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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Mind some free counsel?

Busy lives and lonely hearts
More and more young urban Indians are falling prey to acute loneliness
You would expect Reva Sen, 32, a high-flying media professional with a great career, a large paycheque and a plush three-bedroom pad in south Delhi to look confident, content and in control. Instead you meet a nervous woman who gets drunk at the slightest pretext and divulges personal details to complete strangers. ‘I desperately want to make friends, but I don’t know how to,’ she says.
For the last couple of years, Reva has been living alone in Delhi, away from her family in the US. Lonely and depressed, she is now having an affair with a married man to combat her friendless state.
Reva’s is a classic case of urban loneliness, a trend that is on the rise amongst people in the 20s and 30s who have moved out to other cities in search of better job prospects. Alone in a strange city, they struggle to make friends and form emotional attachments and often sink into depression.
And if you thought loneliness is only for people who don’t have a ‘life’, think again. According to counselors, loneliness can also be a function of a hectic lifestyle. Having to juggle work along with household chores leaves people with little time for themselves or for others.
So why is loneliness finding its way into the active lifestyles of young urban Indians? Experts say that a consumerist society’s consistent focus on achievement makes individuals competitive, but it also makes them unable to trust a peer completely. And without trust there’s a lack of proper communication. ‘People tackle job pressures and competition at work, and then return to an empty home, if they stay alone. They can’t handle this huge imbalance,’ says Dr. Shubha Thatte, a Mumbai-based clinical psychologist. ‘Besides, there is no other real support system by way of immediate family any more.’
Most find reprieve in socializing. It’s like creating a wall of people around themselves. ‘Initially, I partied like a maniac almost every other day. That was my way of drowning out the loneliness,’ admits Ram K., who has lived alone in Delhi for seven years. Now in his late 20s, with a hectic job in a television channel, Ram has ‘sobered down and can’t endure the stress of partying.’ Besides, says Arvind Rayakar, a Mumbai-based bachelor and a self-confessed lonely heart, ‘you soon realize that the distraction is an illusion.’
Paromita Mitra Bhaumik, consultant psychologist and director of the Calcutta-based Anubhav Mental Health Clinic, points out that while the urban young have plenty of opportunities for social interaction – discotheques, coffee shops, shopping malls – they find little scope to share emotions. This emotional loneliness can lead to myriad health problems too. ‘I thought I wouldn’t have the time to feel lonely, but I was wrong,’ says Manoj Rai, 35, who works for an IT firm and has been living alone in Chennai for three years. Despite a 15-16 hour long work schedule and several ‘hang-out’ pals, he says he continues to feel alone. Rai is now suffering from extremely high cholesterol levels and sleep apnoea.
Loneliness can also awake latent mental disorders, say psychologists. Take the case of 25-year old Rupa Jhaveri. Rupa was just another bright and friendly girl living with her parents in Mumbai. When she moved to Pune to do her graduation in law, things went horribly wrong. She started doing badly in her examinations, became withdrawn, moody and sullen and went through several relationships. Finally, Rupa was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder – a disorder characterized by extreme ‘black and white’ thinking, mood swings and difficulty in functioning in a way society accepts as normal. Her problem had lain dormant while she was in familiar surroundings.
Again, unlike older people who are quicker to accept their loneliness, young people are in denial of the problem till it becomes very serious. ‘In India, loneliness is supposed to happen only to the old. But it can happen to anyone,’ says Dr. Anuradha Sovani, reader, department of applied psychology, University of Mumbai.
Swati Salunkhe, Managing Director, Growth Centre, Mumbai, reckons that the number of loneliness related case among the 30-40 age group is high, but mostly they go unreported and hence untreated. Her centre got only two or three of these cases in the past two years. ‘They came to us in the guise of career- or job-related problems. As we analysed the cases, we identified the problem as loneliness,’ she adds.
However, not all cases of loneliness need clinical treatment. Says Hemangi Naik, who runs the Harmony Training and consultancy (a mental health clinic) in Navi Mumbai. ‘I put them through tests and questionnaires to teach them to look at themselves objectively and rationally. It helps them tackle the root causes of their loneliness,’ she says.
For India’s growing tribe of the urban lonely, that could be the best start to dealing with their problem.
By Gouri Shukla (additional reporting by Dola Mitra in Calcutta)
Carried in The Telegraph, November 15, 2005 – p. 17

My comments:
1. From my own experience, I can vouch that this is a global phenomenon, and spreading like wildfire. Like so many other imports from the US (and the undifferentiated ‘west’ more generally), this too has attacked India like a pandemic.
2. A lot of young people don’t even know this is what they are suffering from, or are hiding it (mobile sms-ing and orkut scrapping helps them to hide by pretending that they are involved with a wide circle of friends all the time!), or have no idea how to handle it. And their parents are either blissfully ignorant, or in denial, or just praying ‘it won’t happen to my kid’!
3. It is deeply ironical that this is a problem that mostly afflicts people who are apparently ‘successful’ – in the current middle-class understanding of the word! If success only brings this kind of helplessness, aimlessness and despair, what is success worth?
4. A lot of other afflictions are closely related to this problem, and are even feeding upon it. Overeating and obesity, marital discord, parental dysfunction, TV- and shopping mall or multiplex addiction, the cellphone and car craze, drug abuse, all diseases that are stress-related, such as hypertension and ulcers and cardiac ailments, the pretension that one has a lot of friends (I have always insisted that if one has three real friends one is a very lucky person. In reality, the kind of friends that most of us have only help to cause or aggravate all our problems!)… to name just a few.
5. The only cure lies in a combination of the following: training to be content with being alone, looking inwards (for which being occasionally alone, silent and shorn of all distractions is absolutely essential), not measuring personal success obsessively and exclusively in material terms and external yardsticks (marks/money/looks/cars…), cultivating the four Buddhist cardinal principles, to wit maitri, karuna, mudita and upeksha, doing what one really likes to do (rather than toeing other people’s lines lifelong), and finding one or two genuine friends – who really care for you as an individual human being, not someone to be manipulated, used and thrown away for their own immediate, personal and petty gains.
6. If, like so many others, parents or spouses or colleagues cannot be such friends to you, look elsewhere. Perhaps you will get them in books – as I have done – or in a good mentor? And perhaps you need to look avidly all around yourself (beyond the little circle of relatives/friends/neighbours/colleagues) for people who are determinedly and happily different? – I find lots of such examples talked about in the daily newspaper; but I have also discovered that hardly anybody ever reads a newspaper the way it should be read!
[I just found the above article in my file of old newspaper clippings. From what I see all around me, the problem has gotten worse since the time it was written. I suggest that after reflecting upon it you get back to me with relevant queries and problems, whether you are a current student or a friend of one, an ex-student, or simply a young person who chanced upon this blogpost and wants some sensible and urgent answers.]


archishman said...

How to know whether we ourselves have been affected by this "loneliness"?
Can a boy or girl of our age be affected by this?....they have many friends...always chatting and giggling among themselves.

Navin said...

Firstly, I do read your blogs and I do spend time on your blog articles.By now I think, I have read almost everything
on your blog, except some short stories. Also 600 visits to your blog with less attention time span could be due to the reason that the dedicated readers visit frequently, but do not find enough new stuff to remain on the blog for a longer time. At least that is what happens to me.

Secondly, this is a very good post, because it stresses on 2 things which I think are absolutely necessary. First, introspection is necessary to grow as a person. No use is the life which is busy and hectic, which doesn't leave time for introspection. It is the reason for lack of emotional intelligence, as well as lack of maturity which is essential to deal with failures in life, and every one has to face failures. If one doesn't know how to deal with failures, then he/she goes into depression and all the outwardly and inwardly manifestations of it. Secondly, people who have cultivated interests in their life, usually find it much more easy to cope up with life and end up wasting less time feeling lonely. That is the reason, I think, learning to enjoy books, learning music, playing sports, painting etc etc are absolutely essential for the development of a child. He benifits from these tastes much more when he is an adult as opposed to when he is a child. He may not see the point in doing this as a child. In my experience, people who have cultivated interests like the ones I have mentioned above, lead a much more fulfilling and a "nontrivial" life. Lonely people are afflicted with the problem, of finding nothing to do when they are lonely, and so they end up wasting a lot of their life, not being happy about it.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

to Archisman:
You know the answer perfectly well - I suspect that you are one of the very many who would prefer to keep hiding from the very unpleasant truth. Teenagers who keep chatting and giggling away in groups are anything but 'friends': they are only indulging in a very popular form of mild hysteria to kill time and feel 'engaged', burying guilty feelings of doing nothing worthwhile at their parents' expense (not even studying, which is the only thing 99% of contemporary parents expect of them!). The same teenagers constantly engage in backbiting and rumour-mongering against each other all the time and then moan about how their 'friends' have let them down, don't they? At the time of exams, haven't you noticed how reluctant they are to share notes? And how reluctant they are to stand up for their 'friends' when there's the slightest chance of getting into trouble with authority? And how little genuine sympathy and help they offer when you are in real trouble: such as when daddy has a heart attack?... the fewer such friends you have, the luckier you are!

ginger candy said...


Your ideas are in exact accord with mine (rarely has it been the other way round, isn't it?) and I have a few other things to say too, which I think won't be a misfit in this context. Loneliness is a feeling which creeps into the minds of urban youth too often, too soon, so as to bring a sense of fear and isolation from the common mass. I have seen it happening in my office too, and even some of my close friends happen to suffer from this vicious trait of desolation. This is a big problem, as I see it, and something must be done in order to heal this disorder.

Here are a couple of things I would like to suggest in order to get rid of this state-

1) Stop looking for friendship in Orkut, Facebook or any other social networking sites- genuine friends can never be made in such a fashion, this much I know. Of course, you might find a few fake friends who will pretend that they are very interested in you, and I shall advise you to refrain from getting close with these people. I have had bad experiences from indiscriminately accepting 'friend requests' from strangers in Orkut in my college days (I was a very foolish boy then, I admit) and I won't ever repeat the same mistake in my life. Also, if someone is busy to find a girlfriend/boyfriend in order to keep themselves at bay from being lonely, I know for sure that they are treading on the wrong path- Relationships such as these are supposed to stem out of pure love, and true lovers don't expect anything in return from their object of affection.

2) Get acquainted with the feeling of loneliness- I know it's not an easy thing to do, but then, I assure you that you shall eventually find out that it's not such a bad thing after all! I, for one, shall always prefer to stay lonely rather than socializing with a bunch of morons every other day. It might sound far stretched to many, but I have no qualms in admitting that I enjoy loneliness nowadays; it gives me the freedom to do things I like doing, and I have made friends with loneliness!

3) I would like to suggest people to engage themselves in things that they like doing. Read, write, listen to music, paint-in short, induldge in any activity which you had loved doing as a kid, and see how wonderful it feels to do the stuff you love to do: I am sure you will run out of time doing this!


Sayan said...

Your observation "Teenagers who keep chatting and giggling away in groups are anything but 'friends': they are only indulging in a very popular form of mild hysteria to kill time and feel 'engaged', burying guilty feelings......" - I remember Utpal Dutta saying the same thing in the movie 'Aguntuk' when asked whether he was missing the traditional Bangali adda.
Sayan Datta.

Aritra said...

What you said is true in each and every respect but there are some exceptions also. I agree with you that true friends are rare and the majority of them are always bent on harming each other. But at the same time there are some true friends also. One incident shall prove it. Just two days left for the pre-finals to begin and I was still having a few problems in chemistry(organic). I told a friend of mine about my problem and he himself came to my house to clarify my doubts(just two days before the exams). I can boast of many more incidents like this. But Sir it also has to be agreed that one cannot only expect favors one has to return them also. Though I must agree that not many would have done that but at least one friend has. So Sir there are really good friends. And as for sharing notes before the exams it is not at all a big deal. I have personally done that and so did many of my close friends. So Sir thank you for writing this post for this has called upon me to reflect upon my lifestyle and verify whether I am really a victim.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

A young friend who wishes to stay unnamed has sent in the following query:
You have suggested that we should learn to train ourselves to be content with being alone. But how can someone be content with being alone? Whenever I am alone, I keep thinking about the harsh past. This increases my loneliness.

How can we find a true and genuine friend in this corrupt world were everyone pretends to be someone else? How can I differentiate between a true and a false friend? Apparently everyone pretends to care for me but finally they either get bored of me or finding me too difficult to exploit just throw me away, leading to immense pain on my part.

How can I stop people from treating me like a use-and-throw pen? Please suggest a way."

Well, first of all, Navin and Joydeep have already pointed out that being alone and quietly at peace is both possible and, given practice, pleasurable enough, provided one has enjoyable things to do. Please note that 'alone' is not the same thing as 'lonely'. When I am lonely I am unhappy; on the other hand, when I really want to concentrate on a pleasurable activity, such as reading a good book or watching a good movie or listening to good music, I might actually prefer to be alone, unless I have really good company!

Next, fear of being alone is often a derived fear; it stems from the (often subconscious-) knowledge that I am so empty of good thoughts and deep feelings that I cannot bear to be with myself for any length of time. The cure to that is not looking for lots of friends with whom I can kill time, and hoping that they can do for me what I cannot do for myself (why on earth should they be interested, even if they are capable?), but to make oneself interesting to oneself. This may sound like a painful paradox, but in fact most people find themselves terribly dull and boring: that is precisely why they can't bear to think of being alone.

You who have written that query are very young: how much of a past, harsh or pleasant, do you have yet that you should brood upon it? When you are alone, concentrate on thinking of and working on things that will build up a happy future: leave brooding over the past to the oldies. Besides, I am, in comparison to you, an oldie myself, and I have lots of 'harsh' things to remember, but I choose to recall and relish the good ones instead, of which also there are very many (you might look up my blogpost titled 'Happy memories' for a taste of them). Only a pessimist dwells compulsively on the harshness of the past.

Finally, while it is true that one should not look for too many friends nor for too much from any friend, one should also reflect upon this: how good a friend have I ever tried to be to anybody that I expect others to be good friends to me? Most people can see the badness and triviality in others, but not in themselves! As Tagore wrote in the poem titled Bojhapora, accept that, wittingly or unwittingly, you have hurt a lot of people just as a lot of people have hurt you. Try to be more careful about not hurting others, even unintentionally, and cultivate the kind of self-possession that immunises you against being too easily hurt (this is where the four cardinal Buddhist principles become vitally important: you didn't take time to reflect upon them). Remember we all come into this world alone, and shall leave alone, and for most of the time we are here we are compelled to be alone inside our minds, though we might labour under the illusion of having many people around who 'care' for us: that is an unavoidable part of the human condition.

And I cannot stop myself from concluding with a derisory comment - rare exceptions apart, it is universally accepted that teenagers get 'terribly hurt' over very trivial things (a friend stole my lipstick/laughed about me before my girlfriend), but they forget just as quickly; that is why elders habitually don't take teenage angst seriously, and a teenager would mature more swiftly if she learnt to take herself a little less seriously, if he learnt to laugh at himself sometimes!

tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda,

Thank you Suvroda for this post. You reminded me of myself at some point in time.

Your observations are perfect as always and I have experienced them when just after university I started working in Delhi. Though initially I shared the room with a university classmate after a while, since both of us could not adjust much with eachother's ways we decided to part and I moved out to a new place.

Habitually I am a talkative person. I love people around me. When faced with loneliness, I was naturally perturbed. I am an extrovert but very choosy about friends and company that I keep, thus options available were limited.

I did the following essentially to give myself company and to-day I feel despite the apparent irritations from time to time thank god I did those things. It helped me to learn to love myself.

1) I smoke a lot but during those days and even now I never use smoking as an excuse to avoid sadness. Thus, the days I felt sad infact I smoked less so that smoking remains a pleasurable activity not a solace seeking exercise. (Could not garner enough will power to quit though but shall do I am sure!)

2) I never indulged in alcohol alone. I do like drinking at social / official gathering but like smoking I controlled it during those days. Now I hardly ever drink unless and until I am with a very close friend.

3) I did not have a computer that time (I could not afford it with my salary!) so after I finished my work at office, sometimes I used office computer to browse internet and read on the net.

4) I loved reading but could not buy too many books (again salary!) thus whatever I could get from the net (e-books) I used to take print-outs and read them.

5) I sold off my television as it was irritating at that point of time to have it as I felt it restricted my interests. When I wanted to watch say a cricket match on a Sunday, I used to again go to office and watch the conference room television. The guards / office boys in my office were much better company than many people I have ever come across.

6) All this might feel, I depended a lot on office. True but then, after some time I could afford to buy a thainkpad and my dependence on office amenities reduced.

7) My best phase of writing till today was during that time. Not grammatically though but content wise for sure. I used to write pages after pages on my thinkpad. I never felt tired of writing. There were ideas galore to pen interesting short-stories. Some of them got published too at a later date
My normal routine became something like this - I came back home from office at around 7.30 PM. Sleep till 9.00 PM, wake up and have my dinner, then write till 3 AM. This was my routine. And since writing was my best friend, I did not feel tired for next days work.

8) After a year or so, I started writing blogs and blogworld was really helpful. May be there were not many good writers that I met who wrote sense but most of the people I met through blog were nice. I liked reading them and that was an activity in itself.

9) I started buying movie cds and used to spend nearly three hours in Planet M (at South Ex) every Sunday - sitting there listening to music and choosing movies. I watched one movie every night sometime. The planet M people loved me and they became my friends. Today I have nearly 400 plus movies and they are a collection in itself.

This is just a part of my experience because if I write more, probably reader shall get bored.

But what I would like to tell people is - pursue a hobby. Leaning on your hobby’s shoulder is perhaps the best cure to loneliness. A hobby gives you, your own world- a world where you are the master. You do not need anyone when you are with your hobby. Still I maintain that.

Despite life having been changed so much now for me. I take out time to pursue my hobbies and none disturbs me that time, as everyone respects me that I do that.

Loneliness cannot be a desirable state but if it is a reality for sometime one should try and utilize it effectively. More than human friends perhaps your interests might help you better.

That is why I get little irked when I find people with no hobbies whatsoever. There are people, trust me, who do not possess any interest at all!! They are the ones suffering more. I feel sad for them. I wonder that how can they survive without having a hobby.

Even walking on the road and observing others is an interesting exercise. Alas, we feel we are pre-occupied to do such things but we do not realise by not having a hobby we actually don’t love ourselves.

I don't remember those days of loneliness fondly but I do think those days taught me the most. That is why even now I help out in everyway when I meet some youngsters coming to Delhi for work and staying alone. I help them to cope up because I respect such people. It is not easy but it can be done without theorizing the situation.

Being sensitive and feeling lonely (when one is without friends and family) is not unnatural. One should not blame himself or herself for having such a feeling because it is those sensitivities which make us human being. Having said that I suggest one should utilize the loneliness to one’s best advantage.

It shall help one make much better friend circle and ones self-esteem shall be much higher.


Sayan said...

Sir, Is this social problem somewhat related to the concept of "having" and "being",which I came across in Erich Fromm's book?I want to know more about this,I may be wrong about correlating these concepts with your post...
Yours sincerely,

Sayan Sarkar said...

I would once again apologize for not being a frequent visitor of late.
Though I do not have anything new to contribute to this conversation, but I would still take this opportunity to discuss some of the things that I have realized over the past few years.

Many of us feel lonely today probably because we are too busy to introspect! And unless we summon the courage to face ourselves, we shall never overcome that asphyxiating feeling of insecurity. Asking ourselves some fundamental questions could be the first step to clarity about life.
Who do we want to be? What would we really like to do? Who do we want to be with?

1) We complain of long hours at work, and in a good number of such cases we can avoid that by planning our work well. Investing some time in preparation (and thereby refraining from shooting from the hip at later stages) actually works!

2) Many of us, after returning from office or school, crib about being tired. Maybe we are more tired because we lead a passive life, and not necessarily a challenging one. A person taking real interest in her work seldom feels tired.

3) Academics and gainful employment lend purpose to life. Relationships, hobbies and leisure make it much more fulfilling! Pursuing one's hobbies can turn things around and greatly improve the quality of life. If not anything else, we could try to read or write or at least invest some time every day staying fit!

4) Loneliness is not same as not having anyone in the vicinity! One could well be in the company of people involved in vapid conversations and feel lonely. Or one could be completely engrossed in reading for hours at a stretch, and still not feel the slightest need for human presence at that juncture.

5) We should start loving ourselves. It is the first and the most difficult step towards developing relationships which enrich our lives.

Subhanjan said...

A boy wakes up at seven in the morning everyday. He washes his face, has a bath, has his breakfast, dresses up and leaves for his work. He does all these within forty minutes. It takes him one and a half hour to go to office. Attends the meeting and then goes out to meet the managers and directors in different corporate offices. He walks and works like Hell. At noon he manages to have two or three breads somewhere and leaves for work again. Works till seven or eight in the evening. Returns to office, makes his submissions, and then returns home. By the time he is home, it is ten in the night. Washes his face, almost swallows a few roties and goes to bed as fast as possible. His body had never been so exhausted. There was a time when he read a lot, listened a lot to music, watched a lot of movies. But now he hardly finds a few seconds to enjoy these luxuries. They are almost history to him. On some nights, he manages to go to sleep with the sweet notes of Elvira Madigan or Rondo Alla Turca flowing down from the DVD Player to his ears. It is not that he wants to run away from his work. In fact, he wants to work hard and build up a successful career. But he hardly has time for anything else. In other words, at times he feels really lonely. He has lost his dear friends - Maugham and Mozart.

This is my story friends.

Anonymous said...

First ,thank you for such a post.
But at times when you feel low you do need a shoulder to rest your head and weep , at times you need to share your laughter with someone.And when you don't get a single person, this is what a renowned journalist was recently heard saying -" young indian ladies are eating less , drinking more, sleeping with every abandoned guy on the street and feeling more and more 'liberated',yet not forgetting to add the 'virgin' criteria in their matrimonial columns!"
now tell me can only books and music act as a solace to a lonely heart ? for 95% of parents of teenagers' parents dont give a damn to anything more than their
son's or daughter's marks and ranks in class" I am bothered about wild 'party animals' but a man in possession of very strong will power too needs some support , some shoulder to lean back......or else is not that the circumstances engulfing a man more the other vice- versa ? How do you think one can tackle this.Again personally , i love talking about any serious subject with a known group of people but turn totally dump before any stranger in social occasion , how can this be managed? ........worse still my parents hardly cares to see my report cards or my much cherised articles on the front page of the newspaper, but remembers the maths marks , joint entrance ranks and salary of each and every guy on the street for as long as 20 years!"..... and expect us to reach the stars just because 'they 'have some loathsome 'postgraduate' degree!!-

Suvro Chatterjee said...

to the first Sayan above:
Do write your full name at the bottom of your comment, to distinguish yourself from the other Sayans who write in now and then. - Yes, you've got it just right: Fromm pointed out the crux of the issue long ago in To Have or to Be?: most people feel lonely and helpless and lacking an identity without constantly having/buying things, and that is precisely the urge that the rulers of contemporary consumerist society aggravate and exploit all the time!

to the Anonymous commentator above: I broke a rule to allow your comment in because I thought you had a serious question to ask, and you had not given me an email i.d. to reply back! I shall be glad to talk to you if you send me an email: my i.d. is given on top of my blog.

ANANYA said...

I have always eagerly read your blog but never posted a comment.Your recent post has forced me to share my own experience.
When I started my career as an airhostess I was barely twenty.I always felt as if I was plucked out of friends and family and thrown into the arena of a so-called secure career with a fat salary and not-so-fat self esteem.It was then that I actually befriended "LONELINESS".After day long shifts I always ended up having colleagues who gittered around queer pubs and discotheques or more unnatural relationships;some even moved on for rigorous one night stands.As I was completely raised in a different environment I was out of the circle and could never really catch up with them.They rebuked calling me 'out of the village' and a very shy unsocial girl.
The page 3 parties were always filled with young and old,either dozzing off with drinks or in multiple relationships.I was infact a loner who preferred loneliness to socializing.But sometimes in unknown lands books were just enough to keep company.I missed parents and friends on new year eves,pujas and silently wished I would someday be back home.The face of a known fellow made me nostalgic and lonely.Being with myself was not enough to heal the blues and pangs I was facing.
It was then that I found a little angel on a Hyderabad flight who taught me a lesson for life.A little girl of eight,she was travelling all alone from delhi to visit her grandparents because her parents were too busy.She ran from head to rear befriending almost everybody and by the time the plane taxied down hyderabad airport all were singing at her tunes.Even I could not help making a little princess teach me that loneliness infact is rather a will of mind.The last time I saw her she was happily relating the flight experience to her driver.
Loneliness is just not a crisis which young and old face,it also robs children of their colourful childhood.If they are left right from eight how do they even think of living let aside a corporate career.
I made my own remedies,started speaking to my passengers ,lending a sympathetic ear to their lives and soon I found myself acting as a councellor.I suppose one doesn't need friends if he befriends the ambience around.I remember as a child I used to have stray dogs,lizards and my garden to play when my parents went for their work.
Even after shifting profession I have very few friends who are mostly the kids from the neighbouring flats.There was a time when I visited the 'NIRMAL HRIDAY' regularly;their faces are proof enough to make us feel that we are really not soooo.........lonely.

Sudipto Basu said...

I have some small things to say on this matter, never mind if they have already been expressed (I've read all the comments already, as a matter of fact). Hope people won't mind me adding my bit:

Now this is from someone who, to be true, has been 'lonely' from a rather early age. My father used to (and still does) stay in Kolkata, and my mother used to go to office at morning and return only when it was about eight at night. As such, all I had was my sister as company-- and even she had to go out for tuitions most of the time. Spending those long afternoon hours alone taught me to cope up with being alone. In the beginning, I would watch TV or just laze around during all those hours, but that seemed boring after a cetain period of time. Moreover, as a child, I never actually felt lonely inspite of being on my own: to put it quite simply, I hadn't still grown the mental consciousness that is essential is differentiating between loneliness or the lack of it. But as time passed by, and I grew up in years; to be more specific, when my didi left for Kolkata after my tenth examinations, I really started feeling the pangs of loneliness. I had no one to share my views on life, quarrel with (believe me, that was such an enjoyable thing back in my early years!) or even idly chat with... Which made me feel really lonely for the first time in my life: when I suddenly felt the need to have someone to talk my heart out-- to be precise, the need of a girlfriend. Strange though it may sound, a serious quest for a girlfriend began only after I felt the need of a like-minded companion to talk to (coupled with, I won't deny it, the hormonal changes that are normal at this age!). And when I found that person, I felt so happy all of a sudden. Even when I wasn't talking to her directly, I was talking to her (or maybe on second thoughts, to myself!) inside my own head. Another thing happened almost suddenly and simultaneously: I shed off all my erstwhile 'friends' with whom I felt no kinship of soul. And thankfyll, my loneliness drove me to discover more about the huge world waiting for me outside: I was drawn to reading more, and listening to music more, and dreaming/thinking more, along with reviving a long-dormant passion for writing. In certain ways, loneliness helped me become the way I am today. And I certainly don't regret being 'lonely' now: I realise I have so many thing I can do! That list just doesn't end...

And I must congratulate Sayan (Sarkar) da for mentioning a very right thing: people can be lonely even in the midst of a lot of garrulous people, and extremely at ease when on their own!

It's all in the mind, after all.. :)

P.S.-- The presence of a precious few very like-minded friends has only made the world even more beautiful for me now.

partha said...

I was a student of yours 1993 Batch.I do have a peculiar problem,
i do get very angry with my colleagues,wife and others dear to me at the slightest mistakes and do something which i will never do normally(like breaking things dear to me) and afterward I feel sorry .
i love to live alone but also I like companies when I like.
Does this mean I suffer this "loneliness" disease.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

A deep inner loneliness may be an aggravating factor in your case, Partha, but your temper tantrums are not essentially caused by loneliness; it is much more likely that they arise from an inability to vibe with people around you, and a sense of inadequacy in getting your feelings across. I would like to say two things: a) your problem is not very 'peculiar' at all, don't worry, I know lots of people (including some in my own family!) who have exactly the same problem; and b) the real trouble lies with people who have a problem just like you, but are in adamant denial: they refuse to believe that they have a problem at all! Since you are brave and honest enough to acknowledge that you have a problem, I believe chances of a cure are pretty bright for you. Do deep breathing exercises, laugh and joke as much as you can, tell people around you that you are trying to change and ask them to cooperate with you - I'm sure most will be glad to; pick up tips from self-help books like Dale Carnegie's How to stop worrying and start living.

Beyond a certain point, if all the above does not work, it might be a good idea to seek clinical help, or attend an anger-management course. I wish you good luck.

Sayantani said...

Dear Sir,

Along with all the good things that Almighty has given me, there have been quite a few stages in my life when I’ve lived in complete desertion – a haunting seclusion that was strong enough to erase all my faith on friendship and love for my whole life. This is the reason why a great part of my self sympathises with Severus Snape and Tom Riddle despite their dark ways. There have been some of the most narrowed and darkened phases that I’ve lived through at a very early age, when I’ve been hated by people with such intensity that might equal the disgust of man from some mucky creature. I continued loving some of these people strongly even after knowing the bitterness they had for me (some people might call me stupid. But, well, I’m stupid, if you say so. It’s difficult for me to hate someone whom I’ve loved at some of point of time from the cockles of my heart and have related them so innately with my life…).

I’ll recount just one of those stages of my life… There was this period from the end of Class 9 and the whole of my Class 10 when I experienced this haunting isolation. Firstly, my the-then-closest friend declared one fine morning after several days of coldness that it was hard for her to pursue her career being with an ambitionless person like me. So, she went on to make friends with the so-called stalwarts of the class and I doomed alone. In the beginning, it was like living without the life-giving gas (remember? The way Harry felt when Ron left his side the first time?). To add to this, I realised that the boy I liked (I never disclosed my feelings to anyone but my best friend. Forget about disclosing, I didn’t even try to talk to him!) would never come to like me and actually, he was falling for another dear friend of mine. Oh, the two incidents really amalgamated so well that unable to bear all of it at once I fell ill (I lost my appetite in my remorse and would throw up if I tried to eat something)… This continued for about two months. When I recovered, I was stronger, but still hurt. I stopped caring even for my looks: I cut my hair short into a boy’s cut and let the pimples mushroom all over my face. (Trying to look good is a sign of happiness, see?)

I didn’t take any tuition, yet topped the class and this was a fact of great suspicion to my peers. (They wouldn’t believe that books were my teachers and assumed that I was keeping a big secret from them.). And, some others hated me for my views about life standing apart from the mainstream in most cases; and my denying with the ways of the modern-day-multitude straight-away. I realised even my best friend I mentioned above hated me (perhaps, she among all contained the greatest contempt for me…). I’ll do a mistake here in not mentioning that a couple of friends still loved me though they weren’t very close.

At this juncture, I must say Tagore came to my rescue. And, I’m lucky enough that though my parents didn’t know quite all that details, but they gave me a warm shoulder all the same. Certain songs (especially ‘Anandadhara bohichhe bhubone…’ and ‘Ei korechho bhalo, nithuro he…’) lit my world and nothing but optimism, in hoping for the best and wishing good and love to all, kept my soul alive. I wished good for the people who hated me and devoured myself into the world of books…

Thankfully, I’ve left that phase behind and presently am gifted with few but really treasured friends. I suppose I’m prepared to lose it all again if my fate brings so or as is the transient rule of the nature. May be I deserved it all. I thank God for bringing all these hurting hurdles in my path as they have only taken me a step ahead in life. A whole lot of black in my worldly self still remains to be burnt…

Not sure if this comment will do any good to anyone, but my life has proved true what Percy Bysshe Shelley said long ago –
“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
So, if one ever falls in a really cold world of loneliness, have faith that there will be people to shower love and warmth to you in the coming phase of your life.

With high regards,

Kishore Penmetsa said...

Suvroda, I enjoyed reading your comments on the Telegraph article. I recollect reading another article on Indiatimes not too long ago, that was on the same lines. Fortunately, I can say I've gotten over the throes of loneliness as I went through college and later on in my career. I learnt how to meditate and take my mind to a tranquil place where nothing could affect me. I've been meditating for almost 9 years now and I can say I've transformed into a very patient man who does not get flustered over small issues. Working in the corporate world can take its toll on people but they have to learn some key things that will help them tackle all issues.

1) One weapon in my armour is effective time management. I've found it very useful to keep a record of the time I spend on different projects and meetings so that I do not over-commit myself to tasks that cannot be completed in a given time frame. I have never missed an appointment, or been late for an appointment because of bad scheduling. I have always managed to make it 5 minutes before my scheduled appointment and I can say I've been respected for being punctual. I say this because keeping yourself organized can keep you away from panic or loneliness, which is a state when you realize that so many things demand your attention at one point of time and you are driven insane. Effective time management has always enabled me to keep some time for myself (reading, swimming, soccer and just watching a movie or cooking).

2) Those around you(as you've pointed out in your post). For me the person who calms me no matter how agitated I might get (rarely, but I am human) is my wife. She is my closest friend and a very good listener. Talking to her for a few minutes can bring me back to my normal self. I can be considered lucky for having her but I would say most spouses are willing to listen ; all you need to do is develop that kind of a relationship with them. If they don't understand, make them understand and the process itself can make you more relaxed.

3) I've never been in an internet chat room and wasted time on irrelevant topics. I've also tried to keep myself out of idle conversations either in the workplace or in a circle of friends. The key point here is that a person should find his/her intellectual equals and spend time with them to enhance his/her knowledge. I used to get drunk and listened to all my gooey and emotional friends when I was in college but after college, I realized how utterly stupid they were. After that I did not quit drinking but never "got drunk".

4) Participation in different sports can be very effective in relieving a person of work related stress. Instead of getting drunk or looking to get laid, go to the gym or the swimming pool and drain yourself physically. I always get a good night's sleep after I swim or work out at the gym.

5) Lastly, I would say I have always been a loner (not lonely!). I have always been a very good friend of mine and kept talking to myself. I can spend hours all by myself without getting bored or cribbing about feeling lonely. I do have many acquaintances but have never had many real friends. However, those who are my real friends have been there with me through thick and thin and I've found that calling them and talking to them without even letting them know that I am depressed or lonely, makes me feel good.

Thanks for providing a forum for such an important issue.

supra said...

Feeling lonely at times is very human. There are different kinds of loneliness: feeling as though you don't have enough (or any) friends; feeling unseen or unknown by those you know; difficulty feeling good when alone or making use of one's time. Sometimes we suffer because of a false belief about ourselves: "If I am alone, then something must be wrong with me. Perhaps I am unlovable." This feeling may be a symptom of insufficient self love. On the other hand, growing up in a society that promotes a dependence upon, or even an addiction to external things for a sense of well being - food, clothes, drugs, other people - leaves many of us floundering when left all to ourselves. Some of us may have internalized the false view that to be happy is to be surrounded by others at all times, regardless of how we may feel in their company.
And yet, if we can learn to be truly intimate with ourselves, then we are never alone. This sort of intimacy, however, is not always easy to come by. It may take facing the wounded, deficient parts of ourselves, as well as the wonderful, abundant parts. In many families such parts were rejected and denied, and therefore went underground, perhaps festering into a low-grade depression. Therapy frequently involves facing and integrating these rejected parts and experiences. These neglected parts of ourselves often carry a heavy burden of shame. Shame too can isolate us from others, contributing to our loneliness. Often one explores one’s vulnerability and see that our deepest secrets are not the terrible beasts we imagined.

I know this comment has come too late,but I thought I would comment only when I had something to say related to the post.Thank you for the post.