...My colleague said, emphatically. I immediately apologised, with a sad smile, "Sorry!" Two questions popped up in my mind as I watched the traffic zoom by while entertaining my usual vices, with two of my loner travel buddies, in Montra, Pattaya, Bangkok:
1. Why was I apologetic?
2. How do you define a loner?
I haven't had quite a chequered life as many, I have tried to take my decisions by myself, I have tried to execute most of those by myself, from my unconventional choices in education, work, people I had been with, people I am with, things I do or things I do not do. Is it because I always chose to be a loner as my defense mechanism or is it that I always knew that no one can possibly live with my idiosyncracies for long? Does that make me loner? Am I sad that I am one?
"What are you thinking?", he asked sipping on his beer. He hates beer. He was really conscious about his regular gym workouts and cursing me for having to give me company over beer and counting the number of days of workout that were going down the drain. I smiled at him and asked, "Do you think I am a loner?"
He stared at me for few seconds and said, "Well, we met through travel portals, and now we are on a DIY trip to Thailand and Cambodia with two other again from the travel portals. So yes, we all are loners."
I argued, "But then why are we travelling together? We should be travelling alone. Technically we are not supposed to be liking people's company, isn't that how a loner is supposed to be?"
My travel buddy quickly googled (yes, it's a verb now) and said, "Loner: A person who prefers not to associate with others."
"I rest my case", I said. He continued, "But then, you are with us, or all four of us are with one another because we know it's for 7 days and so we have convinced ourselves to be a groupie for this period of time, it's an arrangement of convenience and that's it." "We are loners." he concluded, ordered another beer and I watched silently as a faraway look crept its way into his eyes.
My other travel buddy had by that time made good use of her time and was chatting away to another tourist, chances were she won't go back to the hotel with us. I probed him further, "What do you think makes people like us loners?"
He nibbled on some pork stir dry and inquired, "Durba, you know I am a Muslim, right?" I responded, "How does that matter in the conversation we are having now?" He said, "It matters".
They had a very passionate affair he claimed. He showed me a scar on his face and said he got that when he fought with her brothers, who were political goons of the land and dead against them being together. He told me that he never thought they would be together, she had always dated the hoities and toities and was extremely rich, while he was the only son of a government engineer with a humble livelihood. But she always came to him after every heartbreak, he always consoled her and one of those days, to keep her heart safe, she committed it to him. They got married against tremendous family opposition and started their lives together. While there were good days, there were bad days too he said.
"Am leaving guys" told our travel buddy from Kazakisthan. We bade her goodbye and ordered one more pitcher.
He continued how her family insulted him and his background again and again, they wanted him to shift to Dubai, he refused and wanted to stay in India to take care of his ailing parents. My mom said, he quoted, "With every responsibility comes a choice. Always make a choice that gives you a good night's sleep." He stayed back. Some way, some how, many more people started living their married life he thought. And finally, after two years, they found themselves in a mosque, saying "Talaq" in front of a Qazi. "I don't even have a paper Durba to look at that says I am not with her anymore...something tangible...nothing..." he sighs..."you see why I said I am a Muslim. I am denied that paper...with every trip I take with folks like you...I tell myself that I don't need a paper. This trip itself is a testament to the fact that I am alone."
I met him two days back at Suvarnabhumi airport, I didn't know what to say. I kept silent. He concluded, "So you see we are loners." I kept silent while I wondered whether not being with anyone is what defines or makes one a loner.
It is a trait of your character for sure, but when it takes precedence over anyone and anything in your life, then may be you are one. There are many decisions in our lives that we take because we do not have any other option. It's like that decision is staring at your face and saying, "well buddy, this is it." Do you always have a choice? I wondered, as his mom said once. And is it that one choice that makes us loners, just for today, for a month or forever?
I remember the times when my mum, having a wonderful life with my dad in that one room in a joint family, stealing those moments away from 8-10 family members and reading out aloud her favorite Shakespeare sonnet. We were barred from troubling her then. I remember someone, very close, just going out of the house and walking for hours just by himself. I remember someone whom I admire a lot saying, "...regarding space-if u don't need it in closest relationships then i think it is sheer dependence and nothing else.i am glad to be whole and complete by myself..."
What are your thoughts on being a 'loner'?