No, I’m not feeling suffocated or depressed in this lock-down. I am not missing Kolkata, or Delhi; neither am I cooking some special quarantine dish to celebrate the de-socializing and blabber about it. The concept of social distancing is actually very confusing. You people are probably maintaining something like physical distancing, and enhancing social bonding more than that of previous times. As assemblage is a punishable offense at present, you people are assembling virtually, taking a plunge in your social bonding selves.
For me, that is not the case. I love to live in isolation. I am not abasing someone just because he or she likes to be socially attached, I know how important that can be. Yet, I am happily habituated in isolation for a long period of time and I will not revert from saying so. Isolation is not challenging to me at all. If this sounds something interesting to you, let me explain…
I have been through some of the darkest days and months of my life in the Organization currently I am working with. Summing up those moments, it counts up to a total of 34 months in three segments between the year 2013 and 2017, and I was housebound.
No, there was no lockdown, I wasn’t ill, even there were no restrictions too, I was not jobless, yet I was totally workless. Let me make it clear, I was not at bench or without any allocation (as it is referred to the worst nightmare in IT Industry). If you don’t have a project assignment in your hands for a long time means you will definitely expect a pink slip or a location change.
I was safe in that matter, but I didn’t have any assigned work. I know it is getting more confusing now, more of like a tomfoolery. Trust me, in my rumination I think the same, but it did happen!
The phase started in the year 2013, I hadn’t even completed one full year after joining this organization. In fact, my initial months in this Organization was also full of stories … I literally got kicked off from Dubai, spent a good three and a half months in Gandhinagar, and then finally came back to Noida office like a good boy. Immediately after joining I was offered a long-term assignment in Belgium which I did not even think twice to accept.
I was literally overwhelmed, when I got confirmation on the 1st of February, and the procedure of procuring visa initiated immediately after that. The overwhelm turned to elation now, I was going to get my Schengen visa, a long-term trip to Europe, A-ha!
Visa processing requires medical tests, as we all know. I guess all my regular readers know by now that one-third of my lungs is permanently damaged, hence my medical reports always take longer time to be processed. I have to go through some extra rounds of test procedures to confirm that I do not have any active infection. For a standard check-up, others’ report normally come in two to three weeks; but for me, it takes seven to ten weeks, if not more. Once it took even two and a half months. Ironically, I know that every time the report will come normal just depicting that I am not carrying any active infection, still I have to go through a series of extra medical examinations to prove my disinfected state every time.
Anyway, after much ado, the visa processing was completed. On the 28th of March, my passport got the Schengen work permit. The assignment was from Chennai, their onsite was Brussels. As per the norm, I raised a travel request after getting the stamp, and there was a surprise waiting for me. I was informed by my Manager that I would have to wait for some time as my position had been put on hold.
My hovering started. March ended quietly that year, then came April, I survived that too. Then May, then June and so on. The wait never stopped. Every time I used to follow up, a genial yet cold reply waited for me… ‘Don’t worry, we are trying. The position is yours, once it starts you will have it all yours. Our company has this assignment, just chill and fill up the timesheet regularly.‘
So, those were my days, absolutely work-less. No office, no team members, no one to properly talk to. I wasn’t much habituated on Facebook or WhatsApp those days, Guruchandali, the popular Bengali web-zine eventually was my only Oxygen-window. Apart than that, I was abso-fucking-loutely alone.
How was my routine then? My daughter used to leave for school at 7 am and my wife had to start for her office at sharp 8 am. After that, I was alone with my crippling loneliness. I had no idea how to spend time. How long would I have been spent the time with Guruchandali‘s prattle? How long would I have been watched television? How long would I have been loitered in my locality amidst scorching heat?
I went through these endless phases without knowing the answers.
Didn’t I get any support? But even before asking for it, let me tell you, I never asked for it. In reality, everything is not like Dumbledore’s agency… ‘Help will be provided to those who will ask for it.‘
I had never asked for any psychological or professional support from anyone, not even from my closest friends or my family.
Well, in August I finally came to know that my company lost my assignment position to IBM. The Schengen visa for Belgium remained just like a memory of a failed relationship between the pages of my passport. No immigration stamp was there to serve its purpose. Thus ended my first phase.
After a few months, I went to Bangalore on a short-term assignment and stayed there for three months. Needless to say, I suffered a lot due to a scumbag manager, and that suffering was also alone. He sold a dream position to me at USA and sold the position to another colleague secretly who happen to be a native of his state. By the time I realized it, I was trapped there in a less significant assignment, no work, and no way to come back to Delhi. I wasted few more months there.
These are the bits and pieces of stories of those 34 months.
I don’t know what Depression is, definition-wise. Yes, I used to feel depressed, frustrated, but the alternatives others often suggest about, like, being creative, being positive, do not work out for me. When I sit idle, my brain also becomes idle. All my writings, blogs, stories – whatever are out in my site or published as book, all my passion about singing, reading, – everything got its best shape when I had been neck-deep in work.
This is an age-old tendency of mine. I was indulged in all teenage craziness of my time – penning down songs, read vehemently, and writing long letters to the famous singer Suman in the years of my higher-secondary- joint entrance. I fell in love with Anne Frank, proposed to her in my thoughts several times in the year of my Madhyamik exam. No one would believe I was going through intense stress at those times.
On the contrary, I was far less productive during my college life. The stress was less, so my creativity took a good nap. Although, I was not literally alone those days.
First experience of loneliness happened in 2013. After initial hesitation, I started embracing it. And slowly, I realized I am making myself comfortable with it. Eventually my loneliness became my comfort zone. Everyday, my daughter used to come back home in the afternoon, my wife in the evening, and I could not even express my feeling, the problem with my loneliness to them. Gradually I started realizing that, loneliness was no more a problem to me, it had become my solace, it has turned into solitude.
Although mental depressive state was prominent. I was becoming familiar to the petty office politics by then, I was realizing how someone was literally abusing my career growth as a ladder for his/her own. Every account of my exploitation was clear to me, and frustration took a leap. I was feeling like a coiled spring, just one attempt of uncoiling it would become an aimless bullet. I was getting overwhelmed by a gargantuan emptiness, was trying a lot to get rid of it, but it was all futile. Often the decision of permanently leaving the IT industry passed through my mind, I even thought that perhaps something else was waiting for me. But I didn’t know what. There was no hope, I had never done anything outside the IT world. Moreover, I was habituated to this white-collar job security by then, what would have I done without it? I was slowly being pushed to the corner of a deep, hollow pit.
Finally, on a fine morning, I packed my bag and started the motorcycle. I was spending sleepless nights, my behavior, attitude was steadily deteriorating with my family, my life was becoming a mess. I desperately needed to discover my true self, so I decided to engage in something which I had never thought earlier.
It was 30th May of 2015, North India was being parched in 47-degree of scorching heat, I lied to my family and started off my first solo motorbike trip towards Ladakh. Yeah, absolutely alone! As the person who would have been my companion canceled his plan at the last moment.
Matter of fact, I enjoyed every bit of my journey, made new friends on the road with whom I am still in touch. I confessed everything to my family once I returned back from the trip. The journey was pretty hazardous at first, you must have read it in my blog and my book.
Despite the tremendous discomfort, quitting was not an option to me. I got addicted first to the scorching sun, and then gradually to the snow wall of Zozila Pass. It inflicted the zeal in me. There was a sottishness of going on and on, just as Robert Frost has said… ‘miles to go before I sleep.’That’s how the journey of a loner started which is still in the present continuous tense. Spiti, Sikkim, Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh – every solo trip taught me to never to care for a companion.
Most of the stories of my Spiti trip are actually figments of my imagination, only I and the pictures were real… and of course, the journey was.
My state of depression started to improve slightly from 2017 onward. I got a new assignment in Noida office. A new life began with new teammates, new tasks, new responsibilities. After a few months, I was shifted to another account, another team. But my love to my loner self did not fade since. I was happily a loner. By choice. As a manager of my team, I was pretty courteous with everyone but never cared to have lunch together.
I don’t like to share my table, till today.
Cut to my present life. It’s been eight or nine months since I am out of India, and here also I live alone. Yeah, I am a tenant to a family, but our daily communication lasts for hardly two or three minutes daily. Often I feel pained, agitated after reading news updates from my country. I feel helpless, lost. Yet I don’t miss anyone particular from India. I don’t feel the slightest urge to keep in touch.
Unlike most of the people nowadays, I am quite happy in this quarantined life. For over two months now we are housebound, except for one day every week when I go out for grocery shopping. My office work has been confined to the tiny laptop screen loaded with Microsoft Teams and skype. Apart from the official complications, in my personal space, I am content and composed. Solitude is my comfort zone now.
How much of a loner I am? I get jittery even by the easiest question of “how are you doing” and try to bid adieu to that conversation as soon as possible. I don’t even bother to ask back others about their wellbeings, not even to my parents. I have my own ways of caring for them. My conviction is simple, in this brutal battlefield called earth… no one fights for your cause except you. Even Jesus had to carry his own cross. I detest that question, “how are you?” I am fine, thank you!
I have been away from my home according to my professional commitments. I am quite a pro in daily chores just like millions of other Indians. It is a part of my routine. I can cook mashed potato to Mutton Biryani if I want, but I prefer chicken and rice, Maggi, even chips for my daily meal – I am not much a foodie.
I can understand these virtual carnivals and connections are helping people to cope with this lock-down related stresses. I don’t need those for mine. Living two months in isolation is really nothing to me now, if situation requires, I can stay my entire life in isolation.
In my social network, I have deleted all the invitations of the groups which want me to flaunt my daily chores and cooking in a celebratory way. I am simply not interested. I apologize to those with whom I have suddenly stopped communicating. I am sorry, please consider me as a loner. Isolation helps me in discovering myself. It makes me uneasy if there are a lot of connections or people.
Please excuse me, I’m a loner. People around me are trying their best to beat the boredom during this self-isolation or lock-down by different means. Discussion threads are getting longer in Facebook, TV channels, Corporate intranet and everywhere else. Advisories are being poured in – cook, chat, post your selfie, show your integrity to your Organization, do Skype, do WhatsApp. Even my office has opened some helpline numbers for the psychological consultation of its employees to portray its human face (Which all corporates think they have). But trust me …
… I really don’t need these helps, advice, virtual companions or whatsoever.
I am fine, Thank you!!