Human life, in general, is a long journey. Each life is a unique one and takes its own path. Perhaps no two lives have ever followed the same path or will ever do. However, two facts of life are the same i.e., birth and death. On both these occasions, one is alone. Whether we like it or not, no one can escape death and also no one can give us company at the time of death. If this fact is accepted well by us, the fabric of life changes for the better and we live in this world with great peace and harmony. In this achievement our riches, positions or fame hardly play any role. This realisation came to me even more clearly after reading the autobiography of Justice M C Chagla, an eminent personality of India, titled ‘Roses in December’.
Chagla’s life was a continuous success story, always on the ascent from the worldly point of view. He rose from one position to another without ever looking back and occupied many high positions most of us wish for. In a way, his life must have been envied by many of his contemporary colleagues. But after reading the book I realised that no life is to be envied because no one knows others’ inner agonies. After a long, active and successful career, Dr Chagla also had his lonely days. His wife had passed away before him and the children had settled down away from him. So, in his last days he was physically alone. He was not prepared for such a life and he candidly admits this in his book. He always believed in a life of fun and not only that, he looked upon those who didn’t, with a sense of awe. That is why at the end of his book he appended a small chapter titled, ‘Personal’- an extract of which goes like this: “We have to distinguish between solitude and loneliness. Solitude is self-imposed, loneliness is thrust upon you. In solitude, you commune with yourself. You meditate and for the time being cut yourself off from the world. In loneliness, you are at war with yourself, realising the futility of life and the absurdity of existence, or the inability to resolve the conflict between the real and the ideal, between what is and what ought to be, between the temporal and the spiritual. I, therefore, have always loved company – to be alone is to me the worst kind of punishment that could ever be awarded for whatever sins I might have committed.
Throughout my life I have had the company of someone or the other, if of no one else, then always of my wife. I have had my bitter moods and moments of unhappiness, but her death made me permanently unhappy, for I could never be sure of someone being by my side when I needed company most.” I find a great message in this paragraph. The fact is that we all are alone in this world. The so called company, which we look for and generally rejoice, is a myth. It is only an opportunity to learn the lessons of life in order to reach its goal. If one fails to understand this mystery, life is a waste irrespective of its external success. On the other hand, if this mystery is understood, one is never alone irrespective of the external conditions. Eventually, we have to be in our own company and we call that condition ‘solitude’. ‘Loneliness’ and ‘solitude’ are two names given to the same condition with different frames of mind. No one can negate the fact of being alone ultimately. If we understand the mystery of life, we live in solitude, and in the absence of this understanding, loneliness prevails.