A Whole World Inside A Tiny Bubble

How living with no personal space as a teenager shaped my adult life.

Anangsha Alammyan


Photo by Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash

“If Harry Potter can do it, so can you.”

That’s what I told myself when I first stepped into Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV), Golaghat — the boarding school that was to be my home for four years.

I was fourteen years old, about to live away from my family for the first time.

Harry Potter and his magical world of Hogwarts was my only vicarious experience of life in a boarding school, and I took solace in my favorite fictional character’s experiences.

But unlike Harry’s Hogwarts, which had a huge castle with magical staircases and friendly ghosts, my JNV had a single-storied academic building with interiors so sparkly clean, it reminded me of a hospital.

While Harry had already befriended Ron Weasley on his first day to school, I was entering an ecosystem where the students had co-existed and bonded over three years. I was the new girl, ill-equipped to survive in this world and unaware of its rules.

As my mother led me down the alley to my hostel, I felt a strange heaviness in my heart. This was the verge of a new life, but was I ready for it?

Whatever came next, I knew I had to stay strong. I wanted a bright future for myself, and JNV was the best school in my district. Studying there was the only way to afford a high-quality education. I had to do this to help myself and my family out.

I didn’t cry. If I had, I wouldn’t have been able to stop.

The first time I looked at the hostel, I wanted to pick my bags and run away.

It was a huge dormitory crammed with twenty-four beds. There was a tiny table attached to each bed and an accompanying plastic chair. There was some space underneath the bed to store bags.

That was it.

That was all the space I’d have for four years.

All my life, I’d been the pampered child. I had my own room, study table, computer, and bookshelf. Shifting from a world of my own to such a tiny space felt like a punishment. It was almost as if my and Harry Potter’s roles were reversed: Harry shifted from the…