by Bindu John
They say that being detached is the key to happiness in life – from people, things and habits. It saves you the heart-wrenching pain of separation and other nasty surprises that life hands out to you. A detached mind knows no disappointment, sorrow or regret. There’s just one question to be answered here. Is that really living?
My father told me long ago that as long as I lived, I would have a room in our home that I could always go back to. Even if the world fell apart, I could hold on to that room, my pillar of strength. To say that I am attached to this room would be an understatement. It was where I spent most of my childhood, doing last minute homework by the light of the table lamp while fervently hoping that the next day would be a bandh, sneaking in story books and hiding them inside text books while pretending to study, banging the door shut and falling onto the bed because my parents wouldn’t allow me to go to the local fair with my friends, proudly displaying the medals and trophies I’d won on the window-sill, hoarding my pocket-money in a shoe box stashed away at the back of the almirah, to buy that very special hair clip for my mother on her birthday. Fighting with my brother over which cricketer’s poster would go up on the wall was an everyday event. Eventually he got kicked out into another bedroom upstairs!
It was where I had heart-to-hearts with my friends about all those irresistibly charming boys in the senior classes who wouldn’t give us a second glance (we found the boys in our own class quite boring). Where I wrote long letters and made birthday cards for friends with chart paper. Where I looked out of the window and fantasized about reaching for the stars. The nights were peaceful and sleep was sweet, rain drops pitter pattering on the window panes often.
And soon, I went off to college to conquer a whole new world that was scary at its best. “Don’t worry, everything will be alright, you will anyway come back here for holidays”, my father reassured me. And that gave me hope. Hope that I could come back even if I screwed up, that my room was waiting for me back here. On the last day of my exams, I would catch a train home and run into my parents’ arms. I would fling my heavy text book-laden traveling bag on to the bed that gleamed with a crisp floral bedspread that my mother had laid out. I would quickly run my eyes around the room to see if anything had changed. There it was, a new vase with freshly cut flowers resting on the study table! I would shriek at it in glee no less than if I had seen Mickey Mouse himself sitting on my table.
The top drawer of my dressing table would have the letters and cards that my friends had sent me. I changed hostels so often that it didn’t make sense to give those addresses to them. Moreover, the nuns read all our mail before handing them over to us.
And that night I would sleep well. I was back where I belonged.
Over the years, the room has changed quite a bit, an extra painting hung on the wall where it once had the poster of Rahul Dravid giving a shy smile, colorful magnets stuck on to the steel almirah, school text books making way for bestsellers. The humble table-lamp has retired from a life well-lived and has gracefully exited before having to face a fancy bed lamp. The trophies and medals now have a wooden home of their own and don’t have to fall down every time someone dusts the window sill. It’s as if their glory has been sealed and framed for posterity. The hair brushes and clips on the dressing table have now been replaced by photo frames of all sizes and shapes with smiling moments held captive. It seems like the room has grown with me, into the trials and pleasures of adult life.
As I spend lesser and lesser time in the room, I become more and more possessive of it. When my mother calls to tell me about guests coming home, I wait patiently to let her finish talking about what they have been served for lunch and dinner. And then I ask hesitatingly, “So, where did they sleep?” My mother laughs and reassures me that it wasn’t in my room. “Well, not that it matters much”, I add sheepishly. And I am relieved for now. News of my strange attachment and possessiveness has now reached far and wide; I am told that I am very silly. Well, what’s life without the satisfaction from a little silliness? We are humans after all and not robots that are programmed to live a sensible and perfect life.
Sometimes I wake up all sweaty and frightened in the middle of the night in places I grudgingly call home. There are a million things on my mind and a constant battle with myself and the world. Belying logic and reason, the battles are forgotten when I enter the magic room. Better still, I realize that they are not worth fighting.
The blue walls of the room embrace the memories of an innocent childhood, resounding echoes of guileless laughter, hopes and dreams from a simpler time. It beckons me to enter an uncertain future, giving promises of content and fulfillment. “Come on, it’s just a room!” you say? Yes, it’s just a small, square room. One that exudes pure joy.
Bindu works as a Marketing Professional with an IT giant. She likes dabbling with words and dreams of becoming a hot-shot writer.