Random Access Memories

I live in a city teeming with people. There are so many of us wandering around, going about our business. I see people chat away on the phone in undertones, some engaged in shouting matches and some discussing the mundane – has the milk been boiled, have you done your homework. There seems to be an aura of engagement all around. Everyone seems to be wanting to get somewhere, do something, earn a living, do some loving, just be anything but alone.

What is it about loneliness that scares us so?

If loneliness was an Archie’s card, the image would be one of a gigantic forest, with mist swirling around, in darkness but with a light twinkling somewhere in the distance. And the greeting inside would be: there is always light at the end of the tunnel, or some such platitude. My guess, is that the receiver of such a card would a) throw up b) sink into more loneliness c) curse the person who sent the card and the manufacturer and d) all of the above.

If loneliness were to be a song, there would be no space for anyone to be lonely. A random search on You Tube throws up many songs in umpteen languages dealing with the pain, the sorrow, the tragedy, the awkwardness of loneliness. Be it Bollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood or any other wood, the dumped lover singing, the spinster aching, the mother missing – all ingredients for the creation of a mood to induce sympathy for the lonely one.

If loneliness were to be described by people I know, this is what they would say:

“journey, tiredness, isolation, burnt out, tears, solitude, space, thoughts, reflection, feeling of missing some thing or person, Rabindranath Thakur, easy chair, verandah, books, darjeeling tea”

“The moments I realize I’m lonely, I realize I’m just aimlessly browsing through pointless things on the internet. Clicking one link that links to another, to another, to another. I suppose my short term memory is also learning aimless, pointless things that I can then contribute to conversations I’m having when I’m not lonely.”

“To be without love. To be lonely in your old age.To be not necessarily alone.Lonely in a room full of people, because you don’t fit in. You don’t chose it. It chooses you.”


In the midst of this sadness, there are some others who felt:

“I don’t necessarily only think of gloom, sadness etc with loneliness – so even if you are alone in the midst of so many things , there is that feeling of having your own space. It’s that time with yourself, when you talk to yourself, sing out loud and do whatever you enjoy doing on your own. “

“Three o clock in the morning, a bridge over a river in the most beautiful city, a sandstorm, realization”

“I am not scared of being alone, being by myself or figuring myself out- I think there is a negative connotation attached to this word, which makes it feel sad and depressed. But I feel some people chose to be alone, which is how they want to live and that should be recolonized and not cornered. Because most often than not, all of us also want to be by ourselves. And it is not only about- needing space, it about also wanting to be alone which is cool. And that is how it should be seen.”

“To be without love. To be lonely in your old age.To be not necessarily alone.Lonely in a room full of people, because you don’t fit in. You don’t chose it. It chooses you.”

So is loneliness cool?

I think so.  We should embrace our loneliness. It gives us the space for reflection and connection, not just with ourselves but also with the world around us. We should learn to choose it. There is constant chatter all around – the television, the streets, the words that one reads, friends, family, lovers, enemies, BFF’s – and in the midst of all this the only space that allows for some “me” time is that lovely country named Lonely. And Lonely can be beautiful – it can be misty and musical, light and frothy, calming and sensual… it’s what we choose to do with it.

So what would be the opposite of loneliness – connected, fulfilled, complete, one with oneself, befriended? Is it possible for us to feel all of this with many, many people and yet be alone? The pressure on being connected to someone, that one person or those many persons who then constitute our world pushes many of us to constantly feel dissatisfied with our life. Not all of whom we want approval from are necessarily going to give it to us, and that craving is ceaseless. Each time we want assurance that we are loved, understood, and cared for. We are always told to connect with people outside of us so that we are not lonely.

As I write this piece, I went online and found this: http://www.wikihow.com/Deal-With-Loneliness. A lot of this is what I would term commonsense, and yet I know that these are not the easiest things for people to do. We are disconnected with each other in many ways, and may be the best way is for us to reach out and embrace our loneliness. That way, we would still love our lives and enjoy who we are.

[1]Marina Keegan says in an article: We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team?”

Is there a way that we can feel that feeling that there are people who are batting for us without knowing us? That they care for us, without ever having seen our face? That there is compassion around, it’s just that we do not feel it? And there is love, in all its myriad forms swirling around – maybe not in the ways that we want, but there. Is that enough for us to chase away the loneliness?

[1]In a piece written by Marina Keegan ’12 for a special edition of the Yale Daily News, dated May 27, 2012, distributed at the class of 2012’s commencement exercises. Keegan died in a car accident on May 26, 2012. She was 22.(http://yaledailynews.com/crosscampus/2012/05/27/keegan-the-opposite-of-loneliness/)

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