The Tribune - Spectrum


, June 30, 2002

Life Ties

Making most of being alone
Taru Bahl

SUMI had always been special. Without being strikingly beautiful or intelligent like her three other siblings, she had, through her ordinary ways, earned extraordinary love and respect from all those she came in touch with. As an infant, too, she could strike an immediate rapport with people. Her mother often wondered how she could be so perceptive and considerate while still in her crib. She rarely cried or demanded attention. Patiently, she would wait for her mother to get free before she asked for her attention.

Her growing up years were the least traumatic for her mother. She was an extremely sensitive child who had the maturity to absorb and rationalise everything that went on around her. She was, therefore, the most sought after confidante in school and college. She could be trusted with secrets and relied upon for sound advise since she was neither judgmental nor opinionated. Hers was an unconditional loving which formed the basis of all her intimate relationships.

When a close friend committed suicide, she learnt to internalise her feelings. Facing death in its most unnatural form and coming to terms with the finality of losing a dear friend was something she could never accept. The fact that she could not share her friend’s trauma and pain rankled. That is when she made solitude her most trusted companion.


Since she had always managed her personal time well, she could find activities to keep herself busy. If it was not reading, it would be embroidery or listening to music. She liked these quiet unhurried moments of aloneness and often sought them out consciously. Her friends often wondered how she could be so peaceful alone while they felt restless and full of nervous energy till they could be with their friends, sharing like-minded pursuits. It was not as if Sumi was too serious minded or not given to occasional frivolity. It was just that she liked her own company and could always find things to do during her free time. She could not indulge in long sessions of meaningless chatter or fun. In small doses it was perfect for it bolstered her spirits and filled her mind and heart with innumerable thoughts, ideas and feelings to mull over and draw strength from in her not- so- active moments. Besides, she did like people and in her sincerely empathetic way managed to forge unique associations with them. This added a rich sheen to all the things she embarked upon— things that appeared to others as mundane or meaningless.

While Sumi was the sturdiest of four children, her mother often worried about her. She wondered how her little girl would manage in a world which was infested with sharks. Would her innocently trusting ways find favour with them? So far, she had had no unpleasant experiences, but would the future be as benevolent? Would her gentle, sensitive and caring nature find the right match in her life partner?

As the years rolled by, she found walking to be very relaxing. It was not just a way of keeping fit, but also an energy booster and morale lifter. Fortunately, she had been blessed with a petite frame which outwardly did not seem desperately in need of a vigorous exercise regimen. Yet, she loved the feel of the fresh breeze gently washing over her, the skyline changing its hues, the expanding of the lungs and the tremendous lightness of being as each step that she took made her feel expansive, independent, free, creative and full of life-giving energy. Walking became not just a habit but an escape from all the things she did not want to confront. It turned into a refuge soothing her frayed nerves, giving her strength and filling her with optimism even in the darkest of moments.

Her mother often felt that life had not been too kind to her daughter. Married into a family that was only obsessed with making money, she could see her daughter wilting. Having a husband who traveled 20 days in a month to far-flung places, leaving her to manage their twins and to cope with the increasing demands of a large unreasonable extended family was not half as bad as the fact that the two had precious little in common. They were poles apart and had no common interests to bind them together. But Sumi never complained. She went on stoically, taking one day at a time, fulfilling all her familial obligations and duties as honourably as she could.

The only thing she asked was to be allowed to go for her morning and evening walks. And, this was one activity that she liked doing alone. She enjoyed her pace and resented having to match step with another, howsoever dear he or she may be. This was her time and she looked forward to it. Rather than pop multi-vitamins or take anti-depressants, it was walking that was cathartic, therapeutic and life-giving for her. Along the way, she made many friends in the flora and fauna which greeted her during different times of the year. She turned into an amateur bird-watcher, and read various pictorials and books in an attempt to understand ornithology. She developed interesting associations with fellow walkers.

As she surrendered control, she found herself actually more in control of her life. There was greater clarity in the way she approached her tasks. Nature’s beauty, as also the heightened fitness levels, made day- to- day problems appear inconsequential. Though close to forty, she still responded to situations with the enthusiasm and energy of a teenager. While most of her friends complained of body aches and pains, she never let her medical history be a conversation centerpiece. From walking stemmed an interest in archaeological monuments and preservation of historical sites. This again led her to like-minded people and pursuits which made her feel useful and good about herself. She also became a member of a walkers’ club, where people from a diverse age groups undertook long-distance walking expeditions. She had no complaints from life. She was happy where she was and she could look forward to the future without feeling trapped or unhappy. Walking and, through it, her contact with nature provided the balance and the life-sustaining energy for her to thrive on.

Home Top