Strangers as Friends — Keeping Loneliness at Bay


Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

Ravi P Bhatia25 Nov 2016 – We all have friends – sometimes a few, sometimes many. These persons are supposed to be friendly with us, to help us in our hour of need and give us company and share some time with us. We are all social animals who need company of some person with whom we can talk, share experiences and express ourselves; equally provide companionship to the other person.

In today’s world what do we observe? Friendship is rare and occasionally we cannot even depend on the so called friends who may be putting on a facade of being your friend.

Partly for this reason and partly because many people have artistic tastes, people spend time in playing or listening to music, painting or going around  art exhibitions; writing short stories or reading novels or novelettes and so on. Hindi films about four or five decades ago provided lilting music and songs about love between two persons that would sway the sky and the stars. One song from the popular film Chori Chori starring the immortal pair of Nargis and Raj Kapoor sang these words of everlasting love “le chal mujhe taron ke paar lagtaa nahin hai dil yahan,  — take us beyond to the stars, we feel desolate here..”

Yoga has caught the imagination of people worldwide– the international day of Yoga is celebrated on 21 June and there are several TV channels apart from Gurus telling you how to do its various asanas properly. Meditation and looking inwards for multicultural understanding, peace and spirituality are other benefits of yoga.

Another means of having company is to have a pet — usually a pet dog. Some people spend fortunes buying a rare breed and devoting time and love on their pets and getting them ready for dog shows. On the TV channels there are programs devoted to the histrionics that dogs can display on stage. Oh, what pleasure when your beautiful and loving pet gets an award on these shows.

On occasion even children feel lonely in the complex world we live in. When parents are at work and grandparents live elsewhere, children feel lonely especially when the child has no brother or sister. When I was young I kept myself busy by playing with street children and cycling around. I had three sisters – two older and one younger. The older sisters were busy in their own activities and the younger was too young to give me company. I often felt lonely and even said it in so many words to my sisters, “I wish I had a brother to play with”. My sisters laughed but what could they say?

There is another occupation or should I say distraction– that has captured the minds and time of young urban people. Obviously it is the mobile or smart phone. This instrument has captured the time and energy of everyone who possesses it — listening to music, solving puzzles, messaging or What’sApping. Of course one can also converse with people on the Mobiles and even read the time or the local temperature. What a marvellous way of not feeling alone and lonely.

Despite these technological means of keeping loneliness away, some people still feel lonely and depressed. Usually these are the elderly who have been forsaken by family and friends. Who wants to waste time on these useless persons, is a feeling not altogether absent among the busy youngsters. Europe and the Americas have increasing percentages of these people. Asian countries are younger with almost half the population which is below 25 years. Here also the elderly are increasingly being left to fend for themselves especially in south Asian countries like India and SriLanka.

For such people strangers are sometimes more friendly. I have often seen the elderly people taking morning walks stopping by some strangers, saying Good Morning or Namaste and picking up conversations with them. After a brief introduction they ask people about their families or their health and what their ambitions are. There may be some initial hesitation but after a brief period people often talk freely of their lives and aspirations. One can often see such groups of strangers laughing and enjoying themselves.

Nobody can prescribe one means or another to avoid loneliness or depression. Of course I am not referring to a large percentage of toiling people working in farms or factories or pedalling their cycle rickshaws to make a living for themselves and their families.

But the urban well-off and lonely persons have discovered different avenues of keeping loneliness at bay. One way is by becoming friends with strangers. Another by remaining as friends to themselves.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, an educationist and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 28 Nov 2016.

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