Here’s the thing. I really, really want to watch Knight and Day, but most of my friends have already seen it, and the others don’t want to. Apparently, it’s a terrible film, but what the hell — I owe Tom Cruise one watch, don’t I? So, I’ve spent the past two days psyching myself to watch it on my own.
Not because I’d be afraid sitting in a dark movie hall alone (though in Delhi that’s not improbable), but because the people sitting to my right and left will think I’m either an axe-murderer or a desperately lonely soul.
Solitude is the most misunderstood concept in Delhi. If you don’t believe me, spend 20 minutes by yourself at a regular coffee shop and count the number of people who look at you curiously. Expressions range from pity to contempt and, if you’re unlucky enough to be a guy alone, then be prepared for some steely, suspicious stares from girls.
But all of that is ignorable. For some real sadistic fun, try attending a concert, watching a movie or eating at a fine dining restaurant alone. Now, that’s real trauma.
My colleague Soumya, who thinks of herself as the quintessential solitary reaper, has the funniest experience to share. Last year, on a cool October evening, she decided to check out the Music in the Park concert at Nehru Park: “I was sitting on the grass, totally absorbed in the music, when some five people came and asked me if I was okay. Two girls even asked me, very pityingly, to join them!”
Even Karan, a friend with a flair for the bizarre, who gets stared at more often than aviator-sporting celebs, never goes for a movie alone. His reasoning: “Mothers and boyfriends end up flanking me because no one trusts a single guy to keep his hands to himself. And, people keep looking at me during the movie, to check if I’m there or if I left a bomb and walked out!”
According to another friend, Pallavi, even waiting for someone all alone can be a test of grit. “You have to pretend to be busy; look into your phone or bury yourself in a book while you wait, because people keep staring! It’s so uncomfortable!”
Sad but true. Unfortunately, for most Delhiites, ‘alone’ and ‘lonely’ are synonyms, as are ‘single’ and ‘available’. And, as much as I wish that I were thick-skinned enough not to give a damn if people looked at me and thought bechari, I guess Tom Cruise will just have to wait.