Saturday, August 14, 2010

The many facets of personal space

I knew a person, not long ago, who always made a big deal out of getting personal space- "don't call me for a week, I'll contact you when I need to speak to you" type of behaviour. Before knowing this person, and facing certain life experiences, I never really thought much about this whole concept in a serious way.

Personal space is supremely important...I think we all need time in our lives to think about ourselves, and the world...and life in general. There are times when we're super bugged with humanity in general and just want to be. And we need this sometimes within the privacy and comfort of our own homes. I know of friends who stay in joint families, and I can understand just how difficult it is to be surrounded by people like all the time. I myself live in a semi-joint family type set up, so on a certain level, I relate to those issues. Family is supremely important, and I love mine to death- but there are times, when you just want to be by yourself, think about past/present/future, obsess about your day by yourself, deal with your little successes and failures on your own terms...just hang out with your own soul. We all need that.

I lived in a hostel for 2 years, and trust me when I say this, that nothing teaches you more about this whole notion of personal space than communal living. You literally live 24/7 with people who you are not related to, and who are not in any way obliged to love and tolerate you unconditionally. There is a constant struggle to find space and time for yourself amidst all the noise and commotion, and all those intermingled lives...its insane.
One thing which I learnt in those two years, was that its not just a challenge to get your own personal space in such situations, its also a herculean task to give it to others, especially those who you feel close to. It is very easy to prod and bug and question incessantly about what X did, why do you do this Y...its very easy to nag and invade privacy. What is difficult, is to give the other person time to figure out what he/she wants to share, while showing that you, at the end of the day, care about that person. Its a tightrope, with a risk of being labelled indifferent on one hand, and interfering on the other. There is also the whole deal of knowing when to ignore people's pleas of "Leave me alone!" when you know better- that leaving them alone would just lead to more problems; as opposed to actually leaving them alone when they ask (or sometimes don't ask) for it. In fact, it is at times easier to deal with people who you really don't care much for; you don't need to know what they did, and they don't need to know what you did...and life's good.

As if life wasn't complicated enough!


demystifying me said...

It echoes my take on space Ranjani.We spent one year together,in a room that barely was sufficient for one.I never felt as comfortable with any other mortal as I felt with you.You are super sensitive in respecting other people's private space.

Scribblers Inc said...

wow...wave of nostalgia washeth over! good writing...

Scribblers Inc.

P.S.- I dug out your comment from my archives and got have you been?

Runjoo said...

@ desmystifying: muaaah :) you are the best roomie ever!

@ scribblers: hey! you had commented on my internship post...and i used to follow your blog, then lost track. good to see your comment :)

Nima said...

What a superb post made me re-think the entire do i really want to switch back to Delhi and live at home and be questioned even when I want to just walk out for a thele-wala chocobar!
But I do want to come back,right Ranju?!
I love your posts,they make me think!

Runjoo said...

you know what this comment reminded me of? the epi in "friends" where chandler goes to richard and says "you made my girlfriend think!" :)

but is a tricky thing. and moving back home can have its teeny drawbacks too, the thelewala chocobar included ;)

TheFellowNomad said...

hey again :)

"I knew a person, not long ago, who always made a big deal out of getting personal space- "don't call me for a week, I'll contact you when I need to speak to you" type of behaviour."

Gah. I have actually been guilty of this quite often. Only, I didn't tell anyone to leave me alone - I would just sort of drop away from people's lives for a few days (or weeks, in the case of my email-friends), just to be by myself...and i remember, my friends would get very, very pissed off at me, but this "alone time" was strangely cathartic...i wonder if thats part of why i love international airports so much (i mean other than the TCK factor..hehe) one really knows your story and you dont know anyone else's nor are they/you obliged to...of course these feelings for "personnel space" are transient...we all need to be around people, laugh, love and gossip to be happy :)

Runjoo said...

@fellow nomad- i think understanding others' need for personal space is a very difficult thing, we cant ever view ourselves as threatening, and thus just cant figure out why the hell would someone we love so much need to be away from us!

i louve your insight so glad you figured this thing out!