Pallabi is an independent researcher from Pathsala, a small town in Assam. Her areas of interest include gender, body politics, sexual politics etc. specifically in the context of Northeast India. She completed her MPhil from the Department of Political Science, Dibrugarh University, Assam and her research topic was ‘Constructing Bodies: Women and Nationalism in Post Colonial Assam’.
The Half-locked Door
This is the door of my room at home, which I share with my sister. I have not lived here for long periods of time since 2012. I stay in a small rented house in Guwahati but had to return home when the lockdown was announced. At home, we are not allowed to lock the door of our rooms from the inside. This has been the norm since our childhood days. Whenever we tried to do so, our parents would reproach--“Why do you need to lock the door? What secrets are hiding?”. Having lived away from home for most parts of my adult life, I had ceased to remember this issue of locked and unlocked doors. But now that I’m home because of the COVID-19 lockdown, I’ve realised that the old rules still imply.
In the picture, you can see that the door is closed but not locked. The idea of privacy comes into constant question. If you cannot lock the door to your own room, then how can it be your ‘space’? The room in the picture, therefore, is my room but not 'my space’. Everyone has unrestricted access to ‘my room’, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing inside. If I do not have the prerogative over this ‘private space’, then it means that it’s not ‘my private space’, right? I enjoy more privacy in my tiny rented room but not in my own house. Gradually, I'm losing control over my independence because of a lack of space to call my own while becoming unproductive as well as vulnerable to unexpected and unnecessary interventions. Therefore, I've started to press the curtain against the door so that it doesn't remain ajar even if I’m not allowed to latch it from the inside. Now, with this half-locked door, I at least have the rights over ‘half a private space’.