More often than not, I work from home. Now that I think of it, I spent more of my graduating years working at home than in the institute. At times it’s not even a matter of choice; it’s my strongest survival tactic. I have spoilt myself with the comforts that are an understandable part of living with your parents. But this is not always a rosy picture.
Every place has its pros and cons, and so does, unfortunately, Home, door bell and phone calls left aside. My concern here is with S PA C E.
When in School, I had a stereotypical study table with the lamp and (best out of waste) pen stand. My imagination bound well within limits, I am certain that it was a conspiracy to have the table blown out of proportions especially during examinations. It not just served as a dreadful reminder for doomsday, it forbade sleep altogether. No matter what the number, that table always had space for a few more books; a little adjustment and one could also place the extra color pencil set for the Political Map.
In due course, my tools changed into huge sheets, innumerable colours (mostly unwanted), objects and toys picked up from various places, thicker and bigger books, unnecessarily complicated scales and protractors i.e. geometry set (only used for intimidation and self protection against hypothetical thieves, rarely for work) and so on. The table gave up and the bed bore the brunt. Lest I forget, bags of books collected since childhood are regularly updated with comics and graphic novels which are now a part of my wardrobe due to lack of safe storage area. My room has since been fluctuating between serving as a guest room, cloak room, attic, and workshop and when time would permit, bed room.
My mother is a generous soul; she called the carpenter and had him make two small tables to be used on the bed. I being used to the massive space of the bed, could not confine myself to the relatively miniscule table top. So now the table serves as a rack for more prestigious books and items like i-pod, which if lost in the rest of the paraphernalia, will hamper my work speed emotionally if nothing else.
I remember working like this for at least four years now, and it had been going pretty well I must say. But nothing in life is permanent. Sigh!
Winters are time for hibernation and the months of December and January witness the lowest levels of energy in me. This year, for a change, I was travelling and energetic and hoped to get back and work with full conviction. Howsoever, the spirit could not hold against the luxury embedded in a bed and the negativity personified by clutter. I spent more than a month fighting daily restlessness and frustration at not performing.
Amidst all this, I went to an organization for a week. The first day was a mere discussion and within an hour I was free. But something held me back. Every person in that space was working, and had a purpose to deliver. I stayed back and finished writing an essay I had been procrastinating for a week. I finished it in less than two hours. I could not believe myself. I felt sincere and efficient. I immediately bestowed all credit to the organization and their work environment. I had the same experience on all the following days. I would not even take calls. I returned home every evening, extremely impressed and determined to go back, high cost of living and lesser compensation felt trivial in front of my regained efficiency.
On my return journey, I thought over it and recalled the reasons for me reacting so positively. I concluded it was not to do with people, the timings were flexible, people would be joking around, in fact I never noticed anyone else. It had nothing to with the fact that it was an office either; the difference was I, myself. I had consciously assigned a sense of purpose and an almost spiritual meaning to a huge chair and table. Such was my determination to concentrate that I did not check any mail other than work for a week, which otherwise happens by the hour. I would do the same, if I sit on a chair with a table at the railway station, at the highway or even inside a pub. The surroundings hardly matter. This took me back to times when I, a nerdy child, would solve Math Problems inside the car unaware of the world passing by, or when I would revise a chapter while gobbling down food in a marriage ceremony. Tenacity is all I required.
On my return, I removed the clutter, including the clutter in my mail inbox, segregating and grouping my entire life. I made a time table (it includes visit to Comic Con), and I shifted my laptop and books to another room which has an old computer table and a chair. I sleep in my own room and go to that room for work. It makes a difference, a lot of difference. Space matters and a little change can make work happen.
Picture taken at Workshop Damroo, IDC, 2010. By Poornima Sardana