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How much to separate? How much to commune?

[Context: My wife and I are living in my parents’ home in Madras – a beautiful house that is close enough, yet far enough from all the hustle bustle of maddening Madras. The house has two floors. On the ground floor, we have my parents bedroom, living room and kitchen. On the first floor, we have our bedroom, a guest bedroom, and a good-size common area that currently serves no purpose, but shows a lot of potential.]

For all practical purposes, our space is upstairs and my parents space is downstairs. But, things are never that simple. While the physical separation of upstairs and downstairs may exist, downstairs also serves as the socializing space. No socializing happens upstairs, at least for now. Downstairs though, we have our morning coffees together (if we wake up early enough), read our newspapers together, eat our meals together, and entertain our neighbors and visitors together.

With this interesting arrangement, it’s never easy to know how much to separate and how much to commune.

You may have your own experience of separation and communion – perhaps at the work place – How close do you get with your colleague? How much do you stay away from the same colleague?

How much is too much and how little is too little?

Same with your friends – Are your friends close enough for coffee, but too far for cocktails?

Back to my dilemma…

How much do you separate and how much do you commune?

I want to separate enough to have a single malt in my glass and listen to music.
I want to commune enough to sit outside with everyone in the garden and listen to the birds.

I want to separate enough to have my own fridge.
I want to commune enough to share the space of ‘my’ fridge upstairs for accommodating leftovers that didn’t find the room in ‘our’ fridge downstairs.

I want to separate enough to have private conversations with my wife.
I want to commune enough to gossip about my uncle’s sister-in-law’s second cousin.

I want to separate enough to watch my Netflix shows.
I want to commune enough to watch Tamil soaps with my parents.

I want to separate enough to wake up whenever I want.
I want to commune enough to say good night to my parents before I head to bed, upstairs.

I want to separate enough to feel independent.
I want to commune enough to be part of the family, part of the community.

This artful balance takes time. We will figure our way home.

Published by Arun Muthu

In 2019, I relocated to India after having lived in California for more than two decades. These scribbles attempt to capture my observations at what I call home through a foreigner's eyes.

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  1. Mapping for those in Arun’s other home country:
    Ground Floor -> First Floor
    First Floor -> Second Floor


    1. This mapping algorithm applies sometimes …
      Ground Floor -> First Floor
      X Floor -> X+1 Floor when X X+2 Floor when X>=12


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