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One hundred days of ‘solitude’

I recently read a wonderful line from Thoreau: “I am a genius at staying at home.” Today my wife and I celebrate – if that’s the word – one hundred days of solitude. I know ‘solitude’ doesn’t strictly apply to two people living together, but Marquez would have approved.

In future when grandchildren ask what did you do during the great lockdowns of your time, grandpa, I will read them this:

What I object to is not the self-isolation so much as the forced attempts at self-actualisation. I am perfectly happy sitting in a corner doing my work, ignoring the world, but then I am told this is the greatest opportunity we will have to realise our true selves. Well, not to put too fine a point on it, this is my true self.

Others can carpe all the diems they want, others can change the world. In my youth I did set out to change the world, but on second thoughts decided to leave it as it is. This is my true self. The one that gets up when he wants to, ignores exercise when he doesn’t feel like it, often keeps more than sixty feet of social distancing, and refuses to go to the grocery store claiming he is working.

Why should that person be changed into someone who learns a new way to make an omelette, zooms or skypes people around the world, puts out inspiring videos on reading or gardening? Cicero said that if you have a garden and a library you have everything you need. True, but no need to bore others with the details.

This is a fine opportunity for you to learn to cook, a friend messaged the other day. Just that. No how are you, hope you are well and washing your hands. I have no desire to learn to cook. Or learn a language or how to dismantle a television set and re-mantle it.

If I was useless before the pandemic, why should I be less useless when the lockdown is fully lifted? I tell my friends: Stop trying to make a better man of me. This is the completed project.

Doing nothing is a fundamental right, guaranteed to all citizens of the world. My books remain unshelved, even unwritten, my study remains cluttered and the plans I had, around the year 1998, of giving away things to make way for other things, remain unfulfilled. But that, to repeat myself, is my true self.

My true self cannot be bothered about making everything count, every day, every hour, every minute. I read a new expression the other day: quarantine-shaming. It is apparently a way of shaming people into doing meaningful things during the isolation.

The most meaningful thing I have done in the past 100 days is have a haircut at home. I hugged and kissed the barber, for it was my wife who did the job. As Marquez said in One Hundred Years of Solitude, there is always something left to love.

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Printable version | Jul 15, 2020 7:55:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/one-hundred-days-of-solitude/article31871591.ece

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