20 young people attend first-of-its-kind workshop on Urban Loneliness in Bandra West

Updated: Jan 13, 2020, 07:28 IST | Pallavi Smart | Mumbai

A novel workshop seeks to address the isolation many feel despite living in urban sprawl and a connected world

The team behind the workshop, (from left) Shamal Jaykar, Rashi Vidyasagar, Paras Sharma and Naina Shahri. Pic/ Satej Shinde
The team behind the workshop, (from left) Shamal Jaykar, Rashi Vidyasagar, Paras Sharma and Naina Shahri. Pic/ Satej Shinde

The city may give you everything and everyone you need, yet can make you terribly lonely, too. That's what 20 young people who attended a first-of-its-kind workshop on Urban Loneliness in Bandra West on Sunday were unanimous about. The focus of the workshop was to establish that the concept of urban loneliness exists and is not a random feeling.

Through the workshop, the Alternative Story aims to create support groups of people who can share their feelings and eventually get help to cope with loneliness in this busy city. The Alternative Story — a service provider of counselling and emotional well-being — decided to bring its initiative to Mumbai after a successful run in Bengaluru. The plan is to expand to other metro cities too.

The idea to start this initiative was born during a series of counselling sessions, where they noticed that loneliness was the one factor affecting most people, said the experts from the Alternative Story.

"The therapy sessions have put a light on the need of such a workshop. In many cases, existential counselling has worked in resolutions. This prompted us to bring this topic out to more people so that they can not only identify it but also learn to deal or cope with it," said Paras Sharma, director programme and services at the Alternative Story.

At the workshops, the coordinators enlisted different types of feelings of loneliness such as interpersonal, social, cultural, intellectual and existential. At a group discussion that goes on for four hours, participants are encouraged by the coordinators to talk about their experience of loneliness and the related aspects.

A workshop on Urban Loneliness at HaikuJAM Cottage, Bandra, on Sunday. PIC/SATEJ SHINDEA workshop on Urban Loneliness at HaikuJAM Cottage, Bandra, on Sunday

"The best part of the workshop is to know that you are not alone in this and what you feel is certainly a possibility. Once it is established one can go ahead with what can be done about it," shared Elita, a 31-year-old Bhandup resident who attended the Sunday workshop. "Though I have lived in Mumbai all my life, there are many people in my social circle I have outgrown. Moreover, I am a freelancer so that leaves hardly any other place like office where I can socialise on daily basis. I do feel lonely but never did I know until the workshop that which type of loneliness is it that I am dealing with," expressed Elita.

For Pallavi Arora, a 25-year-old migrant who now lives in Powai, the experience is a little different. "In the fast pace life today, especially in a metro city, it is becoming difficult to build relations. Especially for a migrant like me, rebuilding live in this age is very difficult. You may have colleagues here, but it is not possible to build the same bonding as you could in a younger age," said Pallavi.

Elaborating on the concept of this workshop, Alternative Story's Sharma said in metro cities many feel they are living in isolation despite having people around. Most interactions that we have are shallow, he says, adding that even a number of apps to meet people don't help much.

"There is a lack of real or deep conversations which gives this feeling of being lonely even in the crowd. This experience of isolation leads to feelings or thoughts such as — 'Nobody is able to understand me or what I am going through' and also 'Even if I just vanish one day, nobody will notice'." 

Sharma points out how the previous generation were more neighbourly and were happy. "But those institutions have collapsed now. Even in housing societies now there might be several WhatsApp groups, but nobody really knows each other. And this leads to the feeling of isolation, especially among those who are migrants."

According to Sharma, millennials are most affected as this generation is facing a lot of transition. "Now for this generation [people in the age group of 21-40], there is no way of going back to the old way of life. Another affected group is of migrants. There is a lot of migration for academics as well as work purpose," said Sharma, adding that they will continue to hold such sessions at the Bandra office to help more and more people.

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