The other day I had to go to work earlier than usual. I don’t know if you’ve walked into an office at an hour when no one is around, but there is a certain sense of calm that is uncharacteristic of these otherwise paced places. In my mind, I was a little happy because I wouldn’t have to share the small washroom with half a dozen other girls. I wouldn’t have to tip toe to look into the mirror or wait for my turn at the sink or adjust myself so as to not push a girl while she’s applying eye-liner. (Yes, that’s what happens in a girls’ washroom, is the voyeur in you satisfied now? :-P) So, as I walked into the washroom expecting it to be empty and for myself, I opened the door and bumped into a colleague. She looked surprised and I was surprised. (We admitted it to each other.) Surprised in the real sense of the word and not the way words have lost their meanings these days. It was like she had encroached in a space that I thought was all mine, and by the looks of her expression, and by her own admission, I had encroached into her space. She was comfortable in there as long as I had walked into it, more comfortable than when I would have been in it with her. Though, for a moment of time, that was her space.
It has been 7 months since I joined my current company. There are 2 wings in my company and it is hardly a 15 feet walk between both wings. I’ve been sitting in the ‘X’ wing ever since I first joined. And over the period I’ve become very familiar with it. I’ve made friends here. I’m used to walking around these bays. I’m used to walking into my bay and screaming “Hi” to all the unsuspecting, now acclimatized, people in my bay. They may not be my thickest friends but I’m used to them. I’m used to sitting on my very chair surrounded by the yellow and green softboards with so-called decorations on them. Some time ago, I was told I would be shifted to the ‘Y’ wing. I was certainly not happy with the news. A thousand thoughts went through my mind: I will have to have to walk into “that” place everyday. I will have to adjust to “that” corner. I will have to adjust to “those” people. It seemed foreign to me like nothing else did. I didn’t want to go. I made a hue and cry, outside office of course! I ranted to a patient friend who let me cry, throw tantrums, and who let me give him a hundred excuses for not wanting to go “away”. Finally, I did not go. I am still here. And in celebration of that fact, I’ve re-decorated my desk. It is my space; it has been my space for 7 months. I don’t want to be unceremoniously taken away. In fact, until I choose to step out of it, I don’t want it taken away either. (Yes, I know about all the rational reasons for why I should have just gone and not stayed, but that’s not the reason why I’m writing this post!)
I was reading ‘Life of Pi’ and it is a beautiful book that explains habitats of various animals. It’s like a lot of Nat Geo episodes combined within one. In that book, Yann Martel explains how animals in a zoo, or in the wild, tend to mark their territories and do not tolerate encroachment upon their territories. They create a space for themselves and live within that; they want no more. They have all they want within that very space.
The animals that we are, we tend to create spaces for ourselves in this world. We live in these spaces; it’s our own familiar landscape. It may be at home, at work, in a bus, or anywhere else in the universe. Consciously or unconsciously we tend to mark our territories and encroachment is looked down upon. We create a space for ourselves in other people’s lives too and we wouldn’t want that space to be shared, no matter what the consolation. (At least, I wouldn’t.) We guard our homes, we guard our lives, and in turn we guard our spaces. It gives us a sense of security, familiarity, comfort and belonging. As much as we may lust for it, change scares man. Change requires him to move out of his space and that pinches. Yes, we get used to change too, but the initial shift is a little disturbing; frightening even. After all, we put so much of ourselves into our spaces. We leave a part of ourselves into everything we do and everywhere we go. Our spaces smell of us, they look like us, they feel like us, they hold sounds of our laughter and sobs of our tears. Our spaces define us, after we define them! They become a reality that we live with.
And who wants their reality to be taken away from them?