Wednesday, July 09, 2008

We just share!

My friends here keep having discussions about "communal living". 
Sometimes, when we are late in the lab and my friend's flatmate calls him to tell him what he is going to make for dinner, my friend goes," Who needs a wife when you have a flatmate who cooks for everyone exactly at seven?".
Housing in Brisbane is freakishly expensive. You pay somewhere between $400 to $500 a week for a decent house. It is easier with roomies though. When you can divide the cost of a three bedroom house between three people and share a kitchen.
Sometimes, you are blessed with flatmates who turn into best friends and living together becomes a constant party. When my firang friends go into one of these "futuristic" discussions about communal living, I feel like it is more like going retrograde. 

How about the Chawls in Mumbai? As a kid, I was fascinated by Pula Deshpande's accounts of the Chawls in Girgaon. Complete with fights at the water tap and young Gavaskar's honing their batting skills in the common chowk. People making booming families in a 10X10 room and neighbors being there for each other in every difficulty. 
The Westerners think that not giving children separate bedrooms has serious effects on their development but I think a moderate amount of communal living that has been going on in India in the form of joint families and chawls has actually helped people more than it has harmed them.
When we live close to people, happiness is shared and so is grief. 
We learn to look at ourselves as a little part of a big family, which is a close estimation of the reality around us. When everything we use, belongs only to us, it sometimes translates into our attitude towards people in our lives as well. 
Getting noticed in a crowd is harder, so we learn to develop something that sets us apart, more often than not, a great sense of humor.
Who can beat the innumerable cups of hot chai at each other's place? Card games going into the wee hours, broken hearts across broken balconies! Watching your childhood sweetheart get dressed for her wedding and leave with someone else, and your friends urging you not to miss the feast just because you think you are heart broken!
Chawl gossip must have eliminated the need for a television for ages and how many recipes must have been exchanged by neighbors from across the country trying to find their destinies in a metro!
I think for all the people who grew up in these intriguing paper-houses, the house left a bit of a character in them as well. I agree that it must be hard, but I absolutely disagree with the thought that it isn't healthy. 
In a country like India, you may not get as much privacy and space as you want but you definitely get a lot of other things that no other place can offer and how much place do we really need? Just enough to forget the abysmal loneliness that an empty heart makes. 
As my best friend puts it, "We are not here to own anything. We just share."


Ajay said...

Brilliant.. Some thoughts that many of us share somewhere inside, but few would be able to put it in words like you have !

Love this piece "how much place do we really need? Just enough to forget the abysmal loneliness that an empty heart makes. "

Saee said...

@ Ajay..
Thanks!!! :)
Are you the Ajay that I know or you are just Ajay? :)

Endevourme said...

/-I think for all the people who grew up in these intriguing paper-houses, the house left a bit of a character in them as well. I agree that it must be hard, but I absolutely disagree with the thought that it isn't healthy.
i agree :D

Saee said...

@ Endevourme.. bet! I have seen so many "disturbed" kids with seperate bedrooms here. :)
They get so much that they dont know what to do with it!

AJ said...

Frankly, I am just Ajay. But I do believe you know me, so that gives some added qualifications :).
And btw if you see AJ, its me also..

Saee said...

Oh So you are Ajay Joshi..the great scholar of dhanukar colony>?? :)
Yey..thanks for dropping by.

Tapan said...

Im reading World Is Flat and all uniqueness and globalizaiton. Chawls have their uniqueness.

AJ said...

Dropping by is my utmost pleasure !

Saee said...

@ Tapan..
YEah,,that is one book on my list. Will catch hold of it now.
Thanks for the comment :)

शिरीष said...

This is really a masterpiece written by you! I think this maturity in your writing is because you have accumulated lots of experiences in your tenure in Austalia. I think you have learned to introspect and analyse personal experiences and evolve your view points which you put from the third person's perspective.This thought process is adding lot of depth to your posts.
The photograph of the मूबंईची चाळ is fantastic and expresses what you have said!

RJ said...

As much as I want to agree with you...I will take the other side of the debate...just for kicks...firstly..nice post..indeed it is. Good angles and amazing comparisons. I agree with some, but not all of the arguments (Duh...coz I want to do that..for kicks)...

As much as we learn about "sharing and caring" ...a lot of the Indian "homeboys" suffer when then go abroad...they can't cook...clean...nothing....Parents have to draw the line between independence and communal living.

Yes...people abroad share diff circumstances..than our own...I recently went on a road trip and was pleasantly surprised to see that..sharing and caring...with my phirrang friends..

The care first..and then share...we just share..they are termed "matlabi (selfish/self centered)" and "different" are we.

I totally disagree with your comment about "having to work hard to stand out"....I guess here...with the complexion...its harder to belong...and then when we do...its the desis who look at us as if we are aliens.."isko dekh...phirangiyon ki saath khud phirang ban gaya" hate that..

Taking things for granted...being down right manner-less at times...lazing off...and being untidy...and indifferent...are some of the "qualities" we have...coming from the communal living.

I always believe in sharing...especially when someone visits..or generally when we cook..this has surprised them.

Phirangs have a lot of good things...we don't..and the other way around too...I hope I don't sound all filmi and phirang ... I love my country and the values...but then don't grow if you branch out and do things like this for "kicks"...

I agree with sharing to bring down the rent...and its more expensive in Sydney (FYI)...if you don't. But then...sharing with foreigners and desis are two entirely different scenarios...I have experienced both :)

When I see Indians or any Desi struggling to come to grips with this land..I pity it is one of the side effects of communal living. Then again..when I see a Desi try to help someone out...esp some elder person...and be taken for a thief...I am appalled..
I am sorry if I come across as bashful...NOT (again...American when most offensive)...

Sometimes being a chameleon is the best way to do things...most of the times you are just a reptile...which girls are scared off !!

Keep writing...
I will keep try to disagree !!
I hope you don't mind..and will test you on that :)

Over all grade 4/5. I am a generous the snap was the winner !!

Word of caution: All that glitters is not gold...

Piece of advice...explore both sides of the argument...and say yourself from such loooooong comments!!

RJ said...

oh oh oh...I have never lived in a Chawl and have enormous respect for those who have or do...amazing...

Having a room...of your own...but having your mom take care of the tidiness....ohh...not cool. Not being able to make tea....PATHETIC...

And trying to ape forgetting your roots..down right unforgivable..

*Shall* said...

I second your thoughts of sharing and yes there is much more to just building characters and fighting for you space. Having been brought up in a joint family, I dnt think i lost anythin...on the other hand, i gained so much and had a blessed childhood! There is a fine difference in living your lives as 'I' to 'WE' or 'US'...something the firangs will never understand!