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'My roommates didn't trust me'
Dr Ram Deshmukh
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June 18, 2007

We asked readers to share their stories about living with roommates. Here, Dr Ram Deshmukh, a 28-year-old Corus-Tata Steel employee settled in Scunthorpe, UK, talks of his roomie experiences:

I came to Cardiff in the UK as a PhD student. Initially, I made use of the student accommodations facility at my university, but that changed when I made friends with a few fellow Indians. They were from Hyderabad, and although I am Maharastrian, I was born and bought up in Warangal, AP -- I can speak fluent Telugu, which helped me bond with them.

I soon moved out of my student accomodation and into a house with my Hyderabadi pals  -- Prashant, Naga, John and Rehman. The first six months went smoothly -- we all got along well. I was the only student among them (all my roomies worked for the same software company), but they were very understanding when it came to my studies. They would keep the TV volume low when I was reading in my room, and tried to avoid disturbing me. Naga and Prashant used to drink every day, but it didn't bother the rest of us in any way. Sometimes, we even put them to bed if they got drunk.

All five of us were now very close. Whenever I spoke to my parents, I would tell them that ours was a house of all religions -- Naga, Prashant, and myself were Hindus, John was a Christian, and Rehman was a Muslim.

We had a cooking rota system -- each of us was responsible for a meal by turn -- and we shared all the household bills. Now this is where conflicts often cropped up, usually due to miscalculations. Naga formed a habit of borrowing money from the rest of us, always promising to return it the coming month. When the time came to pay bills, he would do the same thing, convincing us that he would reimburse us at a later date.

This went on for months together. Once, when I asked him to return all the money he had borrowed from me, he started bargaining, saying that the amount I was demanding was too much, that he would not pay, and to prove that he had borrowed such-and-such a sum from me at so-and-so time, on so-and-so day! As I didn't remember all the details of his frequent borrowing bouts, he paid me a partial sum and said the account was now settled. From that time on, I started maintaining a diary of his debts, and also started taking his signature whenever he borrowed money from any of us. It is always important to be clear when it comes to money matters with your roommates.

Not long after this, Rehman made friends with a group of Muslims, and wanted to move in with them. He felt guilty about leaving us and taking off to live with his new friends, so one day he found a silly excuse to pick a fight with Naga (who was quick-tempered, and easily provoked), and promptly stated that he was moving out. Within half an hour's time Rehman's bags were packed, but before he left, we sat him down and explained that we knew he wanted to live with his fellow Muslims. We said it was fine with us if that was what he wanted, but that he should have explained his intentions, instead of picking an unnecessary fight. We then helped him move his luggage to his new accommodation, and he visited us regularly after that. Always explain your intentions to your roommates, and discuss problems, instead of adding to them by not coming clean.

Now it was just the four of us. One fine day, my roomies received the news that the company they worked for was closing down. All three of them were a source of support to their families back home in India, and sent money to their folks each month -- the thought of losing their jobs sent them into a panic. I advised them to secure new work permits, and to open up their own company.

A problem now arose. I was good friends with a colleague of theirs, Shashi -- he was also working at the software company where they were employed. They didn't want him to know of their plans, and so stopped discussing their work permit proceedings and ideas for the new enterprise in front of me. Whenever they saw me, all their discussions would come to a stop. I was upset, and felt alienated, so I told them they had nothing to fear of me opening my mouth to Shashi about anything. My assurances didn't work, however -- they simply didn't trust me.

I soon left for a vacation back home in India, but imagine my surprise when I came back to the UK to find our house empty. My roommates had moved to another place, and had not even informed me that they were leaving. I was very hurt, but I understood that they weren't comfortable with me being Shashi's friend. So I simply accepted their decision and their need for privacy, but continued to visit them on weekends, and we remained in touch.

All in all, here's what I learned from living with my roommates:

~ Be clear in all money matters, and note things down when you're not confident of remembering them -- this also helps avoid misunderstandings later on. 
~ Always make your feelings and your intentions known, and also respect your roommates' feelings and ideas.
~ Don't let yourself be exploited in the name of friendship.

I hope my advice is helpful to other youngsters sharing accomodations with roommates.


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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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