Connected but lost

Connected but lost

Connected but lost

Look around. Yes , you are   equipped with  the latest  telephonic gadgetry — be it that  traditional   landline or the cell phone, a vehicle or two to  move  you from here to there, that  computer to keep you connected to the world — to all those social   networking sites crowded with celebrities, have beens and aspirational wannabes. Then, why is it that loneliness still creeps in slowly and throttles us? It is the end of the day or to put it  more  precisely, beginning  of the long night and you find yourself alone.

You, alone with your computer, your  mobile, your pile of books. Maybe, driving alone in your car? Where is that  interpersonal exchange of humanity,  foibles, pain and joy? Where is the warmth of romance, of intimacy that only human   bonding can establish? Where are real connections and not just those we forge online? What happened to companions we can see and share our lives with in the maddening rush of the day and in the stillness of the night?  

Have we pushed that human-being who could have been a real companion out of our cocooned reality where the only communication is virtual?

Were we always so lonely? Or, was   loneliness always lurking around even in those good old days when homes were bustling with families and there seemed  to be no dearth of company ; or is isolation,   a new devil, technology and we have created?
 Have we even paused to reflect on how   smoothly these many modes of communication   are actually intruding into our  senses, pulling us away from ourselves as well as from so many others?

Perhaps, that explains the longing I feel when I watch films from  bygone  years. After watching these films, I always  end  up  craving   for those innocent times when that simple one-to-one  connection was the norm, not the exception. And when there was someone nearby always to hold your hand and relay that much  needed human comfort, that sense of bonding. 

As German writer-author Roswitha Joshi who has made New Delhi her home,  rather candidly puts across, “It is indeed ironic that we work hard to earn the money to purchase and operate the same means that connect us on one hand ‘with the rest of the world’ but on the other, often deprive us of enough time to genuinely interact with those next to us. I witnessed a typically telling scene on a Maldivian island, where in a beautiful beach restaurant, young couples frenetically communicated with their offices on their mobiles, instead of romancing each other. I miss the casual meetings with friends that have, in spite of better cars and on account of worse traffic conditions, virtually ceased to exist. And I miss the easy banter with my children and grandchildren who stay in different cities. I feel lonely if I cannot share impressions, opinions and feelings with people close to me. Yes, information can be virtually communicated, not, however, human warmth, feelings and all the little ‘extras’ that make personal encounters so special.”  

Bangalore based author Shinie  Antony dwells so intensely on the subject of “urban  isolation” that in story after story, she  focuses on this factor alone.

She says, “A part of growing up is the realisation that there is no one out there for you. Ever. It all begins and ends with you. Thankfully, this dawns on most people in bits and spurts but if it happens in one tragic swoop, it can be traumatic. We anxiously, try to locate togetherness and companionship in any accidental pampering that comes our way — parental affection and honeymoon period being the chief two occasions. However much like Pollyanna you may be, there comes a time when all the blindfolds are off and you know, heart of hearts what you always suspected, that you are all alone. Technology and its reach are only incidental. Man has craved society all the time and will go to any lengths for it. Phone, internet, chat sites etc give us the luxury of feeling ‘connected’ all the time. Ultimately, however, in a high-rise apartment, a seemingly successful youngster will hang himself because he has no one to talk to.”

In fact, medical experts seem to agree  and add further inputs to this looming irony.
Heart specialist Dr Bimal Chhajer firmly believes in healing the heart not just through  surgeries but through high doses  of emotional support together with   changes in your very lifestyle.

For this purpose, he has set up life-affirming  institutes called SAAOL ( Science  And  Art of  Living ) all across the country. Says he, “People are becoming more and  more self-centred, more ambitious about their careers. More and more are taking to these  new  ways  of  communications  and  with that, emotional detachment is fast  growing in human relationships. That  one-to-one contact is missing in these  times.”

Dr Chhajer stresses that  loneliness, lack of emotional support, breakdowns in relationships or alienation  does have an impact on our heart and emotional well-being. In fact, he has come  up with a healing solution without vacuums and voids that works like an  emotional cushion. Says he,“I tell my  patients — do  things for others /for those you  care for and love, but don’t expect a   thing in return.”

In fact, though it is taken for granted that these expanding means of   communication help connect people  across the  globe, but do they really? In the  actual and real sense? Do  they help you to connect or just give you that superficial  feeling of remaining connected ? 

33-year-old Sunanda Rao who works with a German Communications firm in New Delhi lives alone as her Turkish  husband Erdem, works in Germany. I ask  her the obvious question. Does all this  technology  greatly ease the discomfort of   long-distance-marriage?

And Sunanda candidly answers, “Personally  my  husband  and  I  prefer  not to chat on the internet. We instead  talk over the phone. We feel more connected that way, but even then that  personal  touch is definitely  missing, that real interaction is missing. One gets  lonely as at the end of the day, it is you and  your computer  staring at each other!”

Nasir Mirza, a senior Professor of   Mass Communications at the Kashmir  University,  tries to add  another dimension to this issue by saying, “Loneliness is a matter of perception. 

Ancient sages in India sought loneliness as a way to Ananda, that is a state of bliss and self-satisfaction. The Naqshbandi order in Sufism teaches a seeker to develop the ability to detach and  distance oneself from external noise by following the principle of  Khilwat Dar Anjuman  that really is about seeking solitude in the crowd.”

Mirza concedes, “Yes indeed, new  technologies separate us from reality – move us away from the real to the imagined, from the emotional to the controlled, machine dominated communication and there by blocking real contact. Since you are able to have 100s of friends and innumerable contacts but not a single true friend, it causes an attention deficit and we end up losing true friendships and end up only with imaginary friends.’’
A far cry from days when Facebook had not replaced face-to-face  chats and heart-to-heart talks.

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