Alone, at last

I remember in the New Empire cinema hall there was a long passage, parallel to the back of the auditorium. When you traversed the entire length, you came to the Canteen counter which served tea and delicious samosas for patrons at interval. Opposite the canteen counter, was a large, full wall painting done in characteristic Mario Miranda style. It showed a scene of a movie being shot. The whole wall was crowded with clap boys, make-up artists, spot boys, people holding reflectors, assistant directors, camera men, dialogue prompters, hangers on and, of course, the Director in his chair. In front of them all, was a hero and a heroine getting ready to enact a romantic scene. And the hero, oblivious to the sea of humanity surrounding them, looking soulfully in the herioine’s eyes says, ” Alone….alone, at last!” The irony of the comment and the picture never left me, though I must have seen the drawing 50 years ago!

I feel exactly like that just now! It is the festival & holiday season. And anybody worth their salt are on vacation. Some in the hills, some at the beach, and yet others in transit. I am alone at home. Wistful. Missing all. Relatives and Friends all far away. And I : Lonely. Miserable. Monarch of all the emptiness I survey around me. Engulfing, throttling, all pervasive silence.

Nida Fazli sang corrrectly: ग़म हो कि ख़ुशी दोनों कुछ देर के साथी हैं 
फिर रस्ता ही रस्ता है हँसना है न रोना है…

दुनिया जिसे कहते हैं जादू का खिलौना है 
मिल जाये तो मिट्टी है खो जाये तो सोना है

{Translation: Whether pain or joy, both are companions for a while
Later it is just the long road; no laughter, no tears What we call as the world is a magical toy
If found it is earthen, if lost it is golden}

All who were going away asked me to accompany them. It was my decision to stay back. Be alone. In love with my solitude. I must understand the depth & beauty of my loneliness as: अच्छा-सा कोई मौसम तन्हा-सा कोई आलम 
हर वक़्त का रोना तो बेकार का रोना है.
{You need a good season and some quiet moments
Complaining every moment is a futile complaint}

When I am so confused, I take heart in Simone de Beauvoir’s words: ,” I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger” This reassures me that the भीड़ के बीच अकेला feeling which so many film songs allude to, is indeed a reality. Even in this space, I am not alone!!! I have every right to be “mad with anger” a la Simone, and continue to feel ambivalent about the cards that Life is dealing me. Being in the game, I need to carry on, feel engaged and play my cards to the best of my ability till the Grim, Solitary Reaper arrives and I move to another table, another game. फिर रस्ता ही रस्ता है हँसना है न रोना है!!

The basic problem is ambivalence. The fact that I do not know what I want: Be alone OR be in company? Society OR Solitude? But as I experience my present time, being alone… I must confess, I feel happy & good. No adjusting your needs and demands to fit in with someone. Freedom from pressures. Do what you please. Float above the sea of expectations. Go Under OR Stay Afloat. Suddenly it dawns on me….I am happy!! Misanthrope & Masochist that I am, I actually like my own company I can stay away from forced festivities and feel morally superior that I am diffrent. Do rituals and prayers, midnight masses and congregations actually alleviate your loneliness? Or do they just deaden your real feelings? You get so caught up in the rituals and cacophony of others around you that your inner rebellious child is silenced. Rather, let it cry out aloud! I am happy with that misery. and loneliness!! But then I get reminded of the words of Honoré de Balzac, “Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.”

Possibly there is no clear answer to even this human dilemma! In another context Arthur C Clarke puts it succintly, “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”. My introspection just now is prompted by being alone in festive times, but then each and every one of us must face this question openly and squarely. Are you comfortable with your solitude? Do you like to be alone? Not surrounded by books. Not using books, and others thinking, as the first line of defence. But genuinely with your own thoughts, views and opinions. Not drowning your feelings with loud songs and music. Or a drink or two. Taking time off to just be. Savouring your own company. Happy under your own skin. Holding your own self dear. Jean-Paul Satre warns, “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.” Accept, Acknowledge, Admire : that is the Grand Path to overcome all adversities.

If you think about it closely, all great things, all precious things are lonely. Remember Steinbeck in Of Mice & Men,” “Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.” But then so what? The road less travelled is worth exploring. Maybe after a short torturous walk we will open into the Valley of Flowers. Pursue it.

Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love puts it beautifully,” When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”

I am reminded of another great ghazal of Ghulam Ali:

किया है प्यार जिसे हम ने ज़िन्दगी के तरह
वो आशना भी मिला हम से अजनबी के तरह … बढ़ा के प्यास मेरी उस ने हाथ छोड़ दिया
वो कर रहा था मुरव्वत भी दिल्लगी के तरह
{translation: I loved him like life itself But that lover met me like a stranger He increased my thirst but then abandoned me He was showing affection too like a joke)

To end, remembering Joseph Conrad: We Live as we Dream…..alone: vikibaba

PS My biggest critic, my wife, on reading the draft said too many quotes…..maybe I am trying to reassure myself that I am not alone on the dark side of the moon? many other greater human beings think alike. And so the quotes.

34 Replies to “Alone, at last”

  1. VS, excellent piece of writing as usual and expected. Happy and relieved to get some of my thoughts re endorsed about solitude and loneliness. Many of us are afraid to face solitude and often tend to drift in negativity. It’s important to assure oneself of the happiness solitude can offer, if he has positive outlook towards life and his surroundings. Wish you all a very happy and safe new year. Sanjay Aphale


    1. Sanjay bhai
      many thanks for your endorsement of the views expressed
      I have tried to capture the dichotomy of living
      We are social animals
      and still we seek solitude
      all examples of saints and sinners and other “hatke” evolved sould prove the importance of solitude in ones chosen path
      and there we shall be like Trishnaku…drawn and quartered between the two conflicting calls
      Still Life can be Happy
      and Life can be Safe
      wish you the same for 2021 znd beyond


  2. Good one, Vikas dada! Indeed, if one has learned to be comfortable with one’s own company and being self sufficient in this tumultuous year, then its an achievement indeed! Me time is what I’ve sorely missed the most this year. Me thinks this year was a penance for all the new year resolutions we cheated on in the past years 🙂 Hopefully the balance will be restored soon.

    P.S – I agree with Nitu tai’s critique of this post 🙂


    1. Nilambari
      thanks for your comment. When the lockdown was at its peak and we will all nuring our isolation, one of my friends put it beautifully….My goal in 2020 is to stay alive!!
      This Covid 19 situation has really taught all of us much: one of the things being , coming to terms with being alone and managing to carry on, cope up none the less.
      I for one did enjoy the lack of travel and being at home. So to that extent I am not in a hurry to get back to “normal”. Just a chance to meet friends and family more often will be sufficient icing on my cake.

      PS Many people gave the feedback on the quotes, next time will try and keep them in check. But in a way I was really happy that I am NOT ALONE in the way I think, as evidenced by the quotes


  3. Vikas, as usual your blogs are tools to think deep. Solitude makes you introspect, gives you time to meditate but the long ones can also effect you mentally. After all, we are all social animals.
    Sometimes I am drawn to the state of our soldiers locked up in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Pakistan since 1971 whom we completely forgot and repatriated 93000 Pak POWs without even asking for an account of our missing warriors. What to talk of their loneliness and their state of mind.
    We are fortunate that our solitude is temporary.


    1. SD
      thanks for your feedback
      The example you have given about our soldiers in Paki jails is indeed a sad state of affairs. Our “comfort filled solitude” can in no way compare to what they are going through. Abject misery and a sense of being forgotten by the very populace for whom they made such great sacrifices. It is a sad reflection on Indian polity that we allow such imp subjects go on the back burner.I can feel your anguish. And I share it in my own way


  4. Nice article Sir, at our sunset years it is appropriate to enjoy and savour solitude sometimes reflecting on fond memories!!!


  5. Another excellent piece, Vikas.
    Yes, if you cannot enjoy being alone, you would not know which company to seek.
    Lets meet soon!


    1. ASV you are more than kind
      having been an introvert thrust into a people facing role, this dilemma was always with me
      But even the introvert enjoys some company of some specific individuals
      surely look fw to meeting you soon


  6. You are right, we really are confused, do we want family / social company all the time or we want to be left alone. It is a problem since most are scared to be alone in their own company, it is never faced, the self is lost in cacophony of crowd. One never knows / understand the SELF.

    I love solitude, sometimes doing nothing, attempting to think less, just looking out of window or in open garden or thinking of the purpose of my life and existence. I love social gatherings too but beyond some time, I need to call off.

    I remember, our annual conferences and we used to sneak out of the madness of whole day lectures, loud music and same food. Conferences were perfunctory duty, getting out was joy.


    1. Yes KK I remember
      truly it is a loose tight, fast slow type of ambivalence
      You want company, but too an extent
      one is happy to withdraw into loneliness, but that too needs change once a while
      So I suppose we will have to continue living on the razor’s edge


  7. That’s is the real truth.
    You are not alone … all of us are alone in some way or other
    What seems that we have the whole world with us is mere illusion.
    Truth is we all are alone.
    We just need the guts to admit that.


    1. Pravin
      it is indeed a conundrum
      what do we like may change from time to time
      But what is important is to learn to be at peace when you are by yourself
      If you master that life will be good


  8. as it is commonly said: “akele aye the…akele jana hai”

    the life is just a period between 2 dates when i cease to be akela…enjoying the company of all the loved ones around

    while we love the company of people around, we get tricked in to believing that this party is never going to end..

    we forget our existence as ‘akela’!

    your superb narration is a gentle reminder wake up ..and see ourselves as what we really are ..akela.. and what we finally are going to be..akela!!

    Hopefully, such reminders help keep us grounded and see the life for what it really is!

    let us enjoy the warm interactions with every one we meet..but keep reminding ourselves that what is lasting is being akela…

    let us learn to enjoy the ‘akelapan’ and in the process ,find the rich treasures that lie within each of us!

    best wishes for 2021!


    1. JLS
      in true characteristic style you have unearthed the fundamental issue
      To be or Not to be alone
      Jean Paul Satre in one of his plays (No Exit) says ,” Hell is Other People”
      when I first read it I felt it was too harsh and too negative a depiction
      Yes sometimes other people can be over bearning and insensitive
      but rather than conclude like JPS that it is hell, I have always looked on such occasions as a test
      a test of my forbearence and patience
      and a Test of my real love for loneliness
      all such occasions help you to evaluate where you stand
      kaun kaun kitne paani me is ki hai pehchhan muzhe as Manoj Kumar sang in Pehchaan
      Life is a series of challenges which enables you to come closer to who you are
      and any such “challenge/hurdle/test” teaches us and so is welcome in my opinion
      I would not go so far to say other people are heaven, in counter to Satre’s famous quote
      But I would also treat that as an oppurtunity to learn, to grow


  9. Vikas

    You are trul one of the few in a class which articulates complex facets of life in a easily understandable manner.

    Your blog reminds me of one of the lyrics from Imtihan.

    Sathi na karvan hai
    Yeh tera imtihaan hai
    Yoon hi chala chal dil ke sahare
    Karti hai manzil tujhko ishare
    Dekh kahin koi rok nahin le
    Tujhko pukaar ke
    O raahi, o raahi

    Ruk jana nahin tu kahin haar ke
    Kaanton pe chalke
    Milenge saaye bahaar ke

    As we near the end of 2020 in which each one of us dealt with the reality in our own way , I wish you , your friends & their families safe , healthy & a positive 2021



    1. Nikhil bhai
      thanks for your kind words
      they motivate me and keep me wedded to the path of self discovery
      Walt Whitman in the Leaves of Grass …Song of Myself had written
      I am large, I contradict myself, I contain multitudes

      i am still grapppling with the complexities and
      and love to discover new twists and turns
      I am glad when people like you write in and remind me that all us go therough the same questions and challenges
      Indeed, I AM NOT ALONE!!!

      Happy 2021 sir and beyond
      hope to meet you in person in Pune soon


  10. Sir,
    Pondering over it. This has really made me think. I think key to being happy is being happy alone.


    1. Hi Priyanka thanks for writing in
      I think we should be ready for any and all experiences and flow with the tide of life
      Enjoy yourself and Move on
      Love to your son and regards to all others at home


  11. Bohot khub Vikas boss! You aced it…what a brilliant piece of writing. Amazing, fantastic, awesome.
    Zindagi ki tanhaiyon mein hum khud ko aksar akela paate hain, bas ye bhul jaate hain, kambhakth tanhaaiyaan akelaa chodhti kahaan hai – Rohan


    1. Rohan ji
      thanks for your words of encouragement
      They mean a lot to me
      appne bilkul sahi farmayya hai
      ki tanhayiyaan hume akela nahi choodti
      is daur se gujar kar hi hum apne aap ko acchi tarah se samaz sakte hai


  12. Classic Vikas style of saying it as it is. We need to be lonely sometimes as we need company. And we are not sure which one is better. In the end, I believe, change is always inevitable and lets us enjoy the pleasure and pain of loneliness and togetherness.


    1. Col sahab
      bilkul sahi farmaya
      The jury is still outwhat is better
      in the meanwhile let us stay in the present moment and enjoy it with full mindfulness
      Finally happiness is a state
      as is sorrow?


  13. Being loner myself I think you know yourself better when you are alone !! But still talking to yourself, your real one. We are alone with our manpasands’ too but you feel comfortable with them as you identify yourself them with your personality. I liked your this blog as I felt it is very near to me. Though I am poor in expressing myself but I could connect myself with the thought Expressed in your blog. Very nice. Thank you.


    1. Bharat Bhai
      many thanks for writing in
      dil ke baat dil tak pahunchane me koi language nahi lagti
      so many thanks for your endorsement of my views and sharing your own perspective
      it means a lot to me


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