This is Bhagwandas, Bau Sahib. Bhagwandas Hostel. When the curse of time and the force of English shortened Banaras Hindu University to BHU, then Bhagwandas Hostel, too, became BD Hostel. Time may have shortened its name, but it wasn’t able to bring down its fame. Two hundred and forty BD Jeevis live in its 120 rooms even today.

What? What does this BD Jeevi mean?

That is why I say, Bau Sahib, that you should keep your eyes open. You see that banyan tree in front of the hostel? Read the graffiti there. It says: Kripya buddhi jeevi kehkar apmaan na kare. Yahan BD Jeevi rehte hain. Please do not insult us by calling us intellectuals. BD Jeevis live here.

Now you’re probably wondering what a BD Jeevi is. Go to room number 73 and ask who Bhagwan Das was. Someone will reply, ‘Ghanta!’ This is Jaivardhan Ji. Lecture, ghanta. Lecturer, ghanta. Bhagwan, ghanta. Bhagwandas, ghanta. Even though everything is as nonsensical to him as his metaphorical ghanta, he manages to score well enough to get under the skin of both professors and nerds.

Those who say the earth is balanced on Shiva’s trident are wrong. It is actually balanced on Jaivardhan’s ghanta, and he himself is balanced on his favourite idiom.

He can start and end every discussion with a single idiom.

If you move further ahead, you will see the smoke from room 79. Arre bhai, don’t worry! There is no fire. The only foreigner in Bhagwandas, Anurag De, must be smoking. He is a “foreigner” because his ancestors were Bangladeshi, but the last two generations have been professionals in Mughalsarai. Come on! Professional means professional lawyers, Bau Sahib! Don’t go down the wrong lane. Anyway, also keep in mind that because he is a Bengali, he is “Dada” to all of Bhagwandas. Even “Dada Bhaiya” to a few juniors. He speaks in cricket metaphors; he is the – what is the word – he is the encyclopaedia of cricket.

If this professor taught as smoothly as Sachin, then it would be worth it.

Arre! Is this idiot giving a lecture or is it Garner delivering a bouncer? Going right over my head!

Did you see that girl? She could have hit a perfect glance, I tell you!

He could have delivered a lecture on the difference between pinch-hitting and hard-hitting. He is, in fact, the one to have conferred Mark Greatbatch’s title ‘Father of Pinch-Hitting’ on him.

Dada is the only one in the country who understands the Da Vinci Code to unravel the Duckworth Lewis method.

It was the semi-final of the 1987 World Cup. Sunil Gavaskar had been bowled out by Phillip DeFreitas in his second over itself, and six-year-old Anurag De began to holler, ‘Fix hai! Fix hai!’ His father thought he was saying, ‘Six hai! Six hai!’ If only his father had understood him that day! The man’s carelessness is the reason why a crime like match-fixing has become so widespread.

Okay, okay, you’re not interested in cricket. But you are interested in the girls’ hostel, right? Then, in room number 79 itself, meet Dada’s roommate Suraj. Even his father’s name doesn’t indicate that he’s Brahmin. I don’t know about other places, but Bhagwandas at least has no dearth of informants. Details of seven generations of his family were immediately dug out and he became the Baba of the college.

Suraj to the faculty, Baba to friends. Baba is particularly interested in women. He has every update on the BHU girls’ hostel.

And he knocks on every open window. He does not give up when he receives retorts from one window; he merely resumes his search for another lead with even more zeal. He tries the hardest to appear and act like a gentleman. Oh and yes! He does the one task that demands the most courage – he writes poetry!

What, Bau Sahib? You think academics at Bhagwandas is just tomfoolery? No, let me complete what I am saying.

How do you want to study? If you want to become a collector overnight, look for Dubeyji. Rampratap
Narayan Dubey. His name is long and so are his sources. Every semester, he spreads a rumour that the papers have definitely been leaked, and after every exam, he throws expletives at his ‘reliable source’. Room number 85.

Yes, so if you want to be a collector, find Dubeyji. It won’t be too expensive; just buy him some tea to stay up all night, and if you want, some bread-pakora from Dilip’s shop. Dubeyji will give you such a tablet that all you have to do is vomit it out on your answer sheet. You’ll pass, guaranteed.

Tablet! What kind of tablet?

Arre, it’s his patent. They say if everyone buys the pill from him, our country’s education problems would be solved! It’s called Formula One – the formula of one, which means you read one chapter and write about it in all five questions. Here’s the logic: They can ask any kind of question, but a student can write only what he’s read. So Dubeyji prepares one answer and attempts all five questions
in the exam.

Ohho! You don’t just want to pass, you want actual knowledge as well? Oh, you should have told me that before! I told you a whole story for nothing!

Go join Rajiv Pande’s class. It is taught in room number 86. He’ll teach so well, even professors will suck up to you. After he had exhausted all his UPSC attempts, Pandeji attained enlightenment and came here to study law. He reads voraciously and writes as much as he reads. Often, he can’t complete his papers because he doesn’t know when to stop writing. So never ask him his score, under
any circumstances! He’ll lose his head. But our revered scholar can’t write his exam if he doesn’t get his khaini, his tobacco, in time!

And since you’ve asked, I’ll tell you what BD Jeevis think of academics.

Dada: Kenya-Holland match (waste of time).

Rajiv Pande: A representation or rendering of any object or scene intended, not for exhibition as an original work of art, but for the information, instruction or assistance of the maker; as a study of heads or hands for a figure picture. My god!

Jaivardhan: Ghanta!

Baba: ABCDEFG – A Boy Can Do Everything for Girls.

Dubeyji: Machinery to create servants of the system.

Knowledge is strewn everywhere in Bhagwandas Hostel, you just need someone who can see it.

Banaras Talkies

Excerpted with permission from Banaras Talkies, Satya Vyas. Translated from the Hindi by Himadri Agarwal. Penguin.