[2 MINUTE READ] Friends in the time of solitude
When I first traded my Nokia phone for a Blackberry, I discovered how hauntingly addictive a red notification button could be. If I must trace the origins of where the ability to live slowly with focus began to first erode, it is here that I would begin. The experience of life can absorb only so much information, opinion and entertainment – before it begins to lose its timbre.
A few years ago, from deep inside the smartphone rabbit hole, I signed up for a 50 km walk. To practice being quiet over long periods of physical activity. A lot of things are resolved when we give silence the steady patience of time.
I spent six months training outdoors. With a group of people who came together like the pieces of a happy jigsaw puzzle. Each one of us was here for a reason. For some it was the call of the outdoors and the bonds forged when people come together to pursue an inspiring goal. For others it was an act of renewal, to rediscover the things that matter after the inevitable setbacks that punctuate life.
We had to be organized into three teams of four each for the event. I ended up in a team with three women. The sort whose noses relax into their knees when they touch their toes. One thing an all-boys school leaves you with is a persistent melody that plays in your head in the company of women. Transforming the world into a land devoid of voices where everything is moved by the hidden hand of rhythmic patterns.
Our training walk routines made us rediscover a city stirring itself from sleep. Snaking through the multiple inclines of South Mumbai, a muted predawn emptiness revealing the seductive illusion of space slipping away into an overcrowded reality. We would end as the sun began to rise in the sky and the streets braced themselves for the onslaught of another day. Our legs bathed in sweat and bodies drained of all energy. As this routine wore on, distances lost their imposing aura, time trickled away more quickly and our confidence that we could spend a whole day walking looked less misplaced.
I grew up in Mumbai but moved to Vadodara twenty-five years ago. I am now suspended somewhere between a lingering residue of big city sophistication and the more spontaneously earthy temperament of smaller towns that eludes me. When you feel like an outsider wherever you go, it is easier to question the myth of personality and be comfortable with not having anything to say.
Making new friends has never been easy for me. While it put a subconscious strain on me during my adolescent years, as I grew to accept myself as I was, I also realized that our most important relationships are a part of the natural world. Deepened and sustained organically by intangible bonds that are effortless and unconditional.
As I walked alone, spoke little and my steady breath became one with the incoming breeze on the marine drive promenade, my own need to be with silence was cushioned amidst the warmth and camaraderie of my co-walkers.
It reminded me that all humans are so fundamentally interconnected, that even the peace of solitude needs the love and kindness of other people.