That lone sentence —the human being is a social being — is pushed a little too much into our psyche, making us sit agog with expectations and then cry out in sheer disappointment! For who stands or sits by you!
It’s you alone who experiences those highs and lows and the destined turns of life. And you wouldn’t know about those painful truths till you actually undergo turmoil, because as a rule, stark realities are rarely discussed in an Indian home. They are bypassed or simply pushed under those hand-woven carpets (mind you, woven by the fragile fingers of our hapless children, trapped as bonded labour).
It is still a taboo to talk about that emptiness that could be simmering in you, rebelling and seeking an outlet. In fact, the irony is that in accordance with the prevailing social dictats, you aren’t supposed to be all alone — as a child your parents, siblings and ayahs sit around you, as an adult you’re supposed to be equipped with a spouse and children and not to overlook that extended family hovering around you. But then how would you explain that they can be of no consequence to you, no answer for your loneliness, no solution for your emotional wants… And what happens when they begin to fade away, into that frightful nothingness.
Turmoil takes charge. Intruding into that vacuum. You look around for all those hovering figures. There is nobody out there. They have been pulled far away by the nexus and political powers at play. Leaving you alone, to stare and wonder. And cry out, for all along you hadn’t ever visualised the situation of being all by yourself.
Tell me how many of us visit the burial or cremation ground or even talk to our children about partings?
Why is it that we shy away from talking about emotional pain? Why don’t we dare discuss the vacuum it creates, the hollowness it spreads around, determined to consume our being? In fact, Mother Teresa was one of the few to state aloud that after cancer the biggest scourge of this century is loneliness. But do our texts, lectures or even discourses equip us to cope with this reality of life? Or with just about any other reality — be it the death of a relationship or the death of wants?
Most of us are left trying to battle with loneliness, too wary of making new friends or entering into new relationships. The fear of hurt overtakes all wants.
Though there are a few amongst us who make a distinction between being alone and being lonely, but then they are those fortunate ones who have managed and mastered the art of being content by themselves. Probably they have battled single-handed on so many fronts and grasped this stark truth: if at the time of birth and death you are alone, so why not survive those inbetween years by yourself? It’s perhaps then, in that solitude, that you finally understand yourself and those others, out there.
Read and re-read these lines of Khalil Gibran. I quote: “Some of you have called me aloof, and drunk with my own aloneness,/And you have said, ‘he holds council with the trees of the forest, but not with men/He sits alone on hill-tops and looks down upon our city’/True it is that I have climbed the hills and walked in remote places/How could I have seen you save from a great height or a great distance?/How can one be indeed near unless he be far?”
Meet the Writer: Humra Quraishi
Humra Quraishi is a Delhi based writer – columnist – journalist. Her books include- Kashmir – The Unending Tragedy: Reports From The Front Lines; Kashmir- The Untold Story; Views: Yours and Mine; Bad Time Tales and More Bad Time Tales; Divine Legacy: Dagars & Dhrupad ; debut novel- Meer. Her short stories have been published in several magazines and journals. She has co- authored The Good The Bad and The Ridiculous : Profiles ; Absolute Khushwant and a series of writings with the late Khushwant Singh.
Her take on what’s it like to be a singleton in today’s turbulent times is part of the Penguin published anthology- Chasing the Good Life: On Being Single and one of her essays , The State Can’t Snatch Away our Children, is part of the Zubaan published anthology – Of Mothers And Others. In the volume on the 1984 Sikh riots- 1984 :In Memory and Imagination , her essay is titled –Why Not a Collective Cry for Justice !