Sunday, November 18, 2007

A crowded day

'Koi mila tho haath milayaa kahin gaye do baatein ki

Ghar se baahar jab bhi nikalaa din bhar bhoj uthaayaa hai'

-Rustam Sahgalwafa

Last year, when we were on our trek around the Sahayadri ranges we stayed one night at a huge gufaa. When we explored around in the light of candles we realized that the cave already had an occupant; an old happy looking Baba who was rather nice about the invasion of his privacy. He brought us extra light and guided us around the cave. When we retired it was calming to know that he slept in the chamber next to ours.

I wondered about him as we said goodbye the next day. Just things like, how did he come to live in such queer isolation? does it really suit him so well as to give him that wonderful aura of contentment? What does he do for food? Does he ever get lonely? Were a bunch of high spirited holiday makers a welcome change or an unavoidable irritation to be borne? Or neither?
I remember I felt a pang of envy.

And I know that was pure rubbish. I know for a fact that I would be driven raving mad inside a month with such an existence. So why the inappropriate envy? But we will crave the things we don’t really want…

But today out of the blue I have been thinking about him. Well of course there was a trigger, there always is.

Most people cannot avoid people (I mean large numbers of them) for the first quarter of their lives. But later if they choose carefully and work very hard towards it they can manage an existence of minimal contact. When I started down this path, I had not thought about it in those terms, but this is the kind of life I seem to have achieved and for the large part I am content with it.

But sometimes I take a fancy for certain activities that are necessarily social. And I think to myself, it's only people! How bad can it be? I am reminded every time.

Nothing depletes me a much as boredom. And nothing is as boring as having to present my social face to a group of people who will only give me theirs. And this kind of boredom is far worse than the kind that is associated with standing in the snake-queues of a reservation office or waiting out two-hours in a dentist’s anteroom. In those situations your mind is entirely free to wander and entertain itself. But if you are an adult and cooped with a bunch of other adults determined to be social you find yourself in a stressful situation where a wandering mind will be construed as a sign of great rudeness or worse shyness; which will only attract even more well-intentioned and resolutely surface attention.

Today I voluntarily inflicted upon myself such a situation. I came back so exhausted that I have uttered less than half a dozen sentences to my bemused family. I write this for therapy.

I admit I sound like a very poor sort of creature even to my own ears and I suspect I have indulged myself far too much over the years.

But I find it impossible to handle groups of people.

My mechanical smiles hurt my cheekbones.

The social glitter off so many polished surfaces hurts my eye.

The always palpable insecurities of people in groups hurt my nerves.

Restraining the desire to escape hurts my muscles.

Please give me people, I know I need them. But one at a time please.


footloose said...

perfectly timed post, vyas baba! just wriggled out of a weekend full of forced socializing. initial pleasantries are pleasant enough but once the weariness sets in, can't help wearing the boredom on my sleeve. who wants to talk about wallpaper? or the winter in evanston? or how babies transition out of diapers? bah.

and don't even get me started on the glittering surfaces. who wears mascara for brunch? felt like dining with mannequins.

that home visit is timed none too soon, i tell u.

Sheetal said...

I give you Philip Larkin:
Much better stay in company!
Deprived of solitude, you chafe,
It's clear you're not the virtuous sort.

Viciously, then, I lock my door.
The gas-fire breathes. The wind outside
Ushers in evening rain. Once more
Uncontradicting solitude
Supports me on its giant palm;
And like a sea-anemone
Or simple snail, there cautiously
Unfolds, emerges, what I am.

-Best Society

Shweta said...

Loozie: My poor pilli! Here I am moaning my infrequent miseries, while the footloose suffers on in a stranglehold.
'Mascara for brunch'-LOL

Satal: Superb! wonderful poem. Trust you to point to just the right thing.

deewaan said...

"...And I think to myself, it's only people! How bad can it be? I am reminded every time..."

LOL!! C'est méchant, mademoiselle Vyas!! Mais, très drôle!!!

जब कि तुझ बिन नही कोई मौजूद
फिर ये हंगामा ए खुदा क्या है ???

Shweta said...

Dewaansaab: Indeed, kya hai?

And in defence pesh hai...

Bezaarigi zeezth-o-zamaane se humko
Warna talkhii-e-zubaan ka tajurbaa kya hai

deewaan said...

Point taken, Shweta Saahiba!

And hence:

ईलाही सलामत रखे उस तल्ख़ी-ए-कलाम को
यूँ भी शीरीन शराबों में होता नशा क्या है ?!


Sheetal said...

वाह, क्या बात है! मज़ा आ गया।
Wine and wit, dryer the better, forsooth.

deewaan said...

Exactly, Sheetal!...and you would agree that when your sis is taking 'ziisth-o-zamaane' to task, she is a veritable chilled Chablis!!

Anonymous said...

So why the inappropriate envy?

It occurred to me Shweta, that you were envious not of the isolation but of the state of contentment of one who neither needs company nor shuns it, but is in complete bliss immaterial of it. I would be envious too!

Shweta said...

Dewaansaab: you must know the compliment was directed at you!
PriMo: so happy to see you here after so long! And you are so right; that was exactly it.

deewaan said...

A spot of 'inappropriate' envy is understandable, Ms. Vyas, but if you ever actually consider taking up residence in the said cave, please make sure it is suitably equipped with wireless broadband... Else, you might not find much solitude there, what with hordes of us deprived K-e-G fans landing up for our updates!!

Continuing to crave Chacha Ghalib's indulgence:
'Jo gufaa raushan ho unke khursheed-e-khaama se
vo butkhaanaa-e-ahl-e-sukhan hai; gufaa kya hai?'

I know, I know...but it was too tempting to pass up!! :-)

Shweta said...

Tod hai na zulm-e-tareef ka ilaaj koi
Dekhiye dushman daanaa ne auzaar chunaa kya hai

deewaan said...


अब वो बंदगी का भी 'तोड़' ढूंढते हैं...
ख़ालिकी की ये नई अदा क्या है?!


Shweta said...

Humjins khudaa se kiya, udoo ki saazish hai
Aise murtid se taalluq ki jaane sazaa kya hai

deewaan said...

काफ़िर भी इसलाह पा जाएँ जिस कुव्वत-ए-गुफ़्तार से
वो यक-ज़बान-ए-फ़रिश्ता लगे तो नाचीज़ की ख़ता क्या है?

Shweta said...

Khaakhsaari kaa bhi rutbaa pathhar se cheene
But-paraston mein ye fan-e-fanaa kya hai

deewaan said...

Oooh - that is SO beautiful!! A classic!