Deccan Commons (a story of making meaning)

My husband passed away suddenly a few years ago. Once we’d all gotten over the initial shock, my daughter, who lives in Bangalore, suggested that I consider selling the house and moving out their way.

I gave it a lot of thought. There was no question that the house, which was too much for Rakesh and I even when he was living, just didn’t make sense for me now. And they were right to be concerned about me living by myself. I’ve always been a gregarious person, and I didn’t like rattling around in the house by myself. The neighbors seemed to change every few years, and there was no one close by that I could call if there were some emergency.

On the other hand, Bombay is my native place. I value my independence, and I’m rooted here. I love to garden, and couldn’t see myself moving to some retirement place in Bangalore, filled with old people, where I couldn’t grow things or see a blue sky. I also just didn’t see myself as some old widow going to live near her children to wait until the end comes.

So, I looked for some other options, and discovered Deccan Commons, a “co-housing” community that had been built on the outskirts of town. I learned that, since the 21st century, they’d become a popular option for people like me, who like to be around other people without being a burden.

At Deccan, the idea is a modern version of a village, with a wide variety of ages and occupations. The individual houses are built in clusters, without walls between them. There’s a lively community center, which includes a large dining room, exercise facility, library and daycare center. I liked the concept so much that I sold the house and bought a charming little bungalow at Deccan.

It turned out even better than I’d expected. Now, not only do I get to garden, but I have a group of women in the community who work with me. We’ve been able to plant such an amazing variety of things! Also, and this has been a pleasant surprise, I’ve been “adopted” by two delightful younger families, who insist I eat dinner with them at the community center. Not that I need my arm twisted—I love being around young people—and here, I get to play auntie without having to change any diapers. It’s wonderful!

It didn’t occur to me back in my old house, but my priorities have changed. I never realized how much I longed for more people around. I thought I was happy with my neighborhood, mostly because it was familiar. I was really worried about leaving it. However, I’ve rediscovered community and everything in my life is brighter for it.

I didn’t realize how much I needed others or that my life was missing something. I still like my reading and time alone, but I seek out others more than I used to. I love being needed to help cook a community meal or when someone besides my daughter asks for advice. I’m involved in others’ lives more than I ever thought I could be—or wanted to be.
Interestingly I never thought much about it when we lived in our house, but the design of an area really does have a big impact on how neighbors interact. Here at Deccan, the design of the community just makes it so easy to interact with people who quickly become friends.

You don’t have to interact if you don’t want to (there’s no pressure at all). But for those of us who want to be connected with others but, also have our independence, this seems just about perfect. As a matter of fact, my daughter, who, at first, was disappointed and (I think) a little hurt when I chose Deccan over Bangalore, has totally changed her opinion. Now, she’s looking at a co-housing community for her family. I don’t think I can talk her into coming back to Bombay, but you never know.

 

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