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Lonely faces wearing forced smiles

Maria Sartaj
“For the quintessence of loneliness, for what is more alone than God himself,” asked the famous 14th-century Persian poet Hafiz in one his of Sufi poems. We understand God, the exalted one, the supreme one, as having no offspring or partners yet we haven’t tried to find solace in his aloneness to combat our own feelings of being forgotten. Who is more misunderstood yet purer than God? More people feel lonely now than they did a decade ago; everyday millions of people put on plastic smiles to get by, taking them off only at night in solitude where no one can see their despair or judge the tragedy of their lives. For every fake smile going around, there are twice as many sad eyes; we have perfected the selfie pout, but the windows to the soul reveal dark deep thirsty wells are aching with emotional desires. While we understand both birth and death as lonely experiences and are aware that everything that occurs between the two shall turn into a big blur one day, we still fear isolation and yet have unintentionally gravitated towards it in modern times than previously. This is crucial to our understanding because the world is getting filled with lone rangers, isolated individuals taking to violence to seek attention even if it comes to them posthumously. The profiles of most terrorists read similarly. Everyday people also are facing anxiety like never before. It is chaos out there that we are just trying to keep it together and shove things under the carpet. There’s a strange trust deficit in the air of Pakistan that adds to the feeling of abandonment amongst individuals. It is not uncommon to see Pakistanis socialising with hundreds of individuals including best friends of many years and still not trust the words or intention of their closest comrades. Every person then appears like an iceberg, hiding more than revealing: with an agenda to rob us of our contentment, wealth or relationships. Looking around one finds more moo bole (so-called) brothers and sisters in South Asia than real siblings, yet most folks will complain of both these groups of people having stung them at some point in their lives. There are also individuals walking amongst us who are constantly embroiled in conflicts with other, that is the only way they know how to communicate with people through hassles. This so-called ‘laraku’ (fighter) sometimes just turns out to be a person in need of a hug that is reassuring. Jaduki Jhappi anyone? Try it, may help turn a cold heart into one that has much to express. Sometimes all people require is a good listener, someone who will empathise and share bad times together. Our social lives have become more like staged dramas, rehearsed, scripted and looking for applause at every punchline. The young, with hundreds of Facebook friends, are flirting with depression while the elderly of Pakistan are getting dumped into nursing homes because everyone claims to be so busy nowadays. According to a study conducted in Britain, the average person checks his or her phone 224 times a day in fear of having missed out on a message, a post or notification. Perhaps the subtext of this phoneanxiety is everyone’s need for that one message that shall soothe the nerves, telling us that it is okay to feel this way whatever that feeling maybe. As present as we are in our online lives, in real life we have evolved into an avoidant. How many times have you promised someone that ‘haanhaan kal milte hain yaar’ (yes, let’s meet up tomorrow) without the intention of ever meeting that friend? When we do get together, though, our eyes are fixated on our phones, waiting for responses from someone else, someone better than the current participants of our lives. Most people attribute this feeling of hollowness to technology, the world is at our fingertips, and so we have lost our memory of what human touch feels like. The kiss emoticon is no parallel to a loved one’s actual embrace; being cool came at the cost of eroding human warmth and togetherness. As soon as an application freezes on our phone, we delete it, and the same has been applied to interpersonal relationships as well. The focus has been shifted to acquiring as much wealth as one can in their lives.
There are hardly any discourses on important subjects like philosophy or any emphasis placed on attaining wisdom. An awareness of these subjects can often alleviate one’s pain and make people emotionally altruistic towards one another. The world has come to understand their existence in terms of economic status only, living terribly selfishly. Once we go beyond this ‘me and mine’, we can hope to get some relief from our loneliness because merely filling up our bank accounts has only led to the emptying of our hearts.

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