I have always loved meeting people be it known ones or unknown ones. The best memorable times have been in common rooms or common places like canteens. Schools and universities have them and also residential homes have them. In our personal homes we have lounges and verandas.
My Grandma, Dadi as we called her, was perhaps regal in her ways. I remember her mostly in white cotton sarees worn in a traditional way, her thin figure and medium height carried it really well. In the seventies, that is how a widow would dress up. Every evening she would wear a fresh starched saree and would come to sit in the veranda. It felt like a common room, people would come and sit from other households. We knew she would be there, and once studies were done we would all go and sit around. Politics, newspapers, magazines, local gossip was discussed. Men, women, children everyone came. It was the buzz time and buzz place of Dharhara Kothi, my ancestral home in Patna. We would be sprawling on the stairs as there weren’t as many chairs some days to accommodate the number of people that would come.
Being there for an hour or two would declutter brains. After the catch up with others, we were ready to get back to our daily studying or whatever it might be. My Dadi would go to her room to do her prayers and meditation. The thought of those evenings still makes me feel refreshed. I wonder why. Do you know, it was the way of release from the whole day. Felt exhilarated and recharged to go back and do the next part of the evening chores.
Common room and canteen in our medical school has left us with the most friendly and fondest of memories. Eating together, discussing problems, planning exams, outings and picnics is all vivid in the hearts. Whenever I go to Patna, my alma mater Patna Medical College, is so close by that I will invariably make the rounds of the campus and the common room definitely brings a smile to my face.
My daughter at her medical school lives in a rented house with five others. When she talks about her cooking together with friends and eating together in the kitchen/lounge area, I do think it is perhaps creating beautiful memories for her too. Their catch up can be of an hour two quite often and I relish in the thought of her being in a common room, it perhaps gives them all the chatting therapy they need.
At work we have a common room, where we meet for peer meetings and also for lunch. This has all got back to normal slowly but surely after the pandemic. It gives a good time to talk and meet others.
My only heart ache is that older people who stay in their own homes don’t have this social interaction anymore. Covid of course made it worse. Library, church, gyms can be treated like common rooms but it is not as easily accessible to all. It would be lovely to make some arrangements for old age so people could meet on a daily basis, to not do much, apart from sitting and chatting.
The happiness my Dadi brought for all of us was immense, I hope it can be replicated for a lot more houses and older people.