As Nature has it, men remember people and places that enchant with an appeal which never fail to impress the commonplace mind. Such impression pales into insignificance the presence of others. Kolkata is adorned by innumerable places whose historical importance embellishes the cultural tradition of our City of Joy. A handful of those are richly safeguarded in popular imagination. Few have faded away from everyday life. Eden Hindu Hostel is an example of latter, decaying each day as it is long lost from public awareness.
Established in 1886, primarily to shelter the Hindu students Of Presidency College, Eden Hindu Hostel is, at present, open for all students of all religion. The hostel stands on Peary Charan Sarkar Street that separates Presidency University, erstwhile Presidency College, from Calcutta University. Divided in six wards (blocks), Eden Hindu Hostel is a home to 288 boarders. The Superintendent and his two Assistants are in-charge of the hostel and there are staffs that look after the proper functioning of it. The hostel comprises not only three buildings, allotted in wards but also the staff quarters.
Seemingly, the hostel looks in good shape. Reality lies in the fact that very little is done to improve the dilapidated condition of the rooms as well as the bathrooms. The hostel library is last visited by a batch who left ten years ago. The quality of the food is not something that makes the boarders proud. Strangely the boarders hardly complain about anything. For they have their ways to entertain themselves. The football tournaments (Independence Day Cup and Hostel League), the cricket tournament (Hostel League), ward freshers and farewell, ward tour and re-union are occasions that every boarder looks forward to. The uniqueness of Hindu Hostel lies elsewhere. The official hostel of Presidency University, one of the most elite institutions in India, provides shelter to students hailing from underdeveloped and downtrodden districts of Bengal. North Bengal, Midnapur, Purulia, Bankura to name a few. Many, here, are Below Poverty Level (BPL) Card holders. Others come back agrarian society, with nominal family income. Despite concessions, which is granted by the authorities, students often skip meals to cut-short their monthly-bill. A sense of belonging and brotherhood embraces all and this, to a great extent, adds to the congenial ambience of Hindu Hostel.
The class difference is nakedly visibly before all when we compare the day-scholars of Presidency with the boarders of hostel. It is interesting to note that it is Hindu hostel and its boarders who initiated and later expedited the Naxal Movement, creating an overwhelming appeal all over Bengal, it is Hindu Hostel that is still consider to be the hub of politics that governs Presidency and helps it retain its independent stance in society. However unassuming it as seem, Eden Hindu Hostel, with its gradual reticent history, its shrieks of silence during months of exam, its controlled chaos on someone’s birthday, its neon-drenched corridors, chilly nights, is a highly revered institution in itself.