A Room Of My Own (A Pandemic Perspective)

The room is the space where you can be yourself and do that which you want to…...to prioritise yourself and nurture the most infallible bond of your life...

It has been a while since I was talking, even to myself. The pandemic, I suppose, had jeopardised not only our bodies but also our minds. The forceful finite, almost abruptly, took away from us the boundless permutations of the infinite. And I, a little human like the multitude around, cowered in fear of the devastating design that was unfolding before my eyes.

Quite recently, however, a semblance of the quotidian life has been emerging. While I still feel like “the (foolish) martlet” that builds its nest “on the outward wall” (Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare), I’m ready to embrace the uncertainty and venture ‘out’ even if it means to be on “the road of casualty.”

Though it is the outside, which at the moment, is the most inviting, it is the need of an ‘inside,’ “a room of one’s own” that I became most acutely aware of during the last year or so. While the celebrated essay by Virginia Woolf, ‘A Room of One’s Own’ apparently focuses on ‘women’ and ‘room’ (or financial stability) and establishes the symbiotic dependence between the two for the proliferation of fiction, I would chose to use the phrase loosely to unspool my thoughts on the same.

photo of a working desk
Each of us requires a room of her own. Literally and otherwise. The room is the space where you can be yourself and do that which you want to, having no qualms about the opinions of others. It is the sanctuary that you head for when you want to prioritize yourself and nurture the most infallible bond of your life. Such a room can be in the form of a hobby, the development of a new interest or even doing an activity that replenishes your mind and soul. It can also be doing nothing at all. A pause to ponder over the phenomenon called life. The rent for that room, by the way, is exacting. A diligent visit by taking out time from the regular rut only to engage in a more willing and conscious way of living.

Last weekend, my daughter was invited to her friend’s house. I was supposed to accompany her. When I met the friend’s mother, I was quite pleasantly surprised. Instead of a frazzled and jittery parent (something that I have become for sure), a calm and cheerful person greeted me. Even at the risk of infringing upon privacy, I couldn’t help but blurt out, “Hey, what changed?” I meant for the better as the lockdown had caused the contrary for most of us. She smiled and replied, “I knew you would notice it. I have created some space and a little time for myself.” Immediately my mind conjured up the image of ‘a room.’ A busy government official by profession, she experienced the sense of well-being only after she found her room. In her room, she made crafts, no matter what the printed age for it was, and renewed her relationship with numbers by learning numerology. Her new interests not just alleviated her discomfort but replenished her with patience and poise.

An aunt of mine, though too young for that relational term but holding a very prestigious administrative position, took recourse to music. A multi-talented woman, she was already established in traditional dance forms alongside her brilliant career but that she could sing so beautifully was recognised by many only in the past few months. It was perhaps the threat of Covid-19, the subsequent lockdown and the subverting of the stable that propelled many of us to take possession of our own rooms. Below are glimpses into what goes on in some of the rooms ...

Collage of hobby pictures

You may argue that such pockets of fresh air, which I prefer to call ‘a room’ had always existed. Indeed, it was the discovery and extension of the room of a woman called Ashapoorna Devi (1909-1995) that exposed to the world an iconic Bengali novelist, poet and short story writer. Though she was never allowed to go to school and learnt the alphabets by hearing the lessons of her brothers, she created her own room quite early in life. She kept honing her talent till the world was ready to acknowledge it. Her writings are a unique presentation of the struggles of women for equal rights, all of which were conceived in the seclusion of her room. There are many such instances of individuals who came to the fore only when they opened up their rooms to the world. But for most of us, it takes a crisis or an upheaval to search for such a room and seek solace in it.

plant picture
Just as rooms vary in shapes and sizes, drama and dimensions, so too the acts that are enacted in them. While I kept reading stories about celebrities welcoming kids and adopting dogs with equal enthusiasm, the pandemic also witnessed the budding of certain concepts through the introduction of new words. ‘Plantdemic’ was one such popular addition. It refers to the joy associated with plants and gardening that people all over the world experimented with and experienced during the current phase. So while watching films, reading books, deep cleaning houses, playing board games and enjoying virtual tours remained, the desire for a personal pursuit gained precedence over collaborative occupations.

While I took time searching for "my room," my 11-year old found hers with effortless ease. With black-stained fingers and a beaming face, she would relentlessly draw sketches and portraits, and soon enough, they were as much a part of her life as we were. By the way, you too must be having a room of your own. Would you mind opening the door and letting us in?

By: Promita Banerjee Nag

This article and the opinions expressed in it are personal opinions. It is not meant for imposing specific views or endorsing a particular way of life. Also please do ignore any errors or omissions that you might come across. We pledge to learn from them. Happy viewing.


Swarnali Pal said…
Beautiful story. Enjoyed reading it.
Debatri said…
My room changes every few months or so.. I guess that also is a form of travel..
Loved your writing.. I guess I'll try to find some of Ashapoorna Devi's work on Kindle...
Unknown said…
Like always, this too is a brilliant piece....loved it..... please keep enthralling your readers with more of such master pieces...
Trisha said…
Beautifully penned. Thought provoking. Like you said this room has always existed, it’s time we take notice!
Rhea said…
This piece is such a breath of fresh air, painting the downtime the pandemic forced on us in a cheerful and grounding way.

I found a new room recently in learning how to mend and sew my old clothes, and it is a good break from the ever-increasing screen time imposed on all of us.
Quotidian Tales said…
Thank you readers for your take and time...I’m really thrilled to be able to get a peek into some of your rooms and to provoke some of you to create one.

Such mutual interactions can enable us to share our quotidian problems as we remain locked in our spaces but find liberation in our rooms...
Amalish Guha said…
Excellent way of expressing the agony and untouchability people are facing today
Only a true realistic person can give such vivid picture of the present situation.

Well done , expect more of such write ups
Be happy and enjoy life.
PB said…
Amazing cross stitch of emotions... as always your anecdotes are palpable and near perfect to the throbbing of the jugular vein... reminds me of a quote from Forster... 'Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice'... keep at it!

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