Text by Sadaf Shaikh
When quarantining became mandatory, many young professionals who had moved cities for work chose to go back home – either to save on rent or return to the reassuring familiarity of their families, former surroundings or even the nosy neighbours they loved to hate. (Seriously, the pandemic has us yearning for the most unusual things – I’m looking at you, banana bread). The unique remote-working opportunities also provided a way to explore a nomadic way of living, with others taking up temporary residence in quieter towns that afforded them the luxury of time to pick up new skills, like permaculture or pottery, once they had clocked out of their day jobs.
And for those who weren’t in a position to head home or escape to more bucolic settings, and have continued living by themselves – the static of video calls to long-distance friends and relatives, the crackle of comfort food and the faithful hum of the television penetrate the often lonely silence of solitude. Contrastingly, for the consummate introverts who have always aspired to lead a hermitic existence, the lack of social activity has allowed them to thrive emotionally.
But it doesn’t matter if you’re April Ludgate or a Barjatya character on the spectrum of social interaction; you’d probably find the same satisfaction in shutting a door on the unpredictability outside and retreating into the reassuring solace of an empty bedroom, if you’re lucky enough to have one of your own. And so, what we once mainly looked at as the place we “retire to” at night has evolved into an active element of the current WFH culture – either as a makeshift home office or a refuge from overwhelming news cycles, family drama and constant mental stimulation.
Here, through a reflective series of sketches and illustrations, six creatively inclined Verve team members visualise the details of their personal spaces and consider the rooms’ potential as outlets for self-expression and sources of comfort while imagining the things they’d hear if their walls could talk….
Sarah Rajkotwala, Junior Fashion Stylist
The lockdown was a wistful experience for me. I love being by myself and am usually prone to spending a lot of time alone, so self-isolating wasn’t necessarily hard. But I was living outside the city, away from my home in Mumbai. I’ve always considered my room as my safe haven, but I didn’t realise how much I missed the comfort it provided until I finally came back after five months.
The first image I created is without any outlines, representing my fading memory of my room and how being away from it for so long caused the elements to bleed into each other. The second one is how I saw my room after being reunited with it, where all the finer details come to life.
“She created me, designed me, and filled me with so much vibrancy and fun when she excitedly began decorating me with all her little artworks and knick-knacks. I thought this was going to be an exciting space, BUT WHAT DO I GET STUCK WITH?! THIS SLOTH OF A PERSON WHO IS ALWAYS CURLED UP IN BED! SHE IS EITHER READING OR ON HER LAPTOP AND THE LOCKDOWN HAS MADE HER EVEN LAZIER! SHE NEVER DOES ANYTHING FUN IN HERE. HER ENERGY IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT I HAD SIGNED UP FOR. I WANT A REDO.”
Swati Sinha, Senior Graphic Designer
My husband and I were using our room to store some leftover plywood pieces as we were in the process of redecorating. Then the pandemic hit, and this makeshift storeroom became our personal space and a studio since we’re both design professionals. We extended our desks by using the plywood sheets and began utilising every corner of the room for creative purposes.
This 10×10 (feet) room made us feel normal when the outdoors was descending into chaos. I didn’t want to undermine its ubiquity in our lives by illustrating it within four walls because the space now means more to us than that. It’s a place for work, a place for fun, a place for healthy debates, a place for learning, a place for expanding our minds. Like everyone else, we did miss going out, but this room has now become an emotional totem of both our pre-and post-pandemic lives.
Me: “I feel your walls closing in every time I’m working on something.”
Mr TenTen: “I just want to have a closer look at what you’re up to.”
Me: “So what do you think of this typography, Mr TenTen?”
Mr TenTen: “Ah! You can do better than that!”
Me: “Give me some space then.”
A few months into the pandemic, I returned to my room at home after four years of college and internships. It seemed smaller and dingier than I remembered, and it took a while before I got used to the lack of space and privacy. I used to sneak out to the balcony in the middle of the night to smoke as my parents would disown me if they found out. But as time passed, I began enjoying being confined to my room, claiming it as my own kingdom. I could blast my music as loud as I wanted to, without the worry of a warden or landlord kicking down my door. I could exercise, meditate, play dress up, pretend like I’m in a movie, keep the lights on way past midnight – all without the judgment and complaints of a roommate. I had never shared a connection so strong with four walls before, and I allowed myself to get attached. Last month, I shifted to a new house, and I’m still recovering from the loss of my space.
“I’ve seen her after ages. I wonder if she’s here to stay this time. No way to know. The last time she came back from one of her internships, all she did was whine about how I was either too chilly or too humid and how she couldn’t wait to leave. It’s been 20 years, and I’ve never seen her happy here.”
“Her first day at work. She’s changed her blouse thrice. Only the blouse, though.”
“I’m being redecorated. I’m finally being personalised! New lights, a rug, some plants, candles. It’s not much, but it’s enough to make me feel appreciated.”
“She’s stopped sneaking out to smoke. She seems happier. Her skin looks great.”
“I can’t believe she drank four litres of water today.”
“Wow, this emotional rollercoaster is making me feel woozy. Does she want to leave? Doesn’t look like it. Doesn’t look like she wants to stay either.”
“So we’re spending today crying. Okay. Is she really taking selfies of herself crying?”
Mallika Chandra, Creative Consultant
My room has always been a sanctuary for me – a space that looks, smells, sounds and feels just the way I want it to. It is also an extremely coherent and persnickety display of the random objects and moments I have collected since my childhood, even though only a few of these – like my most favourite blue rug or a certain stolen safety cone – remain in my daily consciousness. It is these pops of colour that anchor the mental image I have of my room; the other “stuff” simply wanes into the background. There is also a life-sized painting of a jungle gym fading away behind clouds that is about this very idea of “vanishing memories”, and I wake up to it every day.
As much as I’ve enjoyed actually spending time alone in my room during the lockdown, there have been some dysfunctional aspects to it. My bed has become my desk, rendering my actual desk quite useless. I am also quite certain that one day, those charger wires will completely entangle me while my arch nemesis – blue light – blinds me forever.
Bathroom: “She left again, huh?”
Room: “Yeah bathroom, she did. And she actually tried to get away with using the typical ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ cliche. I’d rather have nothing than that. How are you so unaffected by her constantly leaving?!”
Bathroom: “Well, it hurts me too, but who am I to say anything? You guys have always been closer. I’ve always been the third appendage. But maybe there is one thing you don’t know about her that could change your perception of her…”
Room: “What are you trying to say? Don’t tell me you’re going to defend her.”
Bathroom: “I’m not. But she sometimes speaks to me in the shower, you know? And she really isn’t just running off on a whim. It’s important to her, and I just think maybe we should try and understand that? You and I both know she can’t stay here forever. The lockdown isn’t permanent. But it was great while it lasted.”
Room: “You’re acting like I enjoy holding her back.”
Bathroom: “Don’t twist my words. Let’s just wait till she comes back, okay? I’m sure she’ll tell you everything.”
Room: “Bathroom! Tell me!”
Bathroom: “I already know I’m going to regret this but here goes…she just wants a different life, Room! She loves us but we can’t give her what she dreams of – open space, clean air, ample sunlight, birdsong, the place to grow her own food. I can see this separation pains her because we are what she has always been familiar with, but she’s changed now. We knew this had to happen one day because let’s face it, at the end of the day, all we are is a box. Just… let her go, okay?”
Wamika Gera, Junior Designer
This wall has seen it all. From posters of Arctic Monkeys to Muddy Waters, my Tumblr phase, the Pinterest-inspired obsession with fairy lights and Minion memes. When I moved cities, I was beyond glad to be rid of my lurker of a sister, but I dearly missed this wall that had become such an iconic aspect of my room. Somehow, being away from it for so long made me miss the most trivial things: scrolling through my photos to decide which ones would receive the spot of honour, revelling in the satisfaction of peeling off old posters before sticking newer prints on the wall, watching my friends gaze at it for hours as they tried to find an image they recognised. The excitement of putting things up on that wall almost made up for living on the ground floor, which often saw random passersby looking at it through my window.
When I returned home during the lockdown, the nostalgia of the wall – the comfort of seeing it – and the simple feeling of being at home was pleasantly overwhelming. But after months of numbly staring at posters from a time long gone, I think it’s time for both of us to keep up with changing times.
“Who sleeps after a yoga class? I mean, at least she’s going for yoga class, so that’s good. But really? Wake up at 6:30 a.m. and go back to sleep at 7:45 a.m.? Who does that?! And she thinks I’m weird and anachronistic!”
Nitya Arora, Creative Consultant
I spend a lot of time looking at the trees outside my bedroom window, so I eventually changed the direction of my bed to face the window. The pink walls, the vibrant art, the marbled floor and the carefully curated furniture in my room are in a myriad of colours and prints, which keep my spirits up and provide constant inspiration.
Me: “I’m so glad I painted you pink before the pandemic.”
Room: “Me too! I feel loved.”
Me: “At least someone does. Kidding!”
Room: “Were you, though?”
Me: “Definitely. I can live inside you and be happy. You have everything that brings me joy. My paints and sketch book, my books, my phone and laptop and best of all, a massive window overlooking trees that are alive with fruit, flowers and birds. My wardrobe, which I love so dearly. And my bathroom, which also has art on the walls.”
Room: “But aren’t you lonely sometimes? Don’t you wish you had someone to share me with?”
Me: “Sometimes I do, but I’m sure there are times when people who have partners also wish to be alone and have their room all to themselves. For now, I’m enjoying this side of the fence, and if I ever do feel sad when I compare the grass on the other side, I allow myself to fully experience that emotion. Sadness can be beautiful, romantic and humorous if you know how to navigate its tricky pathways.”
Room: “Oh you nut! Well, I sure am lucky to share it all with you. These warm orange lights that you’ve installed make me feel like the inside of a womb. I officially christen myself the #WombRoom.”
If you enjoyed reading this, you may also like: A View with a Room: Ankit Verma’s performance art blurs the borders between art and life through experimental storytelling from Verve’s Cinema Issue