A piece of land where we belong is perhaps the most romanticised of all ideas. Wars have been fought and countries have been created to give people this sense of belongingness – the ownership of a piece of land, a place they can call home. Brothers have plotted and planned each other’s murder to ensure a fair share in their father’s property. Clearly, the idea of land is anything but romantic.
Having grown up all my life in rented apartments and living in guarded societies, I have always missed this feeling of pining for home. Desher baari as they say in Bengali. All my friends would leave for their desher baari during Durga Pujo. At a very young age, my father chose an adopted hometown for us to live. Due to several family problems and practical reasons of access to education we couldn’t stay at his paternal home. We hardly ever visited our relatives back there.
Our adopted hometown – Medinipore in West Bengal did make me feel at home but the possibility of an impending eviction was always there and we accepted it. I always knew I wasn’t going to stay there for long. And when it was time for me to leave, there was no looking back, no remorse, not even a tear was shed. A happy goodbye. That’s all. Next destination – Delhi. A tiny rented apartment is where my family built its life again, literally from scratch. For me, Delhi meant opportunities and responsibilities. Finishing my journalism degree and looking for a job. Amid this fast-paced life, what I was constantly craving for was peace, space, and privacy. The one room apartment meant none of these elements existed in my life.
We did move to a bigger and better house when my brother and I started earning well, but private space still remained an issue. When you live with your parents there are a lot of luxuries — you get food and washed laundry. But your life’s routine depends on their routine. When mom has to do the first chore of her day, it becomes your waking time and the last TV show she watches is when the lights go off. Having your own room doesn’t really make much of a difference. As you grow older and drive the family financially, parents start treating you as an arbitrator for their fights. Every evening you would be made to sit on the judge’s seat to dispense judgement on a mundane fight your parents have had. Whose side do you take? What you say is then judged, remembered and used to fuel future conflicts. After a point, I started feeling I was fighting my parent’s battles for no good reason. And that’s when I decided to move out and find my own place. All this time my parents constantly kept nagging me about making our own house, saving some money, taking a house loan. But they could never convince me.
Today, I live in a tiny room with a nice garden. No, living alone didn’t mean that I resigned myself to a life of debauchery. In fact, I have got used to a far more disciplined lifestyle. Finding a place near my office has helped me strike a work-life balance. I see the direct benefits of living right next to my office. I detest the fact that I had wasted so much time in just commuting. And if you are Delhite you would know that commuting in Delhi metro can actually trigger severe stress and depression. I also see so many of my friends driving down long distances to their offices, because they have a permanent address, which they can’t escape. Braving a killing traffic jam and air pollution has become their life’s daily reality. But none of them can give up the moha maya of home and the hearth. In fact, I know talented intelligent people losing out on lucrative jobs because they were not ready to move to another city, outside the comforts of their house.
To be fair to all those who want a permanent address, living near your office, in fact, isn’t a convincing excuse not to build your own house. The main reason why I am averse to the idea of buying a house is, I don’t want to spend the next ten years of my life slogging my ass to pay the EMIs for a house. To stick to a job, just to pay my EMIs is akin to being jailed for a murder you didn’t commit. Investing in a house right now means my chances of exploring newer avenues and taking risks during the most productive and creative years of my life would be limited. And all this when I am not even sure whether I will always live in one city. I don’t t want to stop myself from jumping into a good project just because I am stuck at one place and one house.
Moreover, who wants to spend a better part of their life trapped in a highrise where the only window to the world is your balcony.
(Rajkumar Rao’s Trapped beautifully captured the loneliness and helplessness of living in a highrise)
For me home is where I can sleep naked, where I don’t have to watch out for my peeping bra-strap, where I can call over my boyfriend or invite my friends. Obviously, my parents and my brother also visit me and I cook food for them. But that’s that. Home is where I can detach and cut off from the world. That’s precisely why I don’t want to own a house because with ownership comes attachment. And attachment is fatal for anyone who intends to be a traveler in the journey of life. I want to be a light-footed traveler, with minimum baggage. A house is nothing but a self-created baggage and a huge one at that..