Choosing between loneliness and solitude.

“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself.”  ― C.G. Jung

Whenever I wish to feel painfully isolated and completely out of place, I attend a party. (Admittedly, that’s not very often.) My idea of loneliness is  being surrounded by people who are enjoying something I can’t enjoy. And I’ve never enjoyed crowds or dancing or ear- shattering music.

Every time I accept an invitation to such an event, I end up agonising over how bored I’m going to be when I get there. I keep thinking of how I could’ve stayed at home, blissfully reading a book. So, I accept these invites only occasionally, because they make me appreciate my alone time even more.

The other thing that has often made me feel lonely is being surrounded by people who don’t enjoy the things I enjoy. For instance, I’m the only bookworm in my family, and most of my friends don’t particularly enjoy reading. Luckily, the internet exists, so I can usually find random strangers who’ve read the books or watched the movies I like, and have discussions with them. I sometimes envy people who can easily find others who ‘get’ them, and identify with them. No, actually scratch that. I wouldn’t want to be anyone else.

I always find it strange when people associate ‘loneliness’ with ‘being alone’. Solitude is the height of enjoyment for me, especially when I have a long break from college, and no work to do.

When I was reading the novel ‘Perfume’, I came across these lines-

“We familiar with people who seek out solitude: penitents, failures, saints, or prophets. They retreat to deserts, preferably, where they live on locusts and honey. Others, however, live in caves or cells on remote islands; some-more spectacularly-squat in cages mounted high atop poles swaying in the breeze. They do this to be nearer God. Their solitude is a self-moritification by which they do penance. They act in the belief that they are living a life pleasing to God. Or they wait months, years, for their solitude to be broken by some divine message that they hope then speedily to broadcast among mankind.”

I found this quite funny- the idea of solitude being a way of punishing oneself! But the book goes on-

“Grenouille’s case was nothing of the sort. There was not the least notion of God in his head. He was not doing penance or wating for some supernatural inspiration. He had withdrawn solely for his own pleasure, only to be near to himself. No longer distracted by anything external, he basked in his own existence and found it splendid. He lay in his stony crypt like his own corpse, hardly breathing, his heart hardly beating-and yet lived as intensively and dissolutely as ever a rake lived in the wide world outside.”

Yes, I  couldn’t agree more.  Solitude is a luxury.

The perks of being a bookworm.

Books are not the love of my life. I completely identify with Scout (from ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’) when she says, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” So I’m going to try and explore the reasons for my irresistible attraction  towards books in this post. (I sometimes think the feeling is mutual.) Image   Books take me to all kinds of places and different eras. So I’ve  suffered through the American Civil War (Gone with the Wind), visited Paris during the French Revolution (A Tale of Two Cities and The Scarlet Pimpernel) and even survived the Holocaust (The Diary of a Young Girl). I have explored the lives of people who lived in 18th century England (Jane Austen), Latin America (Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa), Turkey (Orhan Pamuk) and pre- Independence India (Premchand). Above all, my childhood would never have been so wonderful without the magical worlds of J. K. Rowling and J. R. R. Tolkien. Image   Books let me exercise my over-active imagination. They let me experience life through the eyes of a variety of people coping with different situations in life. I feel so sorry for the people who have the opportunity to live only their own mundane lives and have no other imaginary world to fall back on, if the real world gets boring or miserable. Image   Books taught me a lot of stuff that isn’t taught in schools. Life of Pi taught me that we mustn’t give up on life, even if it sometimes gets really tough and the odds are stacked against us. The Fountainhead made me realize that I must live my life on my own terms and not change myself or blindly follow traditions just to please everyone else. To Kill a Mockingbird taught me about justice and compassion and to do the right thing even if the entire world is against you. A lot of books, the most recent being The Fault in Our Stars, taught me that life isn’t fair and the world isn’t always like a wish- granting factory. Image   They even taught me some stuff that I later learnt in school. I first learnt about Newton’s laws of motion and the conservation of angular momentum in The Story of Mr Sommer. I read about relativity in Einstein: The Life and Times and A Brief History of Time. Studying History was always a piece of cake for me, thanks to historical fiction and biographies.

They helped me grow as a person. The Harry Potter series has been the single biggest influence on my life, as I read the first four books at the age of ten. The Patronus Charm used against Dementors taught me that it’s possible to overcome depression by focusing on happy memories and hopes.The spell used to defeat Boggarts taught me that we can get over our fears by laughing at them. So I wasn’t afraid of sleeping alone in my room with the lights out after watching “horror movies” (I’ve always found them stupid) even as a childLuna Lovegood’s character taught me that it’s cool to be a weird person that other people make fun of. Most importantly, Albus Dumbledore who is the wisest man I’ve ever known, taught me almost everything there is to know about life. To sum it up in a few words- “Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!” Image   They made me realize that I’m not entirely alone. Most of my closest friends are imaginary. This is probably because I hardly ever have anything in common with the people I meet in real life. On the other hand, when I read about fictional characters, I can actually look into their souls and I identify with many of them. The best thing about such imaginary friends is that they never let you down. You can have them at your side at a moment’s notice if you’re bored or lonely or need a bit of advice. Image   To end this piece with a quote by Dumbledore, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

Why I’m ‘quiet’.

I have never spent time in the company of strangers without having someone ask me why I don’t talk. Since I can’t  answer that question without being extremely rude,  I just smile and decide not to make the slightest effort to talk to the person.

So in this blog, I’m listing all the factors that make me seem ‘shy’.

 1. I have a strong distaste for small talk. I often pretend not to notice acquaintances when I see them somewhere, just to avoid having to ask or answer stupid questions like “Wassup?” or “How’s everything?”

2.I’m a woman of few words. I don’t waste time on long monologues when a short sentence will suffice.

3. I’m caught between honesty and politeness. I can’t say things unless I really mean them. It’s strange how people keep saying things like “Love you!” or “That’s beautiful!” so casually and so often that they cease to have any meaning. If I can’t express my honest opinion on a subject without sounding extremely rude, I think it best to keep quiet, unless I’m talking to someone knows me really well.

4. I have nothing to say on subjects that don’t interest me or those that I know nothing of. I’m really astonished when I hear people give long speeches on subjects they’re clearly ignorant about.

5. I cannot talk to everyone in the same way. I find it difficult to talk freely to people I don’t know very well or don’t particularly like. As Mr Darcy says in Pride and Prejudice, “I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”

6. I’m a private person. I cannot broadcast my personal feelings or secrets in public. This makes me a trustworthy friend as I extend the same discretion to other people’s secrets.

7. I write better than I talk.  I seem to have a condition that makes me write eloquently and speak awkwardly.

8. I’m a thinker, not a talker.I need to think before I speak. I need the time to consider a subject carefully and form my opinion before I can express my views on it. That’s why I usually I can only blink  and stare silently in class when a teacher suddenly asks me a question.

9. People don’t listen anyway. When I actually make the effort to enter into a conversation, I find that I might as well have kept quiet. Most people are so busy talking that they do not bother to let other people get a word in edgewise. I’m not inclined to shout down the other people in a group to make myself heard.

10. Interesting conversations are so rare. As Truman Capote said, “A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That’s why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet.” Is that really too much to ask for?

Just your ordinary, everyday mastermind- INTJ Stereotypes Survey

Recently, I took the MBTI self- evaluation and scored as an INTJ. Here’s my  response to the common stereotypes about INTJs. .

INTJ Stereotypes Survey

Intelligent: I think so. I have a decent  IQ, a very active imagination and very high concentration levels when I’m doing something I want to do.

Psychopath: No. Just because I have certain personality traits of criminal masterminds, it doesn’t mean I’ll follow you  home, hide in your cupboard and murder you with a chainsaw when you’re asleep.

No feelings: I am very much moved by human suffering… especially when it concerns the fictional characters I love. But  my feelings don’t usually control my actions or even my expressions.

Atheist: Not sure. I don’t mind believing in God, but I can’t stand organised religion. It’s the main cause of violence and intolerance in this world. Besides, all religions are misogynistic to a certain extent.

Not romantic: Thanks to all the books I’ve read, I have my own notions of romance.

Arrogant: I’m quite modest. I don’t like receiving compliments because I’m already aware of my qualities and I hate flattery.

Brutal and direct:  I don’t see the point in beating around the bush but I believe in being polite and considerate.

Manipulate people all the time: Not at all. I’m proud of honesty and my whole body revolts if I try to lie.

Robots in reality: No way. Robots are unimaginative and predictable.

Antisocial: Most definitely.

Can’t say “I love you”: I cannot remember ever having said that. I can’t say such things unless I really mean them.

Want to be alone 24/7: Almost always. I really enjoy being alone with my thoughts…

Can’t smile: Not unless there is a reason for it. I can’t fake smiles when I meet people or pose for photos.

Don’t/can’t care about others: I do care deeply for some people, though I don’t know how to show it.

Megalomaniacs by nature: No, I just wish to be left alone to do my own thing.

Don’t cry: I do. I often get teary eyed while reading really good fiction or watching emotional scenes in movies. (Try watching the animation film ‘Grave of the Fireflies’.)

Cannot/will not fight: I don’t fight over petty things. I prefer to conserve my energy for the really important fights.

Like conflict: I don’t like conflict but I don’t shy away from arguing about things to prove my point.

Self-centered: You could say that. I like to help others but only if my own interests are not harmed.

Appear to be on drugs: No.

Easily bored if not inspired: Yes, there have been times when I’ve almost died of boredom, stuck in a social situation with boring people making meaningless conversation. On those days I’m just glad I don’t have a gun.