Saturday, November 26, 2011


Recently, I wrote an essay titled ‘Solitude’ for my English class in my father’s tuition. I got fairly good marks from baba for this essay. It was also an essay that I enjoyed writing, as it made me think. Here is the essay that I wrote:

            The dictionary tells us that solitude is ‘a state of being alone’. It is a feeling that seems to float like an ominous dark cloud on the lives of people, always eager to engulf their lives with gloom and despair. When given a choice, no person would choose solitude over company. Solitary confinement is the worst punishment that one can have to suffer. Solitude is like living death: this is the most common idea about solitude. However, in reality, solitude might sometimes turn out to be blissful.
            Imagine a beautiful sea shore. The waves are lapping gently on the beach. It is twilight, and a soft breeze is blowing over the water. Would you like to sit in such a place with a large number of noisy friends? Then again, think of the last time you tried to listen to a good song in the midst of a crowd. At such a time, you would have given anything to get a little time alone with your music. There was nothing that you detested more than the crowd around you. Or maybe, the day before the mathematics examination, when the only thing you wanted was to be alone with your revision in a room. In all these times, solitude turns out to be one’s dearest friend. Sometimes, people need to be alone just to unwind. At such times, all kinds of thoughts and feelings crowd one’s mind. That is the time for self-analysis and self-realization. One uses that time to sort oneself out, and try to understand one’s own heart. It is during such periods of solitude that flashes of inspiration may astound a person. A girl sitting alone humming softly may suddenly realize that she has an entire poem ready in her mind, waiting to be written down. The greatest masters of the world have almost always created their masterpieces in solitude.
            Contradictory as it may sound, you can enjoy solitude even when you are sitting in a large company. Completely self-engrossed people in all ages have been able to feel that they are alone with themselves amidst noisy crowds. However, it takes a great amount of discipline and dedication to reach that level of self-possession. We call those who have achieved this extraordinary, and revere them as great and holy men. Such solitude gives a person completeness, and he attains enlightenment.
            So we see that solitude is a very important part of life. One needs all kinds of experiences to live life fully, and the experience of solitude is an essential one. After all, it is in solitude that man can understand oneself, and with understanding comes growth.

I really do enjoy being alone. It is nice to be able to talk to yourself without having people staring at you and wondering whether you are completely nuts. Anyway, the activities that I enjoy doing the most cannot really be done in a group. Take reading, for example. Let alone serious, thought-provoking books, even light chick-lit cannot be read properly with friends. Reading is something that you have to do alone. It is not an experience that you can share. Even in literary clubs and places like that, people go and select their own books, and read quietly by themselves. Then there is watching movies. A movie hall is certainly not the best place to watch a good movie. The amount of noise and disturbance that goes on in a hall makes it nearly impossible to concentrate on the movie itself. In fact, I hardly ever go to the cinema to watch movies, and when I do, it is not so much for the movie as to spend some time with my friends. Watching the movie takes a backseat then.

As for enjoying nature, it is something that one can hardly ever do with people. Maybe a big reason for that is, nowadays most people cannot perceive the beauty of nature. That is why even when people go on holiday trips they choose places that have lots of hotels and restaurants, shopping malls and beauty salons, discos and nightclubs. Going for picnics with such people is indeed a tiresome thing. Even if they go to a beautiful place, they will shout, fight, dirty the surroundings, and come away without taking in even a little of the beauty of the scenery around them. When asked to recall the picnic, they will talk about everything other than the place they went to. This attitude of today’s population is actually a blessing to oddities like us who enjoy basking in the beauty and the serenity of their surroundings. My family and I love to pay occasional visits to a place called ‘Molan-Dighi’ outside Durgapur-proper. The road to this outlandish place is through Sal forests, and the traffic is not too thick there. People do not stop while passing by the forests, at any rate, so it is a comparatively quiet place. We enjoy the wholesome peace and solitude of the place, and so when we start feeling suffocated by the noise and overwhelming flow of humanity in the town, baba takes us to this enchanting little place, where we spend a blissful hour or two, each absorbed in our own little worlds in our heads, happily oblivious to the outer world. And sometimes, when I spend such idyllic hours of seclusion, I suddenly realize why Rabindranath Tagore has said, “Moha bishshe mohakashe Mohakalo majhe/ Ami Manobo ekaki bhromi bishshoye, bhromi bishshoye”…


sayantika said...

Dear Pupu,

It's nice to see that you have been enjoying solitude, we find very few people of such kind. I have been a sort of 'loner' since childhood, I remember how the afternoons after school would be my favourite time of the day, since I was alone in the house. And I understand how tiresome one feels when you go to a place with people who can't perceive the beauties of nature. Recently, I went on a trip with some, who claimed they wanted to enjoy nature and not history (they said so when we entered a museum). But when it was the time to see a waterfall, for which one had to climb down a steep descent of 300 metres, to my surprise they stayed back. The descent was steep, but not risky in any way and all of them were physically strong enough to undergo it. All that they were interested to do in the entire trip was stay at the hotel, eat,shop and click photographs, that too, more of themselves in different poses rather than of nature.
At the end of the trip, we had learnt a good lesson of with whom to go on a trip.

Urbi Chatterjee said...

Dear Sayantikadi,

This is exactly the kind of people I was talking about in the post. This is a reason why though I look forward to trips with college friends someday, I also fear that my entire vacation might be spoiled unless I get a small but like-minded group of companions while going on trips.

Shilpi said...

Pupu, I loved reading and quietly re-reading this entire post/essay of yours. It's dark here outside, not even close to dawn, and I can hear the pitter-patter of the rain outside.

I, too, feel rather strongly about solitude. I like to think that I've always liked it but I can't be absolutely sure, but I know that I've spent more time being physically alone than with company, and preferring that to what passes as company. I wonder though what I would have written on 'Solitude' when I was not-yet-fifteen...

It perplexes me too sometimes. That bit that you mention about solitary confinement reminded me of a book that I read in school called Papillon, and what I most remember is that in it I'd first come across the term 'solitary confinement'. And of course the same idea comes up in Harry Potter with Azkaban and the dementors. Confined to a space with no human company at all but only one's own self and one's soul.

Even in regular life, as you point out it is staying alone that lets us not only connect to ourselves and understand ourselves somewhat better but it also lets us do what we need to and do what we enjoy doing. I also like to think that being alone prepares us, in some ways, to fully participate with human beings whom we wish to. I think it was Emerson who talked about something similar in an essay on friendship. Being alone and being by oneself also lets us be better friends. I don't know of course whether that really happens. Flashes of inspiration indeed do strike the "inward eye" sometimes, and some of them may even be followed. Where they lead to eventually is anybody's guess but the journey could be an interesting ride if followed.

Your shift from the essay you wrote in your baba's class to writing some more for this post was sharp and made me burst out into a loud chuckle. I think that's one of the very big reasons that I prefer solitude. Sometimes I am inclined to think - and with a touch of solemn and lofty pride - that I am a solitary animal and not at all a 'social animal' although (sadly enough) that solemn and lofty pride crumples and flakes for I know I can be unthinkingly and mindlessly garrulous. I remember being told by a friend and very politely but firmly to shut up and listen to a song instead of yakking.

It's a nice coincidence that you'd write on solitude in November. The month seems to be a month for solitude - for standing alone, thinking alone, walking alone, and being alone. That's how I see the month. I remembered that I wrote a post on solitude last year, in November.

You're right in that a great majority of people have forgotten (or probably never knew and have never felt) nature. I, too, am grateful that the river that I visit is almost always entirely devoid of roaming humans, but when so-called very educated people say, and in the middle of a brilliant autumn, "I don't feel any connection with nature, and I just don't feel anything for nature poems", I mutter "- and what a bloody waste" in my head. Come to think of it, more than a number of the poems that I've connected to instinctively are nature poems.

That bit that you described about Molan-Dighi felt very real. Almost felt as though I were there as well.

Your essay here inspired me to visit the river on Sunday in spite of the continuous rains, and I sat near the banks of the swollen river, and it was softly drizzling overhead.

Thanks for writing this one, Pupu. Better end my comment for now.


Subhadip-da said...

Hi Pupu, this is a wonderful post, and I loved reading it. Well, as you have written, solitude is a gift for someone and a curse for someone else. It all depends upon the situation.

I had read a short story in school (when I was in the 9th standard) called "The Bet" written by Anton Chekov. In this story, there a person who had accepted the challenge of staying for 15 years in solitary confinement in a single room, put forward by his friend, for a huge amount of money. He would be allowed to read books and listen to music. However, in these 15 years he had changed. He had lost all his desire for the money for which he had accepted such a massive challenge. On the last day, the friend who was to give him the money had actually come to kill him, because parting with the money would leave him a beggar. However, on reaching the room, he found that his friend had escaped through the window, and awaiting him was a letter which wrote that he had denounceed the money in return for what he had got from the books and music. Books and music in these 15 years of solitary confinement had turned him into a different person.

However, as Shilpi-di mentioned Papillon, solitude was a pain. Henri had managed to live properly because his friend Dega had sent him coconuts, cigarettes and other required things for 20 months. In the last 4 months, the person who used to bring messages and food for Henri was caught and killed. They burst the liver of the person by kicking in the belly. After that the condition of Henri was not so good. The friends of Henri did not have such good luck. Clousiot died a few days after completion of the sentence in the hospital because he had suffered from acute malnutrition. The conditions of other people were also not worthy of mention.

And lastly, I would like to say something about Malandighi. It is a wonderful place. I had gone to Malandighi once with my father, after that I had gone there with Sir in August 2011. But after that I had gone there many times alone on my own motorcycle when I was in Durgapur. Just beside the Malandighi Engineering College, there is a small shop that sells cigarettes and tea. They also serve lunch there in the afternoon. I just sit there and watch people, people who come to the shop for buying 'biri', cigarettes, people who come for having a cup of tea or for having lunch, students who come with their motorcycles with their so called girl friends and beloveds and just sit there discussing all the silly stuff of love. It is an interesting place. You can see many people there. I sit there, drink tea, smoke a little bit and watch these people. If you go ahead a little farther towards Shibpur, you will see the muddy road that leads you to Deul. Just go there at 2:00 pm or after 8:00 pm. You will literally feel frightened, and you will experince a thrill in that pitch black darkness. I think that will be enough to send a shiver down your spine. At least I felt it like that, because I had gone there at such odd times.

Subhadip-da said...

Pupu, I have misspelt the word 'denounced' in my previous post. I apologize to all the readers for that.

Nishant Kamath said...

Hi Pupu,

Nice post. While reading the first paragraph, I said to myself, "This is going in a strange direction, not one I would associate with Pupu." But then the essay corrected me soon enough. I was reading about different kinds of people and what introversion and extroversion means in psychology (was trying to analyse myself; in the end realised that I have all sorts of contradictory traits and lots of personality disorders!). I too prefer to spend more time by myself than with acquaintances here, many of whom love spending time in noisy, crowded bars with pitchers of ale and beer.

Being at the beach reminded me of my trip to New Zealand, in which I had absolutely fallen in love with one of the pit-stops called River Valley. I'll show you the pictures when I visit Sir next time. It was a narrow valley and the hostel was the only thing present there. We didn't even have signal on our cell-phones. A quaint red telephone-booth seemed to be the only means of communication with the outside world. Across the stream was a water-fall and the constantly flowing water was divine music for the ears. All of my other travel-companions chose to sleep in a huge dorm that could accommodate everyone, but I chose a smaller room and was happy to learn that I was the only occupant of the room. Reading The Hobbit at night to the tune of the water-fall and no other sound was magical (sigh...).

I suppose it does take a lot of discipline to shut oneself off from the world when in a crowded public place. I didn't know what chick-lit meant. Now I do. I always think of watching movies in the hall in retrospect. For instance I would love to watch Gladiator, Lord of the Rings, just to name a couple in the hall. But I know that now, after having enjoyed watching them ten times or so on the tv or my laptop. Here, I watch a movie, which certain people inform me is good, in the hall a few weeks after its release. That way there are literally no more than ten people in the hall and I can choose my seat and enjoy a private screening (sort-of). This strategy's never failed me so far.

Here, I am fortunate to be surrounded by mountains. Any time I want, I can choose one of the dozens of trails and go hiking. There are people on the way, but you can always find a place that's secluded in the three-mile long trail. It's a nice workout and it freshens the mind. I am glad that Sir and you have found a nice quiet place to visit to relax. But don't advertise it too much.