How do you build a ‘home?’ And how important is the space that you share as a couple when it comes to shaping your lives?
I can still picture the house in which I grew up in Mumbai. It was on the fourth floor. Sunlight would stream across the door in the mornings; I would be on the sofa with my tea, dad with his newspaper, mom bustling in the kitchen. And all of us collectively calling out to my brother to wake up.
As flats go in Mumbai it was sufficient and cosy for the four of us. Space was never an issue, our parents’ love had created enough room for us, our dreams and our real selves.
This was the home that my parents built. When I moved to the UK after marriage, it was time for me and my husband to create our own. It was here that we made an unusual decision.
I had been dating my now-husband for quite a long time, but most of our relationship was conducted long distance. He was finishing his Ph.D. in the UK and I was working back home in Mumbai. We were in different cities, countries and time zones altogether.
So being in the same house was quite a big step for us compared to the daily WhatsApp-Facetime relationship we had shared for the past couple of years.
Before our wedding, Aadi was already living with a friend (Kim) from his university. After considering a lot of factors like rental contracts and the extortionate cost of hovel like houses in the UK, we decided that I would move into the flat with them. (Instead of renting out a flat that was just for the both of us.)
To be honest, I had my doubts about the arrangement.
I was going to be living with Aadi for the first time (which is not too different
from most newly-wed couples), but I was also re-acquainting myself with him
after years of being in a virtual relationship. I was not sure I wanted company
when we would start living together finally.
Don’t get me wrong. I had met Kim at our wedding in India and she was lovely, but my doubts were more about me than anyone else.
Proving all my misgivings false, our arrangement worked out perfectly. And it is now remembered as an exceptional example of how my 'husband was right.’
I will tell you why it worked. Coming from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, with family all around, it was great to move into a flat (which is what I was used to), right next to a busy road (again like home) and also a friend right at hand apart from my husband.
It helped me and my husband live like friends/roommates more than a "newly married couple.” It gave us a chance of living all those experiences that we had missed out on during our girlfriend and boyfriend phase - like partying and chilling with friends, late night movies, cooking dinner together and many, many more.
Our life had multiple facets - we would be husband and wife in our room who picked sides on the bed, flat mates having a cocktail night at home or binging on TV series like 24, having movie nights where me and Kim picked a Disney movie that Aadi would be forced to watch. Or just sit in silence, taking pleasure in each other’s company while we did our own thing. And when either of us was away we would have a friend for company in the house.
Like any other relationship, there were times that made me wish for our own place, but the fun and good times we had, over-shadowed any temporary doubts. Surprisingly, none of our family members ever raised a question about our living arrangement. Since Kim had been there for our wedding, both sides of the family knew her and could not have been more comfortable about her sharing our house. A few of my friends did find it strange, but knowing me, they knew I was happy about it or else I would not have signed up to it.
We knew the flatmate-living arrangement had an expiry date from the beginning, yet it was an emotional farewell when we were moving to Cambridge. We were going to miss our home in Reading, Kim and the friends we had made in the city, but more importantly at some level we both realised life as a ‘married couple’ in the societal sense was beginning. The demo run was over and life was getting real.
Our home in Reading gave us the opportunity to squeeze all stages of a relationship into a large part of two years. We were more than friends when we got married, flat mates and roommates in Reading and then finally a couple ready to start lives together in Cambridge.
It will be a year soon, since we moved into our own space and although sharing our space with a friend was a beautiful experience, we are glad it was at the beginning of our marriage. At a time, when we were adjusting to each other, we were able to adjust to the living arrangement. At any other point in our marriage that might have been cumbersome.
And when people ask me, how it was to have a shared living arrangement for the first two years of our married life, I say, we wouldn’t have had it any other way.