No – this is not about the great beyond and the galaxies there. This is more about the concept of personal space. That small probable one-foot of space around our bodies that we would like to claim as ours. I like to think of this space as a cylinder in which our bodies are cocooned. You know – something similar to a spacesuit.
Ever notice how many people just don’t realize that this is yours? How they try to just barge in uninvited and take up the air and matter there? I wonder if they would barge into a closed door, uninvited. Is the reason for their disrespect because they cannot see this invisible barrier that exists around us?
This problem is not just contained with the people who are known to you – your friends, acquaintances and family. You can still be a private person and a small physical distance away and still be sociable and civil. Although we can find it in us to accept people we know into our circle, what bugs me most are the strangers. You know – those random people who breathe on the nape of your neck in queues, the curious guys who want to read your texts on the mobile phone, the shopper who wants to see what is in your hand, the cashier who blows hot air on you while giving out change, the co-passenger in buses or trains and so on and so forth.So, do we accept that they cannot see the barrier and so they move in.
However it is not just the physical space that is violated, although that is the major one. It is also about your emotional and mental space that people encroach on. Have you heard – Tell me about what you were thinking, How are you feeling now? Why do you look sad / depressed / …. (fill in the current state of mind)?
What can we do to let them know gently that they are in an unwanted area? Better still – how can we make them stay out? Stopping short of being extremely rude, which is something that I find very difficult to do, the only way out that I follow is to slip away – moving and squirming. Some people get the hint but most don’t. Some get the hint and take it upon themselves to enjoy watching me squirming. These all to frequent episodes leave a very bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Is there a sure shot way to stop this happening? I know that India’s population is huge but the area that we have is gigantic too and I am sure that the country is big enough to hold everybody without stepping all over somebody else. Would it help if we teach this to our kids, so that the next generation at least respects the concept of space? Or do we have to be brash and create a scene the next time it happens?