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Updated: Aug 9, 2022

Loneliness is a cruel companion.

It accosts those who crave it, initially as sweet solitude, taking time to grow on them and then like a parasite, saps their life energy till they wither and fall.

It arrives in some people’s lives, unsolicited, wearing black robes, in the form of a dear one’s death or desertion, robbing the loves of their lives. Razing their hearts to cinders and purloining their essential joys, loneliness lurks over them like a waiting monsoon cloud, ready to pour anytime.

To some, loneliness becomes a mundane routine, from which they seek nothing and to which they have nothing to offer except deep, long sighs. They neither love nor despise the vacant moments; they merely wade through it, hoping that the river will take them to the ocean soon.

Such different varieties there are of loneliness just as there are of love!

Some stand in a crowd and look around from the recesses of their cloistered self. The crowd has made them insignificant, it has devoured them, it has made them nonexistent. The crowd isn’t them. They aren’t the crowd. Somewhere between these two there are miles that no one can see. How many such lonely souls mope around in the carnival, looking for affinity!

And then there are those loners who wait for a train that would never arrive, and yet come to the station every day and watch the rest of the world go by. They have nowhere to go and nothing to do except fix their stare on the trail of travellers who have destinations to reach. We will see them scattered all over town like lamp posts, if only we would stop and look. In their eyes you see the lyrics of a ballad that echoes their emptiness and in their face the shadows of hidden woes.

I have closely seen the scourge of loneliness in the wrinkled skin of senility. Decades of walking the earth and foraging life have weakened their limbs. They now have only a rocking chair in the corner or a cot to recline with memories of the past to converse with. I have seen their shrinking bodies and dwindling senses withdraw to a silence that is amplified by their uneven breath. Old age and loneliness – what a malicious mixture of agonies it is!

Ask those who are tottering in the lanes of solitude, and they would aver it isn’t a luxury. It is the suffering of the soul that cuts deep. So deep that the wound will bleed even in their grave. The void in their hearts are too large to fill except by an abundance of kindness and love. And such love, alas, is in scarcity. In its absence, the solitary sleepers pretend to celebrate their state, calling their loneliness a cherished possession. And when the world isn’t looking, they secretly weep into their cotton pillows. You who laud the merits of solitude, Speak to those who have their dinners alone and sleep in single couches by the window. Speak to those who return to empty rooms and those who are surrounded by indifferent relations and you will realize – in a mortal world, solitude is not sweet. If lonely people had a recurring dream, what would it be about? Laughter, embraces and kisses? Or the visual of a funeral procession? If they were to hear music in their dreams, will it be a melody or strains of acute melancholy?

If they are asked to make a wish on a falling star, what will they say? ‘Wish we had a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, a lap to lay our head and some love to keep us alive’?

As I look out on the city lights, I wonder - how many such lonesome souls will be out there enduring this bitterness in the silence of the nights and in the din of the blazing days? For them, I say an ardent prayer tonight – may there be sunshine and rainbows and the company of glowworms in their lonely lanes.

(Dedicated to all those who are lonely, with or without people in their lives.)

Pic Courtesy : Raman Kutty KV (RK Sir), who taught us at the Dept. of Journalism way back in 91-92. This piece was partly inspired by this photograph and partly by some folks I know.

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