Ritika Mazumder, a student of Natalie Parker-Lawrence at Houston High School in Germantown, Tennessee, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, "Living Large in a Tiny House," by Carol Estes, a story about Dee Williams downsizing from a three-bedroom bungalow to an 84-square-foot house. She is our High School winner for the Fall 2012 writing competition.
Writing prompt: “If you had the choice, what size house would you live in? What are important features your house would have, and what would you intentionally avoid?”
Smaller Suits Me Better
by Ritika Mazumder
For 13 years, I lived in the same house, in Mumbai, India. All of my laughs, tears, scabs, and the rest of my childhood are stored in that 700-square-foot “two-bedroom-hall-kitchen flat,” as it is called in India. Although now the flat seems incredibly tiny, it was once simply perfect for my family of four; I shared a room with my little brother. We never thought of it as small because we did not know better. Most people around us lived in similar homes, and we had not seen an average middle class family live in conditions better than our own. But my father had higher goals. In 2008, after my father cleared the United States Medical License examination, my family moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, into a home that was spellbinding.
It was something different. It stood by itself. It was its own building: a house with four carpeted bedrooms, two enormous living rooms, an elegant dining room, bathrooms with garden tubs, and a kitchen three times the size of the one in India. Furthermore, it had a front and backyard with a patio overlooking the greenery. My family enjoyed that house for the first year— the snowfall, the fall colors, and the colorful spring. It only took a little more time for me to realize that I loved this big house, but I would rather have a smaller house that is luxurious, yet enclosed.
If I could choose the house I live in, I would want it to be a midpoint between my small flat in India and my sizable house in Arkansas. The two houses I’ve lived in has made me realize that I want a house based on its four members and not on its four walls. The physical spaciousness of my large Arkansas house became a key factor in detaching me from the rest of my family. My brother and I went to school, my father to work, and my mother ran errands. Once we all returned, I was in my room, my brother in his, my mom in the kitchen, and my dad on his computer. We lacked family bonding time, whereas, in a small flat we had no choice but to spend time with each other.
The best suited house for me now, and for when I have a family of my own, is one that is contained, with few, yet capacious rooms—a cozy home with modern style and a layout that facilitates closeness and camaraderie. Moreover, I would like a sprawling backyard with plenty of room to play a casual game of soccer or football, and to tend a small vegetable garden tucked in the corner where I would learn to take care of the plants and take in the beauty of the outdoors. I would also like to have a friendly gathering once in a while, to make a snowman or build a bonfire during winter, to pot plants during summer, and to take full advantage of having land that we never had—or could have—in India.
Although I favor ample green space, I would avoid an area where houses and neighbors are isolated from each other. Human contact plays an important role in shaping the people we become. I wish for a close-knit society where I can see kids playing and couples walking, as opposed to cars passing and complete stillness.
As Dee Williams says in the YES! Magazine article, “Living Large in a Tiny House, “every change makes room for more change.” Change helps families and individuals grow. Bigger is not necessarily better. In fact, in this case, it is the complete opposite. A bigger house with endless luxuries distracts its members from one another, diverting their focus to materialistic things.
I cherish the childhood I spent in my flat, conversing with my family from different rooms, using inflatable mattresses when friends slept over, and watching shows together on one TV. Although my brother and I fought every day over our shared bedroom, we at least talked to each other, as opposed to locking ourselves in our rooms like we do today. I would gladly change where I live now and move into a smaller place, as long as I could spend a few more golden moments with my family before starting on a path of my own.
Ritika Mazumder is a senior at Houston High School in Germantown, Tennessee. Ritika competes in debates and science fairs, and volunteers in her community. She loves to choreograph and participate in Indian dances, watch movies, listen to music, and spend quality time with her friends and family. Ritika hopes to become fluent in Spanish,—she already speaks five languages!— and become a surgeon one day