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."