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     Volume 6 Issue 30 | August 3, 2007 |

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Straight Talk

The Bliss of Solitude

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth

The country side definitely holds its charm with its rolling hills, grassy knolls and flower--filled fields. There is something wholesome about seeing cows and sheep grazing in the vast expanse of green but also slightly disconcerting not to see a single soul in sight for miles. The freshness in the air is a novelty as city smog is what our lungs are accustomed to breathing. The charm only holds if there is the knowledge that it is only a temporary retreat from the fast pace that the city demands of its inhabitants. But in all honesty solitude is something that has never sat very well with me. Being a die-hard city girl, I am accustomed to the hustle and bustle that is part and parcel of urban living. But of course solitude can be of varying degrees and like most people, even I enjoy some moments of peace and quiet where all I have to keep me company are my thoughts and nothing else.

A few days ago, on an early morning drive to the airport, I found myself basking in this unexpected few hours of silence. When I say early morning, I do not mean the time when you wake up to take the children to school or go to work. But a time where the children are peaceful in their slumber and the world outside is just stirring. I sat in the car and looked at the semi deserted streets, with the sun finally sending its warm rays onto the few who were my companions on the streets whizzing by me. The stillness and hush around me was surprisingly comforting and almost seemed to envelop one in a shroud of tranquillity. You could not help but feel serene and at peace with the world just for those few moments.

For a while I was transported back to my childhood where I could not wait for the day to begin. There is something so wonderful about the anticipation of another new day where you can only wonder at what it holds in store for you. Somehow as we grow older we lose that naive outlook and the days just seem to roll into one another. It reminded me of how I would love to wake up at the crack of dawn, before it was time to get up up for school, and devour the latest book I had picked up. What wonderful memories of sitting in bed lapping up every word on those treasured pages, or curled up on a chair in the veranda straining my eyes in the semi darkness but then taking time during those stolen moments to watch the sun come up. As I grew older, those storybooks were replaced by schoolbooks and early mornings became associated with studying or revising for exams. Somehow even the inevitable butterflies in the stomach and latent panic of the impending exams seems lessened in those hours of the morning. The calmness around succeeded in soothing the palpitations that appeared to be so loud that they felt like the beating of loud drums. Those few hours surrounded by my books, cocooned in the warm silence of the morning have left an indelible imprint on me. As an adult or parent, however, early mornings do not have the same effect any more. Those precious moments are replaced by the desire and need to catch up on our perennial lack of sleep. Every single extra minute is greedily lapped up. But fortunately there are still days such as my early morning trip to the airport that supersede those basic physiological needs.

Oddly enough, there have been many times where I have been alone in my car, driving from one place to another surrounded by a sea of cars, buses, bicycles and pedestrians but have felt far removed from the mayhem around me. In the isolation of my car, it is almost as if I have created a little oasis within the confines of the metal walls. The music is the music of my choice, the volume is on at a level that suits me; the temperature is as hot or cool as my whim may demand. For a while I am the mistress of my surroundings. At times like this, it is easy to let your mind just drift and wander. The jumbled thoughts that are constantly jostling my head have a little time to find a semblance of order. Even the noise outside my window does not break my little bubble of serenity.

Solitude is a wonderful thing only if it is something you experience by choice. When you have no option but to be alone for an extended period, it can be quite the contrary and at times be slightly daunting. There are so many people who live by themselves and have no one but themselves for companionship. I am sure at times peace and quiet would be happily exchanged for a little noise and disruption. There are also moments where the silence can be almost deafening.

My short reprieve from the real world was a gratefully received gift and it was not long before I was back in the familiar hustle and bustle of people milling around the airport. I know we all appreciate a little time out every now and then but I also find the sound of my children in the background and the noise of everyday life just as satisfying...

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