Every time you tell your family about the need of space, you are often looked upon as another one of those suffering from a western malaise. Even talking about it or expressing a need for it is considered treacherous to the concept of the great Indian family. No wonder that a man could only be alone and proceed for Vanprastha* once he had completed all his family duties. The concept of personal space for women did not exist at all, either then or now.

Our attitudes inside our homes are oh so! evident in our behavior with others too. We drive our cars bumper to bumper, unashamedly peep into what the person sitting next to us in a bus or a train is reading and even try and peer into cars passing by. The ideal distance in a queue is when you can smell the other person's BO or when you can feel someone press into you in a blue line bus.

Ever noticed when there are too many people in an elevator, our first reaction to the invasion of that invisible personal space around us is to look up, gaze at that dirty elevator roof and avoid eye contact. When the bodies are uncomfortably close enough to do the talking we avoid the more sensible and sincere language of the eyes. Is our attitude unavoidable because we are a billion people or we are a billion people because of it?


This lack of space combined with our emphasis on making every occasion a collective one has really done most harm to the man-woman relationship, especially one that is confined by a marriage. Surely it has been reduced to a largely physical relationship which is allowed only behind closed doors. The land of Kamasutra has a festival to celebrate every other relationship-be it brother-sister, mother-son, teacher-student except for the man-woman one. And when the youngsters adopt Valentine's Day as their own to celebrate, the custodians of cultural integrity blame it all on globalization.

In their aim to meet their short-term targets, Policy makers have largely ignored this need for a larger cultural change. How does one go about changing these deeply entrenched attitudes and values that are held so close? How do you go about creating a sense of space when physical space is at a premium? The rich can find different avenues by going out for expensive vacations or afford smaller family units but how do you help the bottom of the pyramid. How do we bring about personal freedom for so many within the confines of a family.

I probably know what may not work in such a situation than otherwise. Advertising campaigns have often failed when the issue is bringing about real grassroots level attitudinal change. Globalization, the evil force in so many other situations may just act as the real change agent in this scenario. Melting physical boundaries, growing aspirations and increasing gender equality may just help change the way we behave in private and public spaces.

Really there are no answers but it's something to think about and put our "collective" minds to. We could all begin by understanding our own communities and empowering them with a sixth sense-the 'sense of space.'

*According to the Vedic philosophy, a man lives his life in four stages-Balavastha (where he's a kid), Brahmacharya (where he stays celibate and learns the various arts of life), Grahasthashram (where he's completely devoted to his family) and finally Vanprastha (where he goes to the forest to live the rest of his life in solitude).


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