Isolation has become another name for life in the postmodern world. We all have been leading a more or less alienated life which has secluded us from our neighbors, relatives, colleagues and in some cases from family members too. A self-absorbed, disconnected and insular way of living has got hold of us despite the fact that connectivity in the present world is one of the easiest things to sustain by virtue of technological excellence.
There are cell phones, laptops, tabs, computers and many more sophisticated gadgets in almost everyone's hands. People are able to keep in touch with each other in effortless ways by just logging on to social networks, by making a phone call or by means of just a click on the computer screen.
But still there are countless numbers of lonely men, women and children around us. A sense of solitude clinks in our minds despite living in the middle of crowded cities and bustling towns.
Now we hardly have time to ask the people living next door how they are. We do not have time to invite neighbors for a cup of tea. We cannot manage time to ask about the wellbeing of our colleagues other than talking to them about office work.
Dwellers of big cities spend very few hours or almost no time to visit their close relatives residing within three or four kilometers. We blame traffic jams, exhaustion, workload etcetera but actually we have run short of willingness to get back in touch with our nearest and dearest ones appearing before them physically, not through virtual media.
It is something like a strange sort of self-enforced confinement that we have become so fond of due to the expansion of a mechanized way of living all over the world. Detachment from friends and acquaintances has impacted our physical and mental health too. Patients with complaints about depression are rising in number in the chambers of psychiatrists.
Students in big cities like Dhaka are too occupied with textbooks, classes and exams to think about anything else. Their only form of entertainment has shrunk down to video games in nearly every flat.
Dhaka city has alarmingly run short of playgrounds and open spaces where young boys and girls can pass their free time by playing different sports. Some mishaps with youngsters in recent times have made parents very much intimidated as a result of which they do not want to allow their children to go out.
Even I know some guardians who do not let their kids go on excursions or study tours with their classmates organized by schools and colleges. Fears, mistrust, unreliability, doubts and a noncommittal approach to those living around us have made almost everyone inhospitable, solitary, dejected and unsocial though social networks have enabled people across the globe to stay connected. But keeping someone on the friend list of Facebook or Instagram is much different from shaking hands with the people we love or giving them a warm hug.
While we were children a few decades back, it was a huge pleasure for us when guests visited our homes to stay for a couple of days. Big families were seen living in almost all homes sharing delight and distress with one another in close bonds but during last several years the idea of living in combined families has become a very unpopular one.
Each large family has broken away into four or five smaller families augmenting the magnitude of self-absorption among everyone. As consequences of lack of confidence among family members in the present era, lots of married couples are breaking off with each other and thus the number of single parents is rising even in a conservative country like Bangladesh.
Living in extensive isolation from others was never the meaning of urbanization. Urbanization never stood for absence of reciprocal warmth, unfriendliness or moving into cloistered shells but we have turned urban lifestyle into an incorrect synonym for aloofness and segregation.
Being self-cornered is not the right way of living. Things around us are fast becoming restless, inconsistent and dreary because we have moved far away from social activities and thus society has been deprived of our valuable attention.
Mother Teresa once said, "Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty." Lots of countries have been able to eliminate monetary poverty. Millions of people around us have become rich overnight. Costly dresses are dazzling in apparel stores packed with customers.
Expensive cars are running along the roads. High-rise buildings are preventing sunlight from entering our balconies but the poverty in our minds, the appetite in our souls and the thirst in our hearts cannot be mitigated with these pricey things. We need to restore true love, friendship, hospitality, compassion and togetherness for this purpose.
We will have to make time from our work-packed schedule to invite friends for a cup of coffee with some snacks. We are under moral obligations to visit our relatives and family members by arriving at their households to see how they are living. To become more humanistic and less mechanical, we need to retrieve the interpersonal affinity that we have lost.
Staying lonely at one's own will has become a weird type of ailment these days. Gossiping with neighbors, laughing out loudly, putting an arm around the shoulders of a schoolmate found after ages, embracing an elderly relative, wiping away the tears of an agonized friend are highly essential things to make life better for all of us.
Another point needs to be remembered for the sake of retaining good ties with people which is the fact that our expectations from others should be limited. At the same time we should abstain from making promises which we cannot keep. William Shakespeare once wrote, "Expectation is the root of all heartache."
Everything should not be judged from materialistic viewpoints. Notions of gains and losses should not be attached to our relationship with families and friends. Looking at things from a businesslike angle is another absurdity of the prevailing times.
The writer is a columnist for
The Asian Age
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