One and only

Updated: Mar 22, 2020, 11:09 IST | Jane Borges | Mumbai

For those of you wondering how long you will survive social distancing, we've brought you face to face with four introverts to share the joys of being by yourself

Teesta Guha Sarkar
Teesta Guha Sarkar

'Keeping my social circle tights has opened me to other experiences'

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Nancy Norris, 23,
Editor with music, video and sports metadata firm

Being around people makes me anxious. I have often had to talk myself into getting into a situation where a large crowd is expected. For instance, if it's an evening dinner plan, which I cannot avoid, I need time to prepare myself for it. This would involve reading for hours or doing something else, like watching a movie, to distract myself from what's lined up. Most of the time, if given a choice, I prefer to stay home. I can count the number of times I have gone out with friends, through school and college. It has always been in a very controlled environment.

The problem is that it takes me a little longer to get used to being in the company of people. I tend to have strong opinions about individuals. Unless, of course, I talk to them, and that happens rarely.

However, this doesn't affect how I am at work. Work is now part of my routine, so I know I can get through; I've found coping mechanisms. But, even then, my interactions are few and far between [with colleagues].

I deliberately have my earphones on. If somebody wants to talk to me, they have to wave at me to get my attention. There was this one time when we had a fire drill on the office premises, and I had no clue. Someone ran over to me and told me to get out. That's how it is on most days. I don't know what's going on around me, unless there is a meeting. I do speak with a few people at work, but that's only if I willingly want to.

Keeping my social life to bare minimum has opened me up to other experiences. For the longest time, I used to enjoy reading. At one point, I would finish one book in two days, and immediately start another. I also write poetry, and have published some of my stories on Wattpad. It's where I am able to express myself. My Twitter account is also anonymous, because that way I can articulate myself better. I don't get judged for who I am, and what I say.

Sometimes, when I am in the zone, I take to drawing for a few weeks. I can be at it, for days and weeks together, and not get bored. On weekends, I wake up late, and if I am not reading or doing household chores, I spend time teaching myself the piano. Of late, I have been hooked to leaning the ukulele. I play it three times a week, and once I begin practising, time flies.

In the past, I have taken up embroidery, and learned Spanish. I don't take up a skill to get better at it—I just like doing new things. The truth is that when you are not spending time in meaningless conversation, you find reasons to do useful things. 

The introvert's tip

Planning in advance helps, like deciding that tomorrow you will bake chocolate chip cookies. It means you'll be busy today keeping the ingredients ready. If you're a musician, learning new pieces or songs is always fun; you have a goal and you're doing something you enjoy. All you writers, Tumblr has some brilliant prompt pages. Check out poetry-prompts.tumblr.com and writing-prompt-s.tumblr.com.

'This is the time to read and rest, pray and dance'

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Nafisa Lokhandwala, 31
Freelance photographer

I don't always recall being an introvert. I think it happened gradually, especially over the last few years. Personally, I prefer the time that I get to myself. My family lives in Pune, and I have an independent life in Mumbai. I don't long for a boyfriend. I am happy being single.

I recently quit my job, with a non-profit consultancy. It was a 9 to 5 job. At the time, I'd return home, go to the gym, eat and sleep. On the weekends, I'd read a book, or if there was a film that I wanted to catch at a theatre, I go alone. If somebody's schedule doesn't match with mine, I don't go out of my way to accommodate them. The easier thing would be to do my own thing.

I also travel a lot, and alone. This again comes down to having to accommodate someone else's plans. What if they don't want to do something I like doing? You have to make compromises, which I don't feel the need to. Travelling alone makes me feel limitless.

When I am not taking pictures, I am busy editing them, which is a solo activity. I also like reading travel blogs. I spend a lot of time on Instagram, to understand how influencers work and what they post. These days, I am relearning French. Following the recent Coronavirus outbreak, I decided to send postcards of snapshots from my travels to people in an attempt to bring a smile to their face. If someone would like to receive one, they can connect with me on Instagram (@of.small.towns).

It has been difficult for me to relate to the concept of social distancing, because this is my life every single day. I am happy doing nothing too. I can sit by the window, and watch the world go by.

The introvert's tip

We live in a fast and needy world; we've often whined about the lack of time to pursue interests. This is the time to read and rest, watch films and documentaries, start blogging, meditate, pray and dance. You might just meet shadows from your past, and begin to heal, start to think differently. For those of you who live alone, away from friends and family, think about the one hobby you would take up for a living if you didn't have a job. Maybe doing that could help you sail through social distancing.

'When you aren't socialising, you have money and time to spare'

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Dylan D'Silva, 33
Media executive

If I don't find something productive enough, it doesn't interest me. "Hanging out" with friends, feels like that. Whenever someone says 'let's chill', I find an excuse to back out. My idea of chilling is going on a long bike ride, or trekking. If I do agree to go for a friend's party, it has to involve some activity, like making your own pizza, or enjoying a jamming session. I haven't been able to come around to the idea of chatting over drinks and music.

My school friends have come to terms with this; they know that if they invite me for a get-together, I will have excuses to not turn up. They have figured that the only way to ensure my presence is to give me some work which would render me useful.

I have a small, tight group of friends whom I travel with. We share the same interests. When we travel, which is once or twice a year, we explore new places, and learn a skill that these places can afford us. If we meet up outside our travel dates, it's usually to discuss the next travel plan.

There was a time, when I used to work with an adventure company, and I'd ride down alone to camping spots every weekend. I enjoyed that me time.

Several of my weekends are spent at a friend's gas station-cum-garage at Ballard Estate. Over three years ago, I customised a bike as a hobby project. I built it from scratch. It took me around a year-and-a-half. At the garage, I am usually helping out, servicing and generally messing around with the bikes. This way, I can hone the skills I need to have, to become better at this. I even have a circle of motorcyclist friends.

Recently, a friend who teaches the piano wanted to try an experiment. She plays the piano and I can get by with the guitar. So, we picked a song and jammed together over a couple of weekends, both developing our skillsets. I enjoy baking, too. When the mood hits, I look for a new recipe and try it out on my own. Then there's photography. On days when I get done early from work, I take my camera and head to a location, where I can experiment.

The truth is that when you are not socialising, you have both money and time to spare.

The introvert's tip

You don't need to be in a crowd to validate your popularity. There's so much inspiration to draw from on the Internet. With YouTube, you can develop any skill-set you like, with minimal social interaction.

'Tend to things you've been putting off, things that are meaningful but neglected'

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Teesta Guha Sarkar, 33
Senior commissioning editor with publishing house

I feel more comfortable in my own company. I am an only child, and I grew up in the quiet Uttarpara area around north Kolkata and quickly learnt to pick up hobbies to make personal time meaningful. Not to say that I don't like being around people, but I am selective about the company I keep and limit the time I spend with others.

This choice has also guided my larger life decisions. For instance, I was keen to pursue writing, but I chose to be an editor, rather than, say, a journalist, so that I could maintain my solitude. But, as my professional role changed over the course of my career, I have had to adapt. I am a commissioning editor [for a Delhi-based publishing house], which means my job is more people-oriented. This hasn't had much impact though, since my authors are often solitary creatures themselves. There are of course, days when I am juggling six different assignments and interactive with a whole bunch of people in a single day. During these periods, I try and find time to switch off, or return to more personal occupations. On a daily basis, the goal is to have an hour or two to myself—this is challenging under normal circumstances—when I can read something that is not a manuscript, go for a swim, cook, fix myself a drink, spend time with my cats, Zico, Masha and Arsalan, who are a source of comfort and love.

I am also a keeper of plants. I grow and nurture close to a hundred plants on my terrace. Since it is spring in Delhi, it's the perfect time to tend to them and grow new ones. They uplift the surrounding and my own mood. Tending to them is usually how I start my day. It's rejuvenating.

I am introvert, yes, but I do believe that good company is valuable. I live alone, but when my partner is here, this is our home. He is studying in America and was down for a visit during spring break. He extended his stay after the university closed down due to the virus outbreak. I also have small and cherished circle of friends, and meet them when I can. But I don't spend a few hours each day connecting with them. My friends, they, understand my lifestyle choice. Most of them have high-pressure jobs and realise the need to switch off.

I find the term "social distancing" and its implications, distressing. There is a bright side to the self-isolation that is being encouraged worldwide. Since many of us keep perennially busy, in a bizarre way, this time alone has given us the opportunity to tend to things we've been putting off, things that are more meaningful and personal, and sadly neglected. Also, in the last few months, we have gone through a fair bit as a nation. Now that I am working from home, and don't have the clamour of the office around me (I am getting more work done even!), I think I finally have the time to process everything that has happened and engage with the world properly. That to me has been a gift. But as I decisively focus on the upsides, here's hoping that we swiftly defeat the many viruses around us.

The introvert's tip

Somebody recently reminded me that there are people who may have overcome addictions, and their instinct [now that they are alone] would be to go back to old habits. We need to stay strong and keep in touch with those who help us feel uplifted, and generally encourage positivity. Remember that it's rare to have so much time to yourself, to do the things that you have been putting off. It's a great time for self-learning, reflection, making the book piles on your desk look less precarious, and to generally rejuvenate. In a world that's seeing irreversible changes, maybe this is a dry run of sorts for adaptation.

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