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'My roomie, the spy'
Huzaifa Das
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June 29, 2007

We asked readers to share their stories about living with roommates. Here, Huzaifa Das, a 22-year-old student in Eindhoven, Netherlands, talks of his roomie experiences:

 

Living with European roommates has played a major part in shaping my experience in the Netherlands so far.

First there was R. This tall, slim, blue-eyed blonde would have the honour of being my very first flatmate. Heh, I still remember the first day she arrived. I had been living in Eindhoven for three days. Three very unusual days, as I tried to accustom myself to an environment so different from what I used to call home.

I heard the door click one evening and went to check it out. I come face to face with this girl, bags and all. "Err�can I help you?", I inquired. "I'm supposed to live here," she said. "Oh�err� so am�I�umm," came my staggered reply. We blinked at each other as the realisation set in that the liberal Dutch values had manifest themselves as co-ed housing.

After the initial introduction, we went to our rooms. She, to unpack, hoping that the stories she had heard about Indian guys and voodoo, black magic, dancing naked around fires during full moon was merely an exaggeration; while I lay in my room, my mind wandering between the irony of the situation (I had few female friends back home, and now I was sharing a home with one) and imagining the incredulous looks on my friends faces back home when they hear of this.

Things turned out just fine though. I learnt a lot from this experience. Small things like it's polite to say good morning to your fellow roomies, before kissing the coffee machine. Apparently it's considered rude to give more importance to the coffee machine than to your living, breathing friends. I had to learn to hold a conversation without mentioning soccer, cricket or any other sport. I realised that Europeans don't have the same tolerance for spices as Indians do (after I nearly killed her with my chicken curry). Those masala packets are dangerous in untrained hands!

However, she survived. She'll tell you that living with me without going insane is a testament to her character.

Then arrived A. We were anticipating A's arrival beforehand since I managed to take a peek at the student records at the international office. I was therefore expecting someone from Eastern Europe -- stout, gruff voice, in a leather overcoat and a bag full of vodka. To my dismay, A was nothing like the stereotype. He was lean, friendly, talkative and spoke a smattering of various languages without a heavy accent. He didn't have any connections with the mafia either. Nor did he smuggle any vodka across the border.

Despite the initial disappointment, we got along well. Thanks to A, I discovered that I actually like travelling. We've had some fun trips together in the short time we've known each other and he's constantly planning future trips.

What strikes me about A the most is his inquisitive nature and inexhaustible thirst for information. Talking with A means answering a barrage of questions, one leading to another until you throw your hands up and say "STOP, enough already, I confess!" And with me, it's always questions about India. Thanks to him I have realised how little I know my own country. However, any questions directed towards him are skilfully deflected.

He once let it slip that he learnt this asking-many-questions-type of conversation when he attended military training back home. "Ah-hah!" I said, linking the pieces in my mind. The talkative nature, the numerous interrogating questions, multilingual skills. It was obvious. He was a secret agent, here undercover, sent to spy on the western neighbours and partake in academic espionage.

I confronted him and asked him to fess up. He flatly denied everything. He did promise to buy me a "My friend is in the KGB" t-shirt, though.

The next person to arrive in our home was L. R was an exchange student and when she left L came to stay in her room, which is quite ironic since L is the complete opposite of R. While R was the cool, chilled-out Scandinavian, L is the quintessential energetic, effective, bubbly Hispanic.

My first meeting with L is a story in itself. A was out of town that week, and I was staying alone. I come home one evening, and I get the sense that something's not right � the chairs seem to have moved, the kitchen counter looks cleaner -- that sort of thing.

When I came home the next night, the plates had been washed and put away, and the table had been wiped clean. I thought my mind was playing tricks with me.

The next night, things in the fridge had been rearranged. Someone (or something?) had restocked the shelves. That freaked me out. This was proof. There was definitely something living here, under the same roof, but I hadn't seen it yet. And what kind of a fiendish spirit haunts people by restocking their fridge?

So I left a note on the kitchen counter. I thanked the ghost for replenishing the food and cleaning up. I also suggested that perhaps next time it could buy more potatoes and that the bathroom needed cleaning as well. What the heck, if I'm being haunted by a poltergeist, might as well get some housework done, since it's so willing.

Turns out the spirit could read notes and also post a reply. Turns out she had the same doubts about me, and was relieved I was flesh and blood.

So after one entire week, we finally met.

And of all the people I've met so far, L is the one I still can't figure out. She balances work, parties, travel, friends -- all in the same day. After her first week in Eindhoven, she knew more people than I did after seven months. And she has already been to more parties than I'll probably attend in all of my two years. Typically Spanish, her day begins at 10 am and ends at 4 the next morning. And she's always running around. She's always going somewhere or doing something. Her unlimited energy is amazing. She moves around so much, some days all I see of her is a blur. Conversations with her are frequent with interruptions, deviating from one topic to another, peppered with exaggerated hand movements and childlike enthusiasm. If I ever need to talk to her for a long time, I would have to tie her down to a chair with a rope.

I just don't get her. And I've two more months to figure her out.

I'm going to go look for some rope�

 

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Do you or did you once share your living space with a roommate/ roommates? We'd love to hear about your experiences sharing your accommodation with someone else. Roomie horror stories, stories of friendship, we want to hear them all!

Write in to us, along with your name, age, occupation, contact details, and a photograph (if possible), and we'll publish your entries right here on rediff.com!

 

 


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