I can’t even count the number of times that other girls and I have stepped out of the shower cubicles in our bathrobes, singing and heading towards our rooms when we suddenly encounter an obstacle.


That instant awareness of you being comparatively ‘less layered’ than usual engulfs you and hovers over your head like an integration formula that you couldn’t memorize till the night before the exam. And I’m pretty sure the boy you encounter also suddenly starts juggling between shall I say an awkward ‘Hey!’ or shall I just pretend that the world around me has ceased to exist and walk by?

This is the life of an ‘Access floor’ student at Ashoka University. But it's not all bad. You'll see that soon, for sure!

Many of you might not be familiar with the concept of the ‘Access and Non-Access’ floors. The Ashokan community—an eminently accommodative and inclusive sphere—offers each individual a sense of personal space and choice. Rather than imposing decisions in the name of the university’s own conception of liberalism and modernity, it allows us to formulate our own ideas of these terms and, structure our lifestyle accordingly. One of the examples of this independence is the ability to choose what kind of floor one wants to reside in. The first kind of floor, the non-access, is solely for the gender who is predominantly housing in that residence hall. No person of another gender is allowed access to this floor at any time or in any situation. On the other hand, the access floors allow the free movement of every gender on campus. By simply providing such floors in both, the male and female residences, Ashoka breaks the notion of such privacy being only a female demand.

So, talking to a few seniors and batchmates too, I came to see the world of ‘Non-access’ through their eyes. ‘Quietude’ is the one word many of them used to describe the hallways of the dorms. Because of the absence of half the people on campus, the floors are much less crowded and busy as compared to the access floors. To be very honest, I was baffled. Hallways for me, as an access floor resident was always a space of constant activity with boys and girls, buzzing around, hanging out in each other's rooms with music and frankly, creating an absolute ruckus. I’m sure, the readers who are hostellers must be brimming with relatability right now.

But sadly, many of us must have formed certain ideas and probably, misconceptions about those who chose the non-access life. On asking a few of my friends, I got to know that just the fact that they chose that specific floor doesn’t imply backwardness, conservativeness, narrow-mindedness or just the simple fact that they do not want intimate interaction with the opposite gender. Some of them, who are from only girls/boys school backgrounds express that they need time to adjust to the idea that this is, in fact, a co-ed campus. Others feel that their choice was dependent on a host of factors like a sense of comfort and probably to some extent, fewer distractions. An interesting reply I got from a girl was that she had just broken up with someone and wanted minimal interaction with boys!  

However, I’ve heard of experiences of an eventual shift to the access floors too. Just the inquisitiveness of living the access floor life drives this change in most people. As I said, access floor isn’t all bad. The simple experience of seeing all your friends at 12 in the night, coming up to your room to surprise you with a birthday cake, or just having your best friend who might be of another gender console you through heartbreak in the comfort of your warm room is an experience worth risking the quietude of non-access for!

However, in the end, it all comes back to the personal choice of every student on campus. And Ashoka, as a university, offers us a feeling of acceptance for who we are by the mere act of giving us space to decide the placement of our own walls in our day to day living.

So whether you’re a non-access or an access floor survivor, it doesn't matter because we’re all in the same boat of 1 am Maggies, last-minute submissions and every morning hassles of what to wear! And those who are neither of the two, I’m sensing and undoubtedly, enjoying the aura of resentment that envelopes you.

Edited by: Nayanika Guha

All images are the courtesy of Viraj Malani and Sanjna Mishra