I’ve loved the short story “What’s your dream?” by Ruskin Bond since the first time I read it.
An old man, a beggar man, bent double, with a flowing white beard and piercing grey eyes, stopped on the road on the other side of the garden wall and looked up at me, where I perched on the branch of a litchi tree.
‘What’s your dream?’ he asked.
The boy tries not to answer but the beggar persists.
‘A dream, my boy, is what you want most in life. Isn’t there something you want more than anything else ?’
‘Yes,’ I said promptly. ‘A room of my own.’
The beggar understands.
‘I see. What you really want is freedom. Your own tree, your own room, your own small place under the sun.’
‘Yes, that’s all.’
‘That’s all? That’s everything! When you have all that, you’ll have found your dream.’
That’s my dream as well. I want a room of my own. Not a physical room – although that would be nice – but a space under the sun and in my mind that’s all my own. I want the space to be with myself – like taking myself on a date. I want to make myself feel special – make myself laugh. I want to be my own best friend.
As I grow older, this need for space becomes more important and it manifests in a thousand different ways. The precise way in which I arrange the kitchen. A locked phone and the jealousy with which I guard even forwarded WhatsApp messages. A notebook I carry around to scribble in – and I record work, new home projects and personal thoughts in the same book because they’re all equally private to me. The need to work in a corner of the office with my earphones plugged in when I’m really working (as opposed to writing status updates and doing other process stuff). I need my space all the time.
Am I on my way to becoming a recluse? I don’t think so. You see, while I do need my space, I can so easily overdose on it. A rich inner life and the space to dream are all worthwhile but without a way to connect back with the outer world they’re meaningless. This space I’m looking for has more to do with being a sensitive person than with disliking the outer world. Think of it as a tortoise’s shell. If you’re a co-introvert or a fellow sensitive, you probably understand what I’m talking about. Everything from the third hand smoke from the guy sitting three desks down to the erratic whir of the coffee machine has the potential to drive one nuts. Sometimes, the only way to deal is to escape.
There are so many ways to escape. You can escape physically by going home or going out for a walk. Sometimes you can escape into your work. Other times you dive into a book or into a world of your own creation. Sometimes the escape is another person – a spouse, a friend, a lover (or all of them rolled in one). It can’t always be the same space each time. But it’s always, always a space that’s safe. Your own place under the sun where you are free to be who you’d like to be.
ps: the story is copyrighted but I was able to find it here. Just open the pdf and search for “Bond”.
pps: I’ll just leave this quote hanging here:
“Some of us are born sensitive. And if, on top of that, we are pulled about in different directions (both emotionally and physically), we might just end up becoming writers.”
― Ruskin Bond