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'My roommates were darlings'
Janaki D
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July 11, 2007

We asked readers to share their stories about living with roommates. Here, Janaki D, a 26-year-old Mumbai-based Mahindra & Mahindra employee, tells of her roomie experiences:

I moved to Bombay (I prefer to refer to the city by her earlier name) three years ago and have been living with roommates ever since. For the first two years, I had the same four roomies all through, then in the third year I was sharing company quarters with a colleague and recently, since only a couple of weeks now, with the friend-of-a-friend. And not once have I ever regretted living with any of them.

That is not to say it was rosy between us all the time. There are always compromises and adjustments to be made -- some amicably and some with closed fists and gritted teeth.

My first two years in Bombay were great. All four of us were away from home for the first time, and made the most of it. It was a lot of fun setting up a new house together. We got to know each other and had good times -- pillow fights, water fights and some real fights. I remember one time our flush broke and the house was flooded. After desperately trying to track a plumber, once the initial hysteria had died down, we started making boats and drenching each other. The four of us cuddled up together to sleep on a single bed that night, only to find that the house had flooded again the next morning!

We looked after each other and tended to whoever took ill; at the same time, we learned to give each other space when required. Even though we had different friend-circles in college we made sure to spend time with each other. We had dinner together regularly (at least during the first year), we rented DVDs and watched late night movies and porn together, we had innumerable all-night gossip sessions and late night coffee sessions.

During my third year in Mumbai I moved in with a colleague from work -- my company allotted us accomodation and the two of us were assigned roomies. This was a completely different experience altogether from my first two years. My new roommate was a great girl but we had absolutely nothing in common. Different lifestyles, different habits -- everything about us was different. I can count on my fingers the number of times we had a long, meaningful conversation. We were always nice to each other, no misunderstandings, no arguments. And we parted amicably after one year was up.

Now (since the last couple of weeks) I live with a stranger, the friend-of-a-friend. We are still in the process of getting to know each other.

The last three years have taught me a lot about human behaviour. In particular, they have taught me that compromises are not necessarily a negative thing. I have friends who have had torrid times with their roommates because of ego clashes -- if you don't want to compromise, you're in for a rough time.

Here are a few bits of advice I have for those who share their accomodations with roommates:

~ Living together does not necessarily mean you should become friends.

This is the first cardinal rule. Understand that you move in with your roommates more as a matter of convenience than anything else. During the first year I had my mine complaining about my not spending enough time with them and not sharing gossip with them. Please understand that you don't become soul-mates just because you live under the same roof. Learn to give your roomies enough space (especially if they happen to be girls). You will ultimately become friends if all the other factors fall into place, but don't push it.

~ Set the ground rules.

Very, very important. It was mutually agreed upon when I started living with my colleague that she would not smoke anywhere in the house, but in her own room. One morning I got up to find cigarette butts all over the living room floor. After that, she started smoking in the living room even when I was around. And my biggest mistake was that I never confronted her about this breach of our understanding.

Make sure the ground rules are set very early on and don't hesitate to confront the culprit if ever they are broken. You don't want to be stuck with a dirty kitchen, or clothes lying all around the house. It's important to discuss even trivial issues -- for instance, I am a sucker for open windows. I hate it when the curtains are drawn. And all the roommates I've had up until now have preferred to keep curtains drawn!

Also, you need to respect other's needs. During college, the person who wanted to stay up longer than the rest to study would make use of the kitchen, so that the others could sleep well -- my roommates were darlings when it came to this.

Make sure you divide the household chores and decide how the bills will be settled much in advance to avoid later misunderstandings. Most importantly, decide from the beginning what you will compromise on and what you will not -- and learn to realise when it's just not worth it.

~ Don't take sides.

Chances are you will be often be the audience to an argument or a fight between your roommates. Never -- and I mean never -- take sides. Even if you like one more than you like the other. You are only going to mess it up. After the first year, one of my roommates left. She and my other roommates had issues that couldn't be completely solved. During their arguments I never took sides, but remained neutral. And it helped in the long run.

~ Try your best to make it work.

It's good to start off with the positive assumption that the person you are going to move in with is very nice and that you will have a good time living with her/ him. Try to get to know your roommates better, try to be nice, be helpful -- trust me, simple things like saying good morning, asking how his/ her day was, saying goodnight, making two cups of tea instead of one -- these small gestures will contribute to a good relationship with your roommate.

For me, it's been one amazing ride -- lots and lots of stories to tell when I become a grandmom!

 DON'T MISS!

Do you or did you once share your living space with a roommate/ roommates? We'd love to hear about your experiences sharing your accommodation with someone else. Roomie horror stories, stories of friendship, we want to hear them all!

Write in to us, along with your name, age, occupation, contact details, and a photograph (if possible), and we'll publish your entries right here on rediff.com!


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