Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Making sense of craving solitude and company at the same time

You know how great a speaker is when you stop scanning the room to find the hot dude you espied for 10 seconds before the lights were dimmed and the presentation started. Yes, yes, I do have a boyfriend, and yes, horror of horrors I do appreciate eye candy when I see it. If my boyfriend didn't look twice to admire a beautiful woman walking by, I would lament his lack of aesthetic appreciation. The guy was very handsome, in that Mediterranean way that I know by now I gravitate towards, but the presentation was first rate, by a famous expert in the discipline who deserves every bit of his fame. Most academic presentations are yawn-inducing, but some are so engaging and interesting because the speaker is well-prepared, believes in his ideas and articulates them lucidly and powerfully. And best of all, the man made such excellence seem so accessible, as if all that was needed was a bit of polish and hard work for mediocre me to catch up.

However, in other news, I'm seriously pissed off. My current roommate has the annoying and obnoxious habit of leaving hear trash bag for days before throwing it away, including meat wrappings and all, that become stinky and maggot infested within hours of being thrown in the trash. Today, when I came back from the presentation, the house was stinking to high hell, and I had to throw her trash away, as I had to on two previous occasions. Now, I'm generally very laid back, and try and avoid telling my roommates how to run their lives, but this really calls for an intervention.

How I miss my last roommate Nell, quite, clean, friendly and fun. But she has a studio all to herself now and I don't grudge her that at all. Heck, if I could afford it, I'd have a studio too. As Em and I discuss all the time, after a certain age, it becomes really difficult to live with roommates who are neither family, close friends or significant others. In fact, after a certain age, living with anyone can be a challenge. S and I were holed up all summer in a tiny studio apartment, but it worked because S would leave for work in the morning and would be busy with his martial arts or sailing in the evenings. We never really spent extended periods of time in the same space. Besides S is extremely relaxed and non-fussy about things, and just let me run things my way most of the time (except with his papers that he would strew all over the floor and insist there was a method to the madness).

But good ol' Virginia was on to something with her insistence on her own room. I think that the physical space mirrors mental and emotional space (though Woolf may have been more concerned with the intellectual space bit), and the comfort of being able to rest in solitude with your thoughts is very soothing. Of course I'm aware of the fact that this is a luxury that many do not have access to, and overcrowding is the norm in many poorer Indian households. Most homes I visited in slum clusters (when I was a social worker) had families crowded into mostly a one room tenement. A second room was rare. And yet, the women were happy about the fact that the home was not being shared with the rest of the extended family, the way it was back in the village (none of the women were nostalgic of the life they left behind and didn't have illusions about joint family drudgery). It is one of those luxuries that I'm quite thankful to have access to.

Now all this does not add up to the fact that I'm an incurable recluse. I love the company of friends and family, in fact as I've grown older I've realized that my quiet teenage years were more due to my social awkwardness rather than any essentially introverted nature. I think I've established that I am a social animal, and love partying as much if not more than many of my buddies. But then, there are times when I do not want to explain to anyone why I've been curled up all day on the couch in a faded t-shirt, reading cookbooks and eating pistachios. Or make an impossible concoction involving all the condiments on the kitchen shelf and leftovers from the fridge and eat it with plenty of hot sauce. Or read the Gitabitan aloud to myself because I don't hear myself speaking Bengali that often anymore. I need to be around friends and family, but a few moments in a room of my own isn't too much to ask.


Blogger said...

Just loved the post, can't say why.

6:22 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

@Gypsy: I'm so glad you liked it. I wasn't sure if it would appeal to someone else, given that it was an intensely personal statement.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Urmea said...

I hear you! I have had lovely roomies all through grad school, yet when I got a job I had absolutely no intentions of finding roommates, however much economic sense it might have made! I think the NYT had this article once about a couple who bought two side by side apartments and merged them and had two kitchens / baths and so on. I think that is such a lovely if impractical idea, lol!

11:07 PM  
Blogger Adagio For Strings said...

oooh thanks for adding me to the side bar! Am kicked no end that you did :D! (In a good way...geez I have to stop using American phrases that I dont completely understand and then having to qualify them)

1:24 AM  
Anonymous AB said...

Ewww... my god it's so unhygienic leaving trash in the room.

It's never too much to ask for space. That too where you live day in and day out. I am lucky I guess because flatmate S is no hassle. We have a kind of synergy after three years of staying together. But I miss flatmate E who's shifted to Bombay with a new job.

5:07 AM  
Blogger PS said...

Had I been in your situation, i would have given her hell by nagging. I loooove to do that to people who seem to have no cure. If you crib (and loudly at that!) day in and day out, who knows, maybe she'll get so tired of the sound of your voice, she'll never try such stuff again :)

9:10 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

@Urmi: I knew you'd understand! How I'd love to have an apartment like yours preferably with a view :). As for separate kitchen/bath, I think what is absolutely crucial is separate internet and telephone connections.

@Adagio: It's totally cool dude :). I'm more scared about using Indianisms in a mixed crowd and having to explain my peculiar expressions to puzzled faces.

@AB: You're so lucky! And it's sad when good roommates leave, one of my last ones moved across the country and has been out of touch ever since.

@PS: How I dearly wish I had the nagging abilities that would have served me well now. My conflict-avoidance potential is infinite, and I try and avoid confrontation (with mere acquaintances at least), till the situation is intolerable.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Essar said...

Oh my god! I'm so reminded of my roomate y'know. We were like chalk and cheese, I was paraniod about cleanliness and she could honestly live like a pig and I used to get so mad at her. But she really used to give me lot of space, which is why by the we had to leave the hostel, we had become such great friends.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Gamesmaster G9 said...

On the subject of roomies, I don't think I could ever live alone. But then again, I crave some degree of privacy. Last year, I had three rooomies, and while it was fun, it did get on my nerves occasionally. Now with one roommate, its significantly better. Of course, I have to say I'm really lucky to have found a roommate who shares my views on food, decor and general cleanliness.

10:12 PM  
Blogger K said...

Thats one of the reasons I decided to stay alone in a small little place than stay with a roomie. Anyway, I've just tagged you.
Ar tumi bangla ke miss korcho? Hmmm, bodhaye poojo asche bole.
Do you have any Puja Pandals in Calif.?

2:37 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

@Essar: Giving space to each other is so vital! I'm glad you guys ended up as friends. Most roommates who disagree on order and hygeine issues end up hating each other.

@Ani: 3+ is usually recipe for disaster. Our university housing has some apartments with four students to a unit. Most of them fall out within a year. It can work well if you're undergrad though, and spend your time too drunk or doped to care :)!

@K: Thanks for the tag, will answer pronto. Bangla miss kori pujor jonyo noi (perhaps that too), kintu roj Banglai kotha boltam, ekhon hoyto soptah-e ekbar boli.

There are tons of pujos in California, in fact 3 in the Los Angeles area alone. Here's a link to one:

And here's a comprehensive list of Pujo around the world:

12:04 PM  
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