TL; DR: “Akele hain toh kya gham hai?’’
“I am at a cafe, Ma!” I exclaimed warily. There was a staggering pause. The seconds curdled into minutes.
“All by yourself?” she asked, her voice thick with caution.
“Yep, why not? What’s wrong with that?” I shot back with aggressive buoyancy.
“Are you not making friends there? Should I ask Rupa to send her daughter over to your place?” she asked, her voice getting more lyrical by the second.
No, Ma. That’s not how it works. You can’t create a make-believe playschool for a 26-year-old, I thought to myself. How does one even make fresh, new friends at this age? My fossil-esque instincts are always crying for social dentures.
I brushed off my mother’s concerns and hung up.
I looked around. Was my mother right?
I was seated in a cafe in Delhi, burrowed between trimmed, spacious bungalows. There was a steaming mug of Cappuccino placed before me on a glass coffee table and a dog-eared book, frayed at the edges, placed on the edge of the table, face down.
The chair before me was empty.
As I looked around me, I felt like the ‘Other’ message folder on Facebook. People around me were either avoiding my gaze or looking at me like one would look at a discarded pile of clothes.
Full of compassion.
I had obviously set off an alarm. Where did I go wrong, I wondered. Why can’t I be hanging out, by myself, in a public place?
Is the concept that outlandish a self-care dictum?
“Akele hain toh kya gham hai?” I remember a friend remarking once over the phone, when she was branded a “loner” after she made it a habit to go watch movies without anyone in tow. Of course, she learnt to take all of this in stride and keep doing her own thing.
I really believe there is a huge difference between being “alone” and being “lonely”. The former, liberating. And the latter, binding.
I wish Indians weren’t this guarded about a brand of self-sufficiency that masquerades as social inadequacy. It is not. It is extricating oneself from a web of contingency that has wired us to seek out company even when not required.
Self-preservation. Not self-sabotage.
People keep coming and going, especially if you are in your 20s. You’ve gotta stick by yourself. Right? Don’t let the thickening gloom of untrained eyes stop you. You DESERVE to spend some time alone and put things in perspective...
Yes, you need to let go of people who aren’t letting you be.
Yes, it is time to take the decision you have been meaning to take.
No, you don’t need to spend more.
No, you don’t need to be out every weekend.
No, you don’t need an ornate comb from that fancy Japanese store. (Nobody needs a fancy comb, guys.)
You get the drift, right? Your own company will help you straighten things out, iron out a few creases that get crumpled further in the daily rat-race.
Remember ‘Treat Yo Self’?
“The act of treating one’s self to something that relaxes them or that they enjoy. An example of this is used when in Parks and Recreation, the TV series, Donna and Tom have a ‘treat yo self day’ at the spa and mall.
Tom: You know what day it is?
Donna: Treat yo self day!”
So go ahead, ‘treat yo self’, at least the internet sets a huge premium on it. But... only if you’re lucky enough.
If you can afford those spa messages, bags, watches, gadgets, and clothes, you’re already inflation’s golden child. I am more of the step-child, much like fragile china in a microwave. I mean, aloo is 37 bucks a Kg! I never knew potatoes could evoke such strong emotions in me.
So, what does one do when one’s not smelling of crisply minted notes? (Just kidding, not holding that against you, if you do.)
How do you ‘treat yo self’?
You spend more time with yourself. Be the 21st-century desi flâneur navigating quizzical eyebrows and constant stares. Loiter around, walk into places (safe ones), treat yourself to a day out with YOU...
Try it, it helps.
Bottom Line: ‘Treat yo self’ to a day out with yourself if you still haven’t. Thank me later!
(The above is a part of TLDR (Too Long. Didn't Read), a weekly blog that aims to crunch things down for you. I will give you the long and short of most things that need to be taken extremely seriously like your bookshelf, beer, existential dread, aimless conversations, rainy days and bubble-wrap. I promise to cater to all readers, but I brazenly harbour a soft-spot for skimmers, bathroom-readers and infinite scrollers. Now, let's bring the written word back!
P.S: Follow me @medhac1)