Unsmiling matrons, rooms with lackluster furniture and insipid food – hostels can be forbidding, but the new student accommodations springing up in the Juhu-Andheri area have no resemblance to the older establishments.
Students here pay between Rs 2-6 lakh per annum for services like round-the-clock laundry service, air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, security and furnished rooms with kitchens. While many of these accommodations are large flats that are shared by students, others are refitted buildings that can accommodate between 50 and 150 students each. There are at least six such hostels created from remodeled buildings in up-market Juhu Scheme area.
“In the past couple of years, every second building that has come up in this area has been converted into hostels. This is a home away from home, with the best of amenities available for children. Every room has been designed keeping in mind the comfort of students, especially since they are staying away from their families,” said Chander Matta, owner of Bright Youth Hostels, which runs five facilities in Juhu Scheme, Vile Parle and Andheri.
Mumbai, with its unaffordable housing, can be an expensive place for an outstation student. The University of Mumbai has only a handful of hostels and fewer than 10 colleges in the city offer hostel facilities. This is inadequate for the thousands of students who come to Mumbai to study, said college principals. “The fact that most colleges don’t offer residential option on campus is pushing more and more students to these new-age hostels, because for them, safety is more important than the cost of living,” said Vijay Joshi, principal of K J Somaiya College in Vidya Vihar.
The Somaiya group of institutes has two hostels that accommodate close to 1000 students each and even then many students are forced to find accommodation elsewhere. “Earlier only those looking for medical and management seats would travel to other parts of the country but now, even commerce and arts students come to Mumbai from various other states and the university needs to cater to them too,” he added.
“Limited hostel options attached to colleges being one of the main reasons for the growth of these hostels, the other reason is expensive rent and long hours of commute that are forcing children to find accommodation close to college,” said Poonam Vora, owner of Women Intern and Student Housing (WISH) group of hostels which runs 25 facilities in Juhu Scheme that house students from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Karnataka and West Bengal. Some students are from the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
The hostel owners said that, apart from the fact that the area has several colleges, Vile Parle and Juhu Scheme are preferred locations for the hostels because it is a quiet and safe residential area. “Many parts of town are not only expensive, but are also not very safe post 7-8 pm as they become very lonely,” said Matta. Parents approve of these hostels because they monitor the movement of students, have rules prohibiting men from entering accommodations meant only for women and allow women students to report late at night to the hostel only if parents make the request. Students like the convenience.
“This is the first time I’m living on my own, so my parents wanted to make sure I live closer to college and also live well. My mother is extremely happy knowing that I’m not starving on any day, and that there’s a female warden here 24/7. While the food is not as good as my mom’s, at least I don’t have to cook myself,” said Pinali Mehta, 19, a Hyderabad resident who is doing a Bachelor of Mass Media course at UPG College, Vile Parle. Pinali shares a 3-BHK flat converted into hostel accommodation with seven girls, each paying almost Rs 3 lakh per annum, and the house is situated barely five minutes away from her college. “I don’t even have to depend on public transport or bother about pothole-ridden roads,” she added.