We live in an age and time, when grabbing our phones the minute we’re in the presence of strangers or even in our own friend circle isn’t that weird. Especially when the friend sitting on the other side of the globe is only a click away, and when our Google alerts do not quit alerting us about the latest on everything from Justin Bieber to the mysterious Malaysian Airlines — the high-wired digital world we inhabit offers little time to stand and stare!
Solitude, which has for a long time been synonmous with loneliness, has today come to mean something close to meditation — a step inwards. Romantic poet Wordsworth has forever celebrated the solitary mind space, and only now have we, too, begun to rediscover the old pleasure.
I, me, myself
“I love to go out and dine by myself. It is just my way to de-clutter my thoughts. I do invite a lot of curious glances from other tables, but now I am getting used to it,” says a 30-something working mother of two. And she is not alone as a happily married woman in her quest for some ‘me time’. Her story does resonate with many others.
For 36-year-old Khushi Nanda, shopping alone is a great stress buster. This way her buy decisions are quicker and she does not have to make other people happy with her purchases.
"I have a fabulous relation with my hubby but whenever he is away, I have the evenings and mornings to myself. I drink with myself or watch a sitcom. I don’t have to make any conversation. Sometimes, it is good to shut everything out," she says.
For Khushi, being alone in good measure goes to show that emotionally she is in a happy place. Social media disconnectYes, the ‘I’ is getting more important than the ‘we’. The time we spend in solitary activities such as reading, writing, walking or listening to music, is on an increase. Social commentator Santosh Desai does not see this as either good or bad but having many complex layers.
"Individual is becoming more important as a unit of society, something which is also aided by options available to him to be by himself. The phenomenon is partly driven by the need to go inwards. So wives go alone on a vacation to explore themselves beyond their gender roles. But among youngsters, mostly, social media is also leading to social disconnect, with them being wrapped into their own little cocoons," says Desai.
Complains a 27-year-old working executive, Malathi, "My brother Varun needs no company. He is always by himself, locked up in his room, glued to his laptop. He’s socially awkward with guests at home." Technology has perhaps given Varun a convenient outlet that substitutes for real people. But his is only a kind of singledom, for there are many shades to being a solitary reaper.
So, Neeta Khanna leaves for an African safari, solo, leaving her husband and kid behind. I don’t know if she is inspired by Kangana’s Queen-act, but Khushi enlightens me on this whole craze about travelling alone: "I like the anonymity of travelling alone. You explore more when you travel alone as you are forced to talk to strangers."
Can isolation heal?
People have begun to love their own company, some gloating over their ego-self clicking selfies, while other wanting to reach that inner divine. For a two-time cancer survivor, Sumegha Gulati, a month-long isolation was the best time of her life, a near nirvana of sorts.
"I was kept in isolation for one month when I was undergoing an autologous bone marrow transplant. The solitude gave me time to recap two years of my illness. I was without my family, friends and phone. I was given papers to write on, colours to draw with, novels and music. I planned my attitude forward. I felt close to my creator and came out strong," she says.
Psychologist, Pulkit Sharma, however, feels that deep down, humans have an urge to bond with people and that solitary-act is a mere hogwash. "People who spend time alone share their solitary moments on social media sites. Deep down they are still concerned with how people perceive them. They believe in their lie and make the world believe in their lie, too. Human beings are not wired to be by themselves. We always need others," he says.
Sonalika Sahay, model
Reena Dhaka, fashion designer
Princess Mriganka Singh
Niyamat Bakshi, lawyer-activist