I’ve moved to a new place, as you may have guessed. It’s a room in a house full of people, owned by an Iranian landlady, who lives there with her 9-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter. There is one other tenant, a 24-year Portuguese guy.
This is obviously a very different living experience from anything I’ve done before. It’s a beautiful house, and a nice room, and very welcoming family. It’s pretty close to the city center, and is surrounded by a lot of really beautiful wilderness and paths to walk on. Paths to walk surrounded by greenery are so important, aren’t they? You underestimate how important they are to your re-fuelling process and peace of mind.
The landlady is Iranian, very beautiful, full of life, and, like I said, welcoming. She instantly made us a part of her family, which has it’s good and bad effects. Of course I’ve had to sacrifice the total autonomy with which I have lived for the last year, but whether this is a bad thing is debatable. More often than not, I used that autonomy to effect a very successful imitation of a sentient potato. I mean, it was joyful and liberating and luxurious and unforgettable, but on the whole, I can’t make binge-sleeping, eating and watching TV on my laptop a lifestyle. No.
So I suppose I’m grateful to my Iranian landlady (shall I call her Nargis?) for her motherly judgements on my weight, subtle comments on my laziness, and desire to make me more pro-active. Nevertheless, it is annoying living in an environment where suddenly, the locus of what is important is very different from what it has been for the past year, living and interacting mainly with intelligent, well-informed, literary and often intellectual people. These people could often be pretentious, hipster-ish, and abstract.
In this house there are no such problems. These are quite salt of the earth people. No, not quite. Nargis is a newly minted beautician, with a colourful back story of divorce and immigration. She is a very strong woman, clearly, who knows what she wants and what she values. I suppose I admire her and see where she is coming from, but no, in the end, I would not like to be her or think that I, with my laziness and disregard of beauty and mating rituals, can ever win her approval.
Her daughter is similar to her in a lot of ways, but with the added (or subtracted) quality of youth. She surprised me by declaring, in our first conversation, that she is looking for a husband in her dating life. She discusses her personal life with impunity, revealing the details of her loss of virginity in front of her 9-year-old brother, and describing a lurid encounter she and her friend, Jemima, had with a creep with a lesbian fetish in a club in front of her (in spite of everything) rather shocked mother. She is, indeed, exactly what she claims to be. She looks like a slightly overweight and shorter Kim Kardashian, but aims for Miley Cyrus/wholesomeBritney Spears body. I finally realised that the thread tying all these disparate concerns together was the shadow cast upon her, at all times, by her older sister. Her perfectly toned older sister, beautiful and engaged to a white man with a steady job, who advises her to ‘be aloof when it comes to boys’ and ‘make him chase you’. Such things are shocking to me, as a feminist and academic, in the way that a scientist researching the cure for small pox when he actually encounters a diseased body rather than the culture he has been playing with all this time. Yes, I’ve spent most of my life in India, so I have lived with the terrible injustice of being a woman in a very real way. And yet, my parents have always been so liberal, and so have my friends and my teachers, I’ve never really seen the subtle, hypocritical strain of injustice that is represented by the pressures of being beautiful and married and young and female, in today’s world.
The daughter, Tina, insists she is ‘mature for her age’, when as I have explained, she is (in my mind at least) just trying her best to live up to the shadows cast on her by her father and sister. On the one, she wants to be a doctor despite being a bad student, and on the other hand, wants to be beautiful and in a committed relationship, despite being so incredibly young. I find it easy, as always, to listen and chameleon myself, pretend I understand her completely. We do have some things in common, and she does remind me of my cousin sister Mona, but on the whole, I do wish she would just try to enjoy life and carve her own identity rather than try so hard to conform.
Both children are spoilt, though still sweet and sincere. The boy is typically obsessed with video games, especially the violent kind, and is shy and wrapped up in his own world most of the time. He reminds me of my brother, Hrehan, a LOT.
And then there is the Portuguese guy, Jon. He’s quite good-looking, though short and ever so slightly… Idon’t know. A pretty boy, you know?
He’s sweet, really, especially for someone with such a cute and disarming smile, and seems well-adjusted and chilled out. However, he talks a lot. And mostly about himself and his interests. Portugal, robots, computers, psychology, computer and robot psychology, etc. There is a lot of polite nods and pretending to be interested from my side in our conversations.
I like it though. I like the feeling of the full house and seeing how all of these people live their lives. I like being immersed in someone else’ life, without commitment or sacrifice, as an observer.
Plus, look at what beauty lies 5 minutes away: