Navigating loneliness in life’s twilight
It is man’s nature to be gregarious. We live in a family and community and have friends. However, how intense our relationship is with our friends and relatives is a matter of individual choice. Living alone is like solitary confinement, which is nothing short of punishment.
I grew up in a well-knit family and my circle of friends burgeoned through school, college and professional training, and after retirement an altogether new group of locals became part of my life. At the end of the day, a few close friends are what matter the most. When one is alone or feeling low, one can always approach a friend, who not only listens to you but also boosts your morale by providing the right counselling. Thus, our life has a strong mooring in society.
Life in Canada: A double-edged sword
At the age of 76, I decided to move to Canada to join our son and his family. While I am fortunate to have a loving family, a lavish lifestyle, best of food and clothes and top-of-the-line cars, living abroad has so many other benefits such as no pollution, non-adulterated food and availability of a wide variety of food and fruits. The roads are well maintained, and traffic is extremely disciplined, which makes driving a safe and enjoyable experience. Wherever I go, be it a store, an office, bank or clinic, the customer service is par excellence. Healthcare is of superior quality. Though the weather is cold for us, houses and commercial establishments are temperature controlled in both winter and summer.
Despite all the merits, I don’t have any friends here. Furthermore, socialising has been temporarily suspended because of Covid-19. I feel all the more isolated as I cannot go anywhere. However, things are bound to gradually open up. Having spent three-quarters of my life in India, adapting to a new lifestyle and change of environment is challenging.
Difficulty in making new friends
I tried to catch up with a couple of old acquaintances here but did not get a very encouraging response. After all, friendships cannot be forged overnight and have to be nurtured for years. Most people here are from rural areas of Punjab and are neither likeminded nor educated.
How much television can one watch or waste time on social media? Not being free to go out to visit a friend or relative gives me a feeling of helplessness. I miss the unbridled freedom of getting into my own car and going wherever I want. I miss going to the bank, grocer, mechanic, cobbler, chemist, milk vendor and other places, which kept me usefully occupied. Life back in India had some purpose and direction. In Canada, I have no regular activity. My existence seems aimless and rudderless, which I fear will age me faster.
Physical comforts and luxuries give us temporary satisfaction but food for soul and mind is also very essential. Mental wellbeing comes from a conducive environment and immediate company, which I crave. I feel a vacuum within me, and I am torn apart in this turmoil, unable to fathom which is a better world for me to live in at twilight of my life!
(The writer is retired wing commander who is currently based in Canada)