Why this blog is called "Gallimaufry".

gal-uh-MAW-free\, noun.

Originally meaning "a hash of various kinds of meats," "gallimaufry" comes from French galimafrée; in Old French, from the word galer, "to rejoice, to make merry"; in old English: gala + mafrer: "to eat much," and from Medieval Dutch maffelen: "to open one's mouth wide."

It's also a dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a heterogeneous mixture; a hodge-podge; a ragout; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley; a promiscuous (!) assemblage of persons.

Those of you who know me, will, I’m sure, understand how well some of these phrases (barring the "promiscuous" bit!) fit me.

More importantly, this blog is an ode to my love for Shimla. I hope to show you this little town through my eyes. If you don't see too many people in it, forgive me, because I'm a little chary of turning this into a human zoo.

Stop by for a spell, look at my pictures, ask me questions about Shimla, if you wish. I shall try and answer them as best as I can. Let's be friends for a while....

14 October 2009

A panegyric to solitude

It is dusk. Light falls softly and disappears even as I look out of the window. I am sitting at my desk in a house so silent that I can hear a bird alight on the tree outside. No one comes in clamouring for attention. No one calls me outside to see icicles on the oak tree. No one interrupts me with an anxious "Haven't you worked enough for one day?"
The silence began two years ago, on a day full of the sound of running water...
My experience feels unique to me, but of course, it isn't.
We who live solitary are visited from time to time by great gusts of loneliness. We are scarred by those dismal hours in which what we have to do - without anyone helping us - seems too much. We are overwhelmed by a longing for the paired life we see others enjoy, simply for the joy of sharing intimacy.
But solitude brings a life full of satisfaction, warmth and even joy. Since the times of solitude can come to many of us unchosen, it behoves us to learn how to find these joys, so that we may live with dignity and grace.
Looking back on some times I have spent solitary, I see some moments crystallising in my memory. Like that first gentle, thin ray of sunlight after rain, there is a meagre, yet growing warmth that is indigenous to my solitude.
Where does this warmth come from? First of all, from memory, which holds together the skeins of my life. Solitude enhances memory. And so, curiously, memories strengthen the sense of continuity I feel with others' lives.
If my solitude has been lit by memories, then it has also been warmed by a growing sense of my own identity. After I had lived alone for a while, I found myself caught up in innumerable inner dialogues, between the self dying of the grief of aloneness and the self who wanted to live; the self who believed and the self who denied; the self who loved and the self who repudiated love because it hurt too much.
Haven't we known, Like Whitman, that we contain multitudes? Compassionate and cruel, mature and callow, wise and jejune? Haven't we always known that the colloquy between these warring selves has been waiting for us to catch up with it?
Caught up in these struggles, I have had the chance to come to grip with unexplained beliefs and answer important questions. Why do I do this and not that? What is being asked of me? What am I to do with my life? When I lived surrounded by people, some of the passion and insight natural to my inner self leaked away through the sieve of the daily humdrum. Alone, I was forced to pay attention to the question marks in my heart.
Solitude, I found, is that identity-making place where I learnt to fight my demons. And how many I had of those when my solitude began: the fear of the dark, the fear I would never be loved again... The risk for all of us who live alone is that our feelings may become the most important thing in our lives! We may brood resentfully about people instead of responding to them.
Every day, the solitary person - still fighting the all too human battle against growing up - must cope with something new. Quickly and painfully, you discover what kind of a person you are, what kind of inner resources you can muster. In solitude, as Rilke says, "there is no place that does not see you" - so only honesty is good enough.
At my most daring moments, I like to believe that what is going on is that ultimately divine work - the shaping of my soul. True, there are many agnostics hiding in the foxholes of solitude; some of them became that way because they were alone for much too long. Nevertheless, there is something in the nature of the solitary experience that contributes to the growth of the spirit. Many a solitude has been lighted by the discovery of what the Quakers call "that of God in every man".
Above all, my solitude is warmed by people and my new understanding of them. That sounds like a paradox, doesn't it? You may ask: isn't the solitary, by the very nature of her solitude, handicapped in her relationships with others? On the contrary, the solitary is particularly fitted for relationships. As Carl Jung says "No one is more sensitive to companionship than the lonely man".
We have empty, therefore, open hearts as we did not when preoccupied with just one love. We are freer to meet the stranger, freer to talk to him in depth,
The sorrows of others seem to enter my solitude framed by the understanding of my own struggles. Solitude is part of the inescapable enterprise of maturing. A time for solitude, well used, is a spillway for what has choked one's life; it is an illumination of the rest of one's experiences.
But it is not always tranquil. My inward life is sometimes the threshing floor of emotions. I suspect that solitude never leaves you the way it found you. You emerge from it angrier, or gentler, sterner or more compassionate; more bitter, or more loving; more shut within, or more communicative; but never the same.

Search out the joys of solitude. I have heard people say "Nothing good ever happens to me". I don't agree. My gratitude journal list my daily joys: "Today N called"; "S sent me some music"; "DB sent me wonderful candy"; "Had lunch with N, S and P and giggled madly over the way H behaves"... Reading those pages, I watch myself growing and can only marvel at how unpredictable and wonderful life can be!
Solitary, or coupled, the most important thing we can do for ourselves is to learn with ourselves with courage, humility and beauty.


Autar mota said...

wonderful dimension to solitude.thanx for the great post.

Har Taraf Har Jagah Beshumaar Aadmi .

Phir Bhi Tanhaiyon ka shikaar Aadmi.

varsha said...

Chand ko dekho Woh bhi tanha hai
Phir bhi Uski Chandni se roshan Raat hoti hai.

Gallimaufry said...

Thank you, Autar-ji.
Thank you, Varsha.

Stanley R. said...

Your insights are profoundly touching and very meaningful to me. Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts, in addition to the great poetry, photography, and commentary. I love visiting your 'blog'.

Gallimaufry said...

Thank you, Stanley. You've always been generous with your praise. It encourages me to keep plugging at my little piece.

Akoijam Rina said...

A very lovely and touching piece.

TeachingNomad said...

Simply gorgeous. I find it true in my own life. Thanks for the beauty.

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