (and maybe a little impressed too) to teach a bunch of enthusiastic freshers how to suture gaping wounds and take histories. We even assisted in a couple of normal deliveries.
That year we learned a lot of things. We learned the importance of time management. The unavailability of hostel rooms taught us not to give up on seeing a closed door but to instead look around for open windows. The time we spent together made us realize that friends are the family we are allowed to choose, and that compromises, adjustments and communication are most essential in any relationship. We realized that intrigue and enthusiasm together with sincere determination and hard work are a must for one to keep learning.
It was only in the next year that our application for hostel rooms were accepted. We bid farewell to that apartment and shifted to the privacy of our single rooms. By then we were strong enough to handle the pressures of medicine on our own. We got busy studying.
Days changed into weeks, and weeks to years. Time just flew by. We graduated from medical college, got our respective post graduation degrees, and are in different places. However, even today, every once in a while, we get together...to gossip, group study, or just remember those wonderful days as house-mates in that rented apartment that changed us for the best, the one that started our new life!