My short stay in India while completing the IDEX Fellowship Program has been rather eventful to say the least. I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that my roommate and I now have a little something in common with nomadic folk. I may not be able to speak for my roommate, but in my case, as is back in my country, my community is known to be nomadic. So let’s just say that I’m quite used to this style of living.
First, a little background - An unfortunate series of events had resulted in us having to move out from our original accommodation. We were moved into a space with two other girls for a short while in a different side of town. Once the issue was sorted out, we were moved yet again to another side of town where finally, we have our own cute little space.
I think it would be fitting to assume that this experience makes me a Guru of sorts when it comes to living out of your suitcase, packing light and living in shared spaces. Whether you are living or working in a shared space (fairly common in India), I’m certain you’ll relate with a couple of things. Allow me to detail a few of these life lessons I’ve picked up along the way - the pros and the cons:
1. The beautiful conversation
The late night talks are amazing! Ranging from world politics to pollution, the Roman Empire and its history, must visit places and Indian culture, the subjects are many. Conversation just seems to keep going, even until two in the morning sometimes. If you’re by yourself for a moment in the dining area of your shared space, chances are interesting conversation is right around the bend.
You completely lose track of time! Before you know it, the next morning arrives and you realize you never did get around to finishing that book by Sydney Sheldon you promised yourself you’d be done with by the morning.
Also, you may as well forget the concept of personal space! Case in point - perhaps you’d like to have yourself a good cry at night over nothing in particular, but all at once you realize you may not be able to do so with everyone in such close proximity asking a million and one questions that no one really has answers to.
2. There’s always a shoulder to lean on
This is the real deal. The friendships you make are life -long. You always have a shoulder to lean on when things are not quite dandy. When you just need to complain and grumble, there is always someone willing to hear you out. And heaven forbid, when you feel on the verge of breaking into pieces because the love of your life, or so you thought, calls to say it is over, someone is there to listen and offer a shoulder to cry on. Amazing, right?
But ever so often, all you need is that personal space to just deal! In the words of Jennifer Kass, “We all need our sacred space as women, as men, to get to know ourselves and then to create from that place of inner knowing and inner connection.” I’ll just leave it at this for now.
3. You’ll never be lacking in solutions
The mere fact that you always have people around you at any given time will mean there is almost always a solution to your dilemma. In all likelihood, you will form unbreakable bonds with a select few, if not all, in your shared space and they’re who come to your rescue when in need. For instance, if you find yourself running low on funds, you are sure to have someone loan you the sum at negligible or no interest rates. If it is a dress you want to borrow for a particular wedding or party, then apart from size differences, you can bet there’ll be something fabulous to don. Bottom line, with bonds like these, you’ll never sleep hungry.
You know those roommates who routinely take your things without asking and simply take it for granted you will be okay with it, because you are friends? Or, those workmates who keep taking your red pen assuming that you don’t mind because you rarely use them anyway? Seems downright rude. They say familiarity breeds contempt and you’re best advised to prepare to deal with this at some point.
4. Chores can be divided.
Nothing like it if the people in the shared space have a duties schedule down to a T. Instead of being in charge of everything all at once, splitting chores between roommates allows each one more time to carry out other duties. This simplifies a lot of the routine household work in the long run.
There will always be that one person who is forever unavailable when it comes to their turn for chores. They will either be travelling or they decide they want to sleep at a friend’s place on chores day. Better yet, they even decide they want to order in despite knowing fully well it is their turn to make dinner. And come end of the month, you realize that this specific somebody has done absolutely nothing! And that how friendships are broken over such petty issues.
The kind of exposure and learnings gained while exploring the different cultures and ways of life within India, is in itself a rich experience. Who knew my palate could ever tolerate any kind of mirchi (the hindi word for chilli), but even that challenge was met, thanks to my very good Indian friend. I highly recommend exploring a different culture as it has a way of revealing things you never knew about yourself.
Let’s face it - at some point, you’re going to miss home and all you will want is to have something authentically homey for dinner. That isn’t half as easy because everyone else prefers something different. Or in a more sensitive sense, if you or your roommate who follows a religious prayer routine beginning in the wee hours every morning, it is likely the other person is not going to be thrilled with it. A good bit of patience and compromising is needed in these situations.
6. Splitting bills
What, in the world, is better than having a few extra bucks in your pocket? Little else. So, when there is an opportunity to save those bucks, you grab it and run with it! Sharing spaces is quite the money saver because you split on rent, utility bills, grocery bills and the like, making life easier.
As the age old adage goes, ‘Money is the root of all evil’ and in this case, it does hold true. Maybe you are the kind of person who takes saving to the next level and somehow your roommate/co-worker always wants to leave the AC on at night because they’re feeling too hot while you are left to freeze. But your bigger concern is the whopping bill coming at the end of the month. Then there’s the person who takes baths that last for hours and again, there’s that bill you’re dreading. My friends, I have come to realise that splitting bills is an art form following a very delicate process.
Shared spaces, though it is not everyone’s ideal option, has become an increasingly popular choice as property rates are skyrocketing. In my having to embrace this situation, here are my final two cents to you:
One; treat others the way you would like them to treat you.
Two; always strive to leave everything better than the way you found them.