Lonely in the times of Navratri

Past week has been less of religious significance for me, as compared to preceding several years of Navratri. Not that I am religious, but when you have grown up in an environment where almost everyone in the family is religious, these days add some sense of significance, in an otherwise banal life in this city. Staying away from home, I have been getting used to forgetting different festivals where we, under the pretext of fasting, ate lot of sabudana stuff. Whether it was Ekadashi, Mahashivratri or just some random day upwas. Monsoon season was my favorite in school days, because lots of festivals, and lots of holidays. The vacation mode continues till Diwali holidays. My mother being a teacher, sometimes used to complain that she is not finding time to complete syllabus and term exams are nearing. For me and my brother, it was one extra day of playing cricket on the street, on the ground or sometimes even in the small one meter wide balcony.

Waking up at around 7.30 A.M, doing some random exercises as it was raining and I was lazy to go out and run. Went out to savour my usual breakfast of Mysore Bonda followed by a cup of tea. The chaiwallah and the thelawallah both know me by now. I don’t have to utter a single word of Telugu or Hindi and unless I ask for a wada, instead of bonda, I am served with four hot pieces of Mysore Bonda with four different types of chutney. By the time I’m done with that, my tea is ready. Then I come home and usually read something, a book or daily dose of news articles. Today, office was closed and I had no enthusiasm of going and being there alone watching videos on YouTube or Amazon Prime like a purposeless zombie. So, instead I decided to read a book after customary ‘Happy Dussehra’ calls from home. Lunch when not at home is a huge task for me. My dinner place is open only in the evenings, and streets are otherwise lazy to serve me anything hot in the afternoon. So, today I instead settled for dry fruit lassi, which was more about dry fruits and less of a lassi, which is fine by me. In a bid to complete four books this month, today being the last day, I decided to read the last hundred pages of Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveller. That novel has become an ordeal for me, as I get lost in the book, and then need to find my way out. As I write this, I am still fifty pages away and I do not know if I will complete them today, and my Goodreads will have only three books finished in September. I can manipulate, stay up till late to finish, and convince myself that unless I sleep it is still September 30 for my body. Meanwhile, I also have to figure out my dinner.

Living alone, is a different challenge altogether. I told my friends who are living independently in cities that they have friends there. Yet they reply, “I know.I have been through it.” I don’t try to reason with them that this is not the same. I feel like, they don’t have the right to deny me my novelty, my unique existence in this city of Vizag, where most of the people speak Telugu and I end up playing dumb charades with them. I had the option of flying out of this place for the long weekend, but here I am, choosing to stay with my desolate misery. The only solace is internet and social media, which is also depressing by the day. But then, social media and WhatsApp has kept me going here, as I have become enslaved by the modern means of communication. I need them, more than they need me. I have still not broadcasted customary Happy Dussehra messages over WhatsApp to my contacts. I don’t know if I will today.

Over different posts and pictures over Instagram, Facebook, and Whatsapp, I know what different people, some of whom I have not met in over two years are doing over the long weekend. This makes me feel a bit lonelier, as I drown in self-pity. But I also reach out to fellow loners, in cities across the world. Some are busy swimming in self-pity, some are watching Ravana burn, and some are working. I know more lonely souls, but I decide not to message them. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle is at work here. What if I message them and I come to know that they are enjoying the evening on some random beach, or on top of a mountain, or with their families. I will loathe myself for denying myself the opportunity. But then there’s also a possibility that I will have a virtual conversation with another loathing soul. But I decide to stay away from the effort and instead focus on writing this piece.

Loneliness is an island, and only the person can ultimately rescue themselves from it. One can keep swimming in the ocean of self-pity around the island, but ultimately there will come a time when the person will stop swimming, tired and disgusted. What option the person chooses then? The idea of solitude, I feel, is romanticized by movies, by books and what not. Humans, like any other animals, were designed to be social. But then here we are, in increasingly populating cities, loneliness is also increasing. Different individuals look at the same problem differently. Friends will advise me to go out, date women, make friends. But it’s not as if I never tried and will not try. But sometimes circumstances do not allow a person to do that. What is the choice then, go back to same solitude. Reading a book alone, drinking alone, or watching FRIENDS and wondering if I ever will have such life, despite knowing well that I won’t.

Clamdigger_Hopper.jpg
Clamdigger by Edward Hopper. Hopper managed to capture loneliness the way probably no painter could.

It was my birthday a few weeks ago. It was the loneliest birthday I ever celebrated. I thought I never cared much about birthdays, but I realized deep down, societal conditioning has made me care about it. Celebrating birthday alone, going out and drinking a beer alone, was unacceptable to myself. Lot of friends called to wish, and wondered how I celebrated the day. In the age of social media, birthdays have become a medium of PDA. Remove the birthday from Facebook, and you’ll realize beyond a certain group no one will care, no PDA nothing, nada. Try it, you’ll find yourself lonelier. We are a generation who have achieved nothing, yet we demand everything. We see people posting how happy they are on social media, and start aspiring for those lives, without wondering ever are they really happy? More and more people I know flock to US, Europe every year to study, posting picturesque autumn pictures and describing snowfalls. I know, some of them are lonely, living in a land away from their home, wondering if this will even make them happy than they were before.

lonely_social_media.jpg
We choose loneliness, and we are lonely. Social media is just an illusion that we are not. We seek continuous validation, ensuring friends will like and comment on a photo of sunset, or like and comment on a meme one just shared. This particular article is also a result of that. I cannot be away from social media, because it gets too depressing without it and even with it, I’m only slightly better off. I don’t know what really prompted me to write this. But it was largely a result of Rana Dasgupta’s essay on teenagers performing live suicides over social media. It’s an increasingly worrying scenario we are living in. Internet and social media has given us the option to connect with people in any corner of the world. Yet, some people are instead withdrawing themselves, only getting lonelier and ultimately rejecting life by choosing suicide. Albert Camus’ seminal essay, ‘The myth of Sisyphus’, begins with the line-  “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.
Sisyphus.gif
Illustration from a Medium Post about the essay, ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’.
I do not know why I felt like writing all this, but I thought I should. To all the lonely souls out there, #YNWA – You Never Walk Alone. We are in this together. It’s time for dinner, and I need to venture out like a rat to scout for my food.
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