By Aditya Bhalla May. 30, 2019
If I were a 28-year-old, 200 years ago, I’d probably be heading out into battle tomorrow. If I were a 28-year-old about 2,000 years ago, I’d be the village elder. But somehow, here I am at the age of 28, in 2019, still enjoying the free snacks in between free meals. And every time I bring up moving out of home, my parents think I’m hinting at marriage plans.
Last night my mother walked into my room when I was getting in bed, and asked me if I was done with all my work. She wanted to make sure I had eaten enough, I told her that I had, and also that I’d brushed my teeth. She switched off my light before leaving, and whispered, “goodnight” on the way out, careful not to disturb me in case I had already fallen asleep by then. My mother didn’t read me a bedtime story though.
Maybe it was because she was tired. Maybe she’d had a bad day. Or maybe it’s because I’m going to turn 28 fucking years old next month, and it’s completely ridiculous that I still live in my parents’ house and sleep in the same bed I read my first Harry Potter in. Apart from a few years away from home in my early 20s, I’ve lived for most of my life in this room. My clothes are washed and ironed, my bed is made, and my neighbours ask me how college was, assuming I’m just a very mature 17-year-old.
Sure, some would argue that it sounds like the most privileged life ever, and are probably picturing a very large baby in your head. Honestly, you wouldn’t be that far off. It’s something I often picture myself, in fact. If I were a 28-year-old, 20 years ago, I’d be married with a child. My only priority would be to find a house and support my family with my job as a bank teller. If I were a 28-year-old about 200 years ago, I’d probably be heading out into battle tomorrow – unsure if I’d make it back alive. If I were a 28-year-old about 2,000 years ago, I’d be the village elder. Middle-aged 13-year-olds would approach me for advice on how to live a long, fulfilling life.
But somehow, here I am at the age of 28, in 2019, still enjoying the free snacks in between free meals. I should have been CEO of my own start-up, headed for my first stint with failure, and bankruptcy already. Instead, I am almost 30, and I’ve never paid rent from my own pocket.
“The last time my parents and I spoke about this, it ended with me having to get married to prove that I was old enough to move out.”
This year, as that fact dawned on me, I resolved to at least try and make the move. Of course there were some a couple of issues: The first, getting a decent apartment on rent in Mumbai involves moving out of Mumbai, and the second, my parents can’t possibly understand why I would possibly even need to “waste” all that money on something as stupid as independence. Now while I can deal with the first, it’s the second that’s been proving to be quite a task.
For the last three months, my parents and I have been locked in a constant state of negotiation, over whether the family will collectively collapse if I move out, or whether it’s something a 28-year-old should have done already. When I bring up something about wanting space, I’m reminded of the park near my house. If I say something about being too old to live at home, my parents tell me the story of one of their childhood friends who didn’t move out of their house until they were 50 and ended up becoming really rich.
It would be easier if my parents really wanted me to stay home because they enjoyed having me around, or because I made their lives a little easier. But – and they don’t hold back from saying it – they don’t think I’ll be able to “handle life on my own”. Fair enough, at my age, they had already had two children, while I’m still buying PlayStation games. So, the last time my parents and I spoke about this, it ended with me having to get married to prove that I was old enough to move out.
Now, if only I could go out in 2019’s Mumbai, get a little tipsy, meet a girl who agrees to come back to my (parents’) house, ignore the fact that they’re now in my childhood room, look straight at my Green Day poster, and decide, “I’m going to marry this guy in a few months,” sure bring it on. Sadly no such situation exists. Even though I’m sure my parents would be very pleasant to any friend I’d bring home, I’m not sure I’d be okay with locking the door and having an entire relationship with someone that close to the people who raised me. At the same time, I’m not going to be the guy who says, “Mum, you know I need to move out if I ever want to have sex again.” I’d rather just never have sex again.
I’m proud to say my parents and I have never discussed coition, it’s not something that comes up very often. Most of the conversations I have with them revolve around how to get a job and the various ways in which I’m going about keeping my job. I ask them about their jobs as well or in the case of my retired father, how fun life is now that he’s done with jobs. Sometimes, when we’re taking a break talking about work, we discuss the latest episode of Game of Thrones, which they watch the PG-13 version of on TV.
“I had a friend who made the ultimate call to convert his childhood bedroom into his workspace/bachelor pad because he’s too scared to bring up moving out.”
As it turns out, this is a pretty standard situation in Mumbai, considering most of my friends and peers (the men, at least, women have to deal with another whole can of worms), have similar troubles. Sure some of their parents could just afford to buy the apartment in front of their own, and others left the city/country altogether. But quite a few of my friends eventually succumbed to the pressure and realised the only genuine way to move out of your house, without disappointing your parents, was to get married. I had a friend who made the ultimate call to convert his childhood bedroom into his workspace/bachelor pad because he’s too scared to bring up moving out.
For now, my negotiations have reached a stalemate until I either get rich enough to just buy a building where everyone can live together (and also separately), or do something so horribly irresponsible, my parents kick me out for good. Let’s hope it’s the first.