Loneliness can be a drug. At times, I find myself surrounded by people, aching for solitude. Just a few minutes of uninterrupted silence. Without the drama and pollution they are capable of.
I can taste their bitterness in the roof of my mouth. Smell their anxieties in the air that I breathe. Feel their frustration in the pit of my stomach. And I want to leave. Just go somewhere. It’s not as though I am running away from them. It is certainly no one’s fault that I want to keep to myself as much as possible.
I just enjoy having the time to pursue things, big or small, that make me happy. For instance, I get to spend a meaningful amount of time with birds.
I don’t ask people to go out birding with me. And it’s not as though they are lining up to join me. I share my love for birds, and parts of my life, to strangers more than I do to friends and family members. In all probability – you, dear reader, know as much about me as anyone else in my life.
I am glad that things have turned out this way. But I can’t glamorize the process.
Loneliness is neither a discretionary process to harness one’s creativity nor a melancholic refuge of the tormented. It’s just a tough routine that pays dividends. People talk about how they would rather be left alone without being full aware of the implications. It is akin to a wealthy person opining that money isn’t important to sustain contentment.
Loneliness isn’t a rash. I can’t scratch it, and make the itching go away. I can’t put it on a leash and parade it around to seek validation. It is a birthmark. A tattoo I want the world to notice and act upon, without having to fold my shirt sleeves.
Loneliness isn’t a disease. It’s a permanent and beautiful scar. A pivotal part of my psyche that precariously body-surfs on the business end of Maslow’s pyramid of humanized needs. It is a Magpie Robin perched upon my shoulder, singing sweet nothings into my ear. A Malabar Giant Squirrel hiding in-between branches, predicting my next move. A mushroom resting on a bed of twigs, gazing at its world upwards, wondering where it is supposed to fit in.
This loneliness is mine to bear. And yours too. Whether burden or boon, it belongs to us. We owe it to each other to take good care of it.
Like Isaac Newton allegedly said, “the world has too many walls, and not enough bridges”. Some of us want to cross over to the other side, and watch birds go about their morning chores.
Perhaps, in turn, they will re-humanize us. Fill us with the measure of joy that has been found wanting in our lives. Introduce us to poetry that goes unnoticed, and the kind of love that has been amiss.
Just take us somewhere, beautiful and kind.
We swear that we won’t call it home.
We will be visitors.
Strangers, uninterrupted, in paradise.
(Photographs: Munnar, Kodaikanal, Pulicat, Vedanthangal, East Coast Road)