We live in a world that is fast paced. We worship anything that can speed up any processes. Fast food, fast computers, fast phones, instant messages, texts, emails, phone calls, instant deliveries, overnight shipping, etc. Most of us living in cities are constantly bombarded with people zooming to work, whether they are walking, riding their bikes, taking a bus or driving, everyone has a determined look on their face in an attempt to get to where they’re going. A couple months ago, I was one of those people, and I feel, to an extent that I still really love the instantaneous aspects of life, but there are a few ideas that have changed.
I love to surround myself with people. I love having company, even when I’m doing nothing. Whether it’s my family, friends or coworkers, it’s always fun to hang out with someone. I like being on the go, doing something, going somewhere, exploring! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the type of person who has to have someone with me day and night, I do like my quiet and chill time where I can sit and write, read, listen to music or play video games (that always takes up more than a few hours of my life). The thing is, that I never really appreciated how amazing alone time is until coming here.
Since coming to India, I have ALWAYS been surrounded by someone or the other. In Orissa I was around all the family I hadn’t seen since last year, and that was amazing, so it didn’t phase me that I wasn’t getting any alone time. Alone time wouldn’t register in my mind because I would have much rather spent time with the family I knew I would not be able to see for who knows how long.
Next came Varanasi. Here the girls and I stayed in the University guest house, in one room and three beds in rows. Our quarters were fairly small and we had to adjust a few things to accommodate us all. This, I think is where I started feeling a bit of strain. Putting three people in one small living space is never a great thing, especially people who are not used to being around people constantly! Back home I have my own room, my own “fortress of solitude” if you will. If I have a rough day at work or school, I can escape to my room and do nothing until I feel better or until I’m ready to talk to someone. Since I work in the customer service industry, my job entails having to talk to people everyday but then I can always go home and shut myself up and listen to music. But here, I didn’t have the luxury to do that!
Since I am the only one between the three of us who speaks the language, I’m usually the one who has to the translating if it is ever required. If we need to get a rickshaw or auto, I’m the one who has to do the negotiating. I’m really not complaining about the position, nor am I blaming the other girls for this responsibility because I’m sure they would much rather be able to understand and speak for themselves. However, I’m not fluent with the languages either and it takes a few tries for me to get things right as well. I have to really listen and pay attention to everything that is being said and even harder to formulate the words and sentences myself. Also transitioning between Oriya in Orissa to Hindi in Varanasi took a little while to kick in. My brain was trying to talk in Oriya, when I actually wanted to say something in Hindi, it was tough. Though it may not seem like it, the whole process is quite stressful mentally. Sometimes I was so annoyed about the whole ordeal I just wanted to pretend like i didn’t know how to speak the language and have someone else translate.
Combining that mental stress to the lack of individual space, left me slightly bitter and that’s when the homesickness started.
Now that we’re in Gujarat, the living situation is slightly worse. The room that we have been given has less space than the previous room, a small bathroom with no ledges for shampoos, soaps, etc and a toilet that doesn’t flush so we have to dump buckets of water to get rid of our “waste”.
We each try our best to be considerate of each other’s preferences, but with three people who want different things, it is quite difficult. One might want the fan off for instance whereas someone else might want it on, so how to compromise? Luckily we have two fans in different parts of the room so we can turn one off and keep the other one going. We also have different sleeping and work patters. One might like waking up early so she goes to bed early whereas the other goes to sleep late and wakes up later. So each person has to be aware and conscious about their actions and noise while another is sleeping. Which is another headache.
India’s lack of space and continuous rush of stimulants (as mentioned in my previous blog entry) just builds and adds to my lack of alone time. Everywhere you go, there is someone there or some kind of noise. The university is slightly better in the evenings than in Orissa for example, where there was music being played at all times of the night, but the noise here starts back up very early in the morning, so that doesn’t help. All this combined with sharing one minuscule space with two other girls, each one of us with our own quirks, makes life taxing. I love these girls, we’ve gotten to be very close and share very personal things with each other, but sometimes to realize that you love someone, is to have some time apart from them! We have our own individual personalities that sometimes do clash, and we accept that and it doesn’t take away from the fact that we are all great people in our own ways, but man would I love some time to myself.
I never realized how valuable time and space can be. I took having time to myself for granted. At times when I was alone I would feel lonely. Now being alone and being lonely are not one in the same and are not mutually exclusive. One mustn’t have to be alone to be lonely. Someone can be surrounded by a whole room of people and still feel lonely, whereas another can be completely by him/herself and be totally content. After coming here, I will reverie time that I have to myself, even if I’m doing absolutely nothing! I’ve always needed some type of stimulation such as a book, music, tv etc to enjoy being alone, but after not having been truly alone for about three months, I will revel in doing nothing.
To anyone out there who feels lonely when they’re alone, please do not feel that way and cherish that time! Take that time to think. Take that time to reflect. Take that time to set goals. Take that time to plan something. Anything. You never know what might come out of taking the time to sit down and ponder different ideas, heck, you may even be the Plato of our generation and not know it!