I am never alone these days. On most occasions, when I am left with the prospect of being by myself, my brain seems to unconsciously go through the rhythms of the millennials. I fish out my phone, check the whereabouts of everyone, go through a host of photographs, find at least one person to chat with and then, chat. I have forgotten how to spend time with me.
I wasn’t like this at all. My earliest memories are those conversations staring at the bathroom wall. I would splash some water on the wall and watch the water leave a trail of shadows. Those dark wet trails would rouse my curiosity. There were trees, animals, people. A story would emerge and I would end up talking to myself.
I didn’t stop at the bathroom wall. I would sit on the veranda of my childhood house and have a two sided conversation in my head. I laughed, I cried, I even asked myself the strangest of question — where does the wind come from or why do the plants smile at times? I liked myself those days and it felt like having a friend next to me.
I re-discovered that old self many years ago, again, when I was in a strange country. Strange culture, language and neighbours who noiselessly moved about, left me all alone. There was a small television in the apartment we lived which played everything in a foreign language. Internet had not found its way into our lives and the weather felt dreary — always. It was on one such cold mornings that, I realised that, sitting in a small square balcony, sipping hot tea was not a bad thing. The balcony itself was a dull piece of concrete, but it overlooked a busy street. I sat there, talking to myself as I watched people trudge up and down tugging at their long woolly coats.
With new found company, I began to take long walks, chatting, looking at the by-lanes, marvelling the floral backyards in the neighbourhood, and stopping at the many tiny shops along the street. When the floral lady began to smile as I walked past her shop, I would acknowledge and say, “isn’t she nice?” And, my inner self would agree with me instantly.
One early afternoon, I headed to the only mall in the city centre — a beautiful structure with glass exteriors. As I headed to push open the door, I caught a quick glimpse of my reflection. I was in a foreign land, all by myself. Strangely, I was neither scared nor bored. My confidante instantly traced my trajectory from the tiny village in Southern India to that moment. I paused for a split second before walking in. I remember turning around to look at the door and smiling inside my head. I was alone, yet, I was not alone — entirely.
Somewhere after that moment, along the way, my confidante began to fade away into unknown realms. I don’t know when I lost her completely. It was not intentional. I remember having her beside me, inside me, always with me. But, over time, my conversations stopped, the rhythms of life caught up and soon, I was so busy that I didn’t notice her absence. And then, it happened again. Two weeks ago, I saw my reflection on a huge glass door. I noticed something different about me. I was not smiling. I was also holding my phone — lost in the multitudes of conversations with invisible people. Like a jolt I realised I missed me, myself!
I still stare at the phone. I try conversing with my confidante … but, I lose her easily. I don’t know if I can revive that relationship and bring back those moments. But, I do know, that, for it to happen, I need some magic beans or an internet shutdown. Perhaps, the latter can do the trick!
Sudha Subramanian is an author and freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman