To Room Nineteen – Doris Lessing
In a recent conversation with a male friend he asked, “If you are planning to get married at some point of life, why does it matter if you get married at 22 or 25?”. Well.. I don’t know what changes for a man. But brought up in a patriarchal society, I have always felt many things change for a women. And this is not an old story, it still is the case for many women. So when people say getting married at the age of 22 is a choice, I feel it is a conditioned one because of how we were brought up.
You might wonder why I am bringing this up now? Like, What is the connection?. The book is about a women who feels like she has lost herself in the process, in the responsibilities that strung along after her marriage. She wishes to be alone, totally alone, where none could find her or disrupt her peace. As a solution, her husband prepares for her a room in their big riverside apartment where she is not to be disturbed but soon that space too is invaded by her four children and maid just like another room. She realizes she is never really free from the accountability as a wife, a mother, a employer or as the mistress of the house. So she rents herself a room in a cheap hotel in the town, Room no : 19, where she spends the day doing nothing, sitting in her armchair taking in the emptiness flowing through her veins. She regains her identity in a cheap dark room rented under a false name having no past or future. She is no longer bound by the labels of a wife, mother, employer or a mistress. She is finally her.
Me at 18 or 20 would have never related to this women or her room number nineteen. Nor would I understand the feeling of going somewhere far and alone, where none would find me. I also doubt if the girl in me then would be able to sympathize with the women’s difficulty to put all her feelings into words or justify her restlessness on being found . But the woman in me at 24 can. I could understand how some things are easy unsaid, how some things could not make sense to others, and how all of us need a Room nineteen at times – a place you don’t want to be seen or discovered, a place totally yours.
I have seen women proudly taking up labels, being addressed as somebody’s somebody and I have always dreaded it. I feel scared as If I am giving up some part of me to be somebody else when I am whole as such. And being a person scared of losing her identity, this book for me was pretty disturbing and sad. At the same time, I felt comforted by the fact that it is okay wanting to be alone at times, to feel empty at times. I also learnt that somethings are better handled and interpreted with the heart. So if you are a woman, you just like me won’t be able to finish it without your chest feeling tight, but I will still ask you to read it. You will feel like something closing in on you but would still like it. I heard about it in the Korean drama ‘This is my first life’ and I am glad I decided to read this one. This was a wonderful read, a memorable one. Happy Reading