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Cribz: Ahon Gooptu isolates in comfort and style

Ahon Gooptu ’21 sits in his redecorated and reorganized common room/dining room. Photo Contributed by Gooptu.

It’s rare that a college student faces the problem of having too much space, but that’s the issue that Ahon Gooptu ’21 found himself with after the College moved to remote learning in March.

Gooptu had been living in a four-room suite in Haines Hall with Georgia Rawhouser-Mylet and Madeline Peak, both ’21, when the coronavirus crisis forced his two roommates back home. Gooptu, an international student from Kolkata, India, decided that it was safer to stay in Grinnell than to make the risky international trek home.

After his roommates vacated their rooms, he was faced with the immense task of filling the space they left, emotionally and physically.

“It truly hit me after Georgia left. … I came back [to] the room and I was like, ‘Oh, fuck. It’s just me now,’” said Gooptu. It took a while for him to adjust to his new reality. A friend stopped by one day to bid him farewell and found him listening to Sufjan Stevens, crying.

Since then, Gooptu has rearranged, redecorated and made his new three-bedroom apartment into a home.

Friend and Haines neighbor Govind Brahmanyapura ’21 suggested that Gooptu create a “mega-bed” one day when he visited the suite. Thus, the Nap Room was born. Gooptu dragged Peak’s bed into Rawhouser-Mylet’s room and created a double bed designated specifically for daytime snoozes. He says it helps him keep work and sleep separate — and reminds him of his former roommate. “Every day, I go to take a nap in the Nap Room and I think of Georgia at least once.”

“And I think about Madeline whenever I go into her room to work out,” he said, referring to Peak’s old bedroom, which he has converted into a home gym.

He might be the triple’s only inhabitant, but various furniture items lent by friends help stave away the loneliness. There’s the coat stand he scored from the hallway when everyone was leaving in March. There’s the microwave and the large volumes of Tide and Windex gifted him by friends who went home. In the common room, Gooptu has been catching up on Netflix shows on the TV Bryce Cook ’21 left him last semester and lounging in Peak’s turquoise circle chair, a setup he called a “gamechanger.”

On the wall in the common room hangs a tapestry overlaid with vertical strings of fairy lights, doubling as both cozy decor and Gooptu’s go-to video call background.

“All the profs are like, ‘Oh my god, your background is so nice!’” he said. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, I know.’”

The common room also serves as a dining room. To supplement the meals delivered to the South Campus loggia by Dining Services every morning, Gooptu has converted his desk into a well-stocked pantry. Although, he observed, “It’s mainly been Govind who’s been eating [stuff from] my pantry.”

Beside piles of Gooptu’s favorite snacks — Sour Cream Ruffles, Flaming Hot Cheetos and Spicy Chex Mix — sits a poster of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” and a collage Gooptu made during orientation first year. Other wall decorations include a Shakespeare poster, Harry Potter-themed gift wrap and a French horn he bought at Second Mile his second year.

In Peak’s bedroom-turned-workout-room, Gooptu has been making his way through a 28-day workout routine and recording TikTok videos for his job for the admissions office. “They know that’s where the new kids are at now,” he explained. But the job requires less dancing and more answering questions for prospective students and introducing different parts of campus.

“I’m basically TikTok famous through the College,” he said.

As a theater and dance major, more room also means Gooptu has more space to perform. Recently, he has been playing the part of Montmorency, the dog, in a Zoom rendition of the play “Three Men in a Boat” by Jerome K. Jerome. The show is being produced by The Red Curtain, a theater collective based in Kolkata with members in lockdown around the world.

After finishing work for class, Gooptu holds rehearsals with his stuffed dog, Bruno for live weekend productions of the play. “It’s pretty exciting, because we get to share it with anybody in the world,” he said. “It’s more like a social event; you can do it with other people.”

He’s found other ways to fill his time, such as going for a walk every other day. But he spends most of his time in his four-room palace, using spatial strategies to keep some variability in his life. “I try to be in different parts of the room – I mean, the rooms – so that I’m not just staying in bed all day.”

Having so much space to himself has helped Gooptu with his organizational abilities, both physically and mentally. “I have a different mindset for where I want to get things done,” he said. “Like, I’ve trained my body to fall asleep in my Nap Room.”

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