Monday, March 7, 2011

The Space Wars

As I took a metro ride the other day (now don’t get alarmed this is not in sequel to the previous article, I don’t seem to have the Indian cinema mentality to cash in on the tried and tested over and over again, so coming back) I found myself plugging in my head phones to the exhaustive list of 5 songs I had in my playlist. In a journey over 50 minutes I heard these 5 songs over and over again. The point is that this is no handpicked list of my favourite songs ever, nor am I particularly crazy about any of them, it’s just that my memory card is out of order and there’s no radio on my cell. But again, despite being nauseated with even the most beautiful tracks I kept listening to them, as I fidgeted in my seat with a book of short stories in my hand. So what was I doing exactly? Besides, shutting the world outside I was defining a private space that I didn’t want the others in the metro to impinge. I have observed several men and women (women more than men), especially those who regularly take the metro, doing just about the same. Do you think that all are great music lovers, even if they are I read it more as an exercise in making an invisible bubble around them and marking their space.
If you look around the struggle for space is everywhere around us. In fact the most primary struggle that defines our lives is that of negotiating our spaces. As much as man is a social animal, like any other animal it likes to demarcate its space, its territory, in mannerisms that only differ from the animal kingdom in varying degrees of politeness and sophistication. It’s everywhere around us, when it comes to spaces nobody is kin. Whether you are a sibling, parent, friend, partner, colleague (more so if you are none of these) one needs to categorically define space. One of the most strongly felt, although, also one of the most polite struggles for space is the one where you civilly try to parley the armrest that is common for two chairs. The one who wins in this silent war of dominances enjoys the privilege of that little extra space and establishes his pre-eminence in this short lived conflict. In trains I have seen people literally stretching themselves(pun intended) to the limit of taking part of others' seats so that you don’t impinge on the space allotted to them according to their seat numbers.
It begins right from the earliest days of childhood, the young infant wants to be held by some and not by others, it is s/he who chooses whom to bestow with its grace, it knows its toys from that of others and holds onto them dearer than life. When you are toddlers and go to school for the first time and get your benches, there begins your first ever struggle in the public sphere. Some want to sit inside because they don’t want to be disturbed, some outside so that they don’t feel inhibited. The left handed have to have that extra space to place their hands, some like a particular place in the class and even make an attempt to colonise it with their names. The struggle continues all through school life, the strife in the playfield, the hegemony on the swing and slide, the ‘it’ and ‘non-it’ groups. And then the epic war of spaces between spouses. I wonder if Adam had given Eve her due space and let her be his equal, we’d all not be in this post lapsarian fallen world, fighting our guts out with each other over issues of space. Most relationships see their end for this lack of understanding each other’s space culminating to separation where all they finally acquire is space for themselves and nothing else.
Despite the fact that our ancestries have lived in joint families, with several  other things we have also adopted the liberalist humanist living ideals of the American way of life, where the teenager makes it clear to his/her parents in their characteristic accent, “Mom, I need my space.” As much as we would want to say that to our parents (with or without the accent) we cannot. Even if the mother gives in, there is your brother/sister to tackle and the constant inflow of desired or undesired pack of relatives that have no regard for your strategically acquired privilege. However, to no good avail. The illusion is shattered and we are made akin to the reality that we need to share that space.
We accuse the western nations to be colonialists but to think of it we are all little imperialists ourselves. We want that particular side of the bed, that pan-view chair on the dining table, that window seat in trains, buses and planes, that nicest parking space in the colony parking (our society just finished allotting parking spaces to each flat by marking lines recently). And if you are wondering why I suddenly came to discuss space, it was only after yesterday when my brother physically dislodged me from his side of the bed citing that it is his area no matter what, that I landed upon this issue as a topic for discussion. So while I invite you to my space as a blogger, I am at the same time trying to figure out the way to get around and contrive it from my brother.


  1. I like how you start off, by describing the struggle for space in a metro and then move on to explain human behavior :)
    Your previous post was entertaining but this is much more rich in content...looking forward to more of the same :)