Sometimes being an average Indian means that you don’t tell your parents about what you want. What if they couldn’t afford that toy motorcycle, and by asking you’d only make them guilty?
It happened to me. Growing up, I never had the courage to tell my mother I needed my own space. We lived in a two-bedroom apartment and I had to sleep with my parents since my older brother, who had a lot of studying to do, needed the other room for himself. And the worst part of it was my parents thinking it was alright for a twelve-year-old girl not to have her own room.
But it felt weird to me. I was a loner, and I liked spending the day lying on my stomach with my face glued to the Chronicles of Narnia. I’d stay up all night, leaning on a wall beside my bed, inhaling page after page of Harry Potter. And when I wanted the lights on, my parents wanted the lights out.
Sure, I could’ve sat in the living room with my book. But it wasn’t the same as snuggling in a smaller room that I could call my own. It bothered me that I never had a little special place I could crawl into when Hedwig died and the world paused for a moment. It made me crave privacy like it was a heard-to-find gem.
But then I grew up and things seemed to brighten up. I got a job in a bigger city so I had to move out of my parents’ house. And because I was going away to an unknown city, my parents suggested moving into a hostel where I would have some company to understand the pulse of the bustling city that was so much unlike our modest one. I couldn’t afford to get a place of my own, anyway. So I agreed and stayed in a hostel room with three others.
And just as I had imagined, I had the company. But I soon realised that hostel was worse than sharing a room with my parents. Perhaps it’s just me, but after a long day at work, I’d like to come home and crawl into my bed with warm cocoa, soulful music, and a racy book. And instead, I’d come walk into a room full of chattering people trying to drown the television that screened the vanity in reality shows. Privacy still eluded me.
After much self-contemplation, I decided to move out of the hostel and even congratulated myself for being such a grown up and making my life decisions myself. And so I told my parents I considered getting a place of my own. I knew it would cost me a little more than sharing a room with three others. But at least it would be mine. My parents disagreed.
And they had their reasons, too: It’s unsafe for a twenty-one-year-old to live alone in a city she’s lived for three years already. That’s when I understood. According to them, I hadn’t moved out of their house at all. I had only moved away from home. My hostel life had been a temporary arrangement because I worked in a different city from my parents’. They even volunteered to move into the city to live with me. That way, the whole family could be in one place, they calculated.
I heard my clarion there.
I loved them, yes. But I had already spent a childhood living under my parents’ shadow, and I wasn’t going to spend my adulthood doing the same. So I tried explaining. But I had never told my parents what I wanted before, and it wasn’t easy to start doing it. I appealed to them that I needed my alone time. And they responded with rolling eyes and a statement: “Girls your age shouldn’t live alone.” So I decided to give up explaining.
It was time to take a more radical approach. I told them I’m moving out from the hostel. But I also decided they meant well worrying about my safety. So I made a compromise; I’d rent a two-bedroom apartment and share it with two of my colleagues. This time, however, my colleagues would share one room and I’d get a room of my own.
Telling my parents what I wanted was hard. But it was easier once I had reached my tipping point. And that point came when I read a chapter from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. What a woman.