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Loneliness has become a near epidemic of our times. Not that it was not a matter of concern in times that have passed us by, it is merely that people in the older generations held certain beliefs, and used their time around feelings and individuals rather than things and achievements. It has become an unhealthy world where we strive to do things for the approval and applaud of the world than for our own inner peace and happiness. We run after mirages than stopping and asking ourselves whether this is what we truly need. 

Similarly, when it comes to marriage, I would ask what would it look like if the world married a little smarter? How would the mental and emotional health of our children improve? How much more productive, connected, and peaceful would it be? The reality is that healthy marriages have the ability to make us happier and even physically healthier. Children who grow up with parents who love and care for one another are protected from a range of problems including social and emotional issues, learning and educational issues, and even some physical health problems. At the same time, an unhappy marriage can be crushing both to the adults in it and the children they raise.

Engaging in or being exposed to chronic conflict impacts quality of life and productivity, and has the potential to hasten mortality. Research shows that telomeres—structures at the end of our chromosomes associated with longevity—show increased cellular aging when a person is chronically exposed to unhappy and high-conflict relationships. Making a smart choice when it comes to your permanent partner can impact almost every aspect of your life and your current or future children’s lives.

Here are some ways to start taking the commitment game seriously, by marrying up in terms of your mental health and emotional well-being rather than searching perpetually for mere genital union:

(Don’t marry) to prove something.

Right or wrong, in our culture, the act of saying – I do – and signing a piece of paper is a symbol of success, prosperity, happiness, maturity, and stability. As a result, people unwittingly use marriage as a way to prove things about themselves to those around them, or to themselves. Some marry to prove to their parents that they are independent and are now fully adults. People marry to prove to exes that they’ve happily moved on. Some marry to escape their family of origin and to prove they can do it all on their own. And many marry in an attempt to prove to themselves that their future is bright and they are “normal.” At the end of the day, marriage proves nothing. Instead, prove to yourself that you can maintain a healthy relationship in the here and now. Work to be yourself, to communicate and to love someone fully just as they are.

(Don’t marry) to take care of someone or to be taken care of.

The urge to take care of, and be cared for, is strong because it’s literally wired into our nervous systems. It’s okay to want to feel cared for, and to want to love others. It’s not okay to go around looking for someone to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. And it is not okay to do for others what they should be doing for themselves. You have to be a fully functioning, separate individual to be in a healthy union. Otherwise, you will start to get confused and overburdened by what is their baggage to carry and what is your baggage to carry. Before you know it you’ve become co-dependent with your partner and you, your separate, unique lovely self, will cease to exist. Happy marriages are true partnerships in which each member can take care of themselves and better the team. To get to true partnership, learn not only how to be on your own but how to like it.

(Don’t marry) to feel self-worth. 

Finally, you meet the person of your dreams. They are everything you are not and you feel intact and worthy in a way you have never experienced before. If you feel this way, sound the alarm: We have a problem. What you have discovered is not healthy love but fool’s gold. If you have never felt fully intact and good about yourself, separate from a romantic relationship, this relationship will let you down simply because no one can give us worth that we can’t first give ourselves. Work on feeling good all on your own before entering into a committed union.

(Don’t marry) because you think you are running out of time.

It can be the case that a person gets to a certain age and they feel, “All right, I guess I’ll get married; what else am I going to do?” They see friends or colleagues moving into the domestic sphere and fear they will be the last one standing alone. Pride and fear make them take the plunge perhaps, before they are fully ready. Let yourself be the last one standing. Be brave. It’s hard to wait, but a few more years can be the difference between a hasty marriage to the wrong match that will bring you conflict and upset or a healthy marriage that will bring you well-being and longevity.

(Don’t marry) to have the family you never had.

Childhood wounds are hard to heal. A tempting shortcut around the pain is to believe in a fantasy that marriage will give you the family you never had—and that you deserve. You may vow to yourself and your partner that you won’t recreate the patterns and dynamics you grew up in. You believe in yourself and your love. You want to take all that childhood disappointment, hurt, or even abuse, and transform it into a new marriage and eventual family. Sadly, the result won’t deliver the goods. Until you clean up those old wounds, on your own, or with the help of a friend, a therapist, anyone you can talk about the true you to, they will continue to plague you, no matter who you marry. Take time now, before you commit, to look inward, understand yourself, and heal.  

(Don’t marry) because people think otherwise about your sexuality. 

If you aren’t married until a certain age, gossip is rife about your sexual preferences. You know who you are and that is testimony enough. Do not be bothered about adjusting to the world with the fear of being branded something if you haven’t found your fit yet. Getting into a relationship to silence the world is the worst kind of torture you would be doing to yourself. Remember, a woman who makes you weak in the knees is the one for you, and if the bells toll in her heart and mind about you the same way, then there is nothing stopping you from being together, but until that happens naturally, simply ignore the gossip mongers. Bear in mind that your band of brothers have stuck by you, no questions asked, so stick with them, and do what makes you happy. What matters is a firm and stable support system and it doesn’t matter what gender provides it. 

(In) conclusion. 

Loneliness is one of the sole reasons that majority of people plunge immaturely into marriage. They find it hard to differentiate the lines between loneliness and being happily alone. They fear in having to deal being comfortable with your own company, more so because such feelings have been ingrained in them by society as being abnormal. This is exactly where I wish to share some thoughts about loneliness and being alone from what architect, athlete, poet, singer, actor to the world, but simply my younger brother to me, Imran Abbas had shared not too long ago. Imran, like me, is an individual who lives life sans any pretentions or regrets, and these reflections from him below, and me above, may help access a deeper you, and might throw light by giving you some clarity on your thoughts, yourself.

The stereotypes that often come with leading a single life are generally categorised into one group: loneliness. It is so often assumed that those who have not yet found that special person who makes the world a little brighter are experiencing those god-awful waves of loneliness. In reality, there is a magnificent difference between being lonely and being alone. 

Being lonely is that kind of aching that resonates in your chest. That dull, constant feeling that follows you around all day long. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or whom you’re with, it’s impossible to shake that feeling. Typically, these feelings are most prominent after recently losing that person who made your world a little brighter. 

Being lonely comes with so many side effects: memories, insomnia, and confusion. Loneliness encapsulates the best parts of your life and forces you to notice their profound absence. Loneliness makes you wonder why—why you? Why can’t you catch a break, why haven’t you had a simple stroke of luck? Loneliness is that prominent, gaping hole in your life that just can’t seem to be filled regardless of what you do. Loneliness is the 3am thoughts that haunt your dreams. Loneliness is that song on the radio that you have to turn off the second it comes on. 

But being alone is a different situation completely. Being alone is a state of being; loneliness is a state of mind. When you’re alone you’re forced to realise all the things you don’t have, sure, but you’re also forced to realise all the things about yourself that you couldn’t when you spent your days memorising someone else. Being alone is taking the time to really think about what you want from someone the next time around, because you are going to do everything in your power that you never suffer from that lonely disease again. Being alone is sitting under a tree for an afternoon and reading a book, and enjoying every single minute of it. Being alone is doing things by yourself, but also doing them for yourself. 

Of course, there are those times when being alone crosses paths with being lonely. It’s those times that you’re shopping for a new dress by yourself and you can’t help but notice that couple on the corner of the street. Their happiness radiates, and you remember the days when that used to be you. For a brief moment that dull feeling aches in your chest, but it doesn’t stay. 

Being alone can be the most empowering experience of your life. If you let the loneliness consume you, you’re going to lose that rare chance to figure yourself out when you could always find company in yourself. Loneliness is going to try to force you to find that company with another person. Everyone has a place in the world, though, and yours shouldn’t be inside someone else. 

Being alone is an art; embrace it.

(Foot) note.

Stay stress-free and traverse the journey that life has chosen for you. Don’t worry about what is to come because nobody knows what is to come. Live in the moment, and live it to your maximum – what is to happen tomorrow will happen in your today, and what happens in your today, decides whether it would want to stay in your tomorrow, and even though we think we have control over it, we don’t. Nothing has ever been in our control and nothing will ever be in our control. The switch is in the hands of someone or something that is beyond the realms of our common understanding. So I would say, inhale, exhale, live, love, and know that that’s enough. 



The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew - Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (C. 1599-1600) 


It was early evening. He was stretched out on the grass. Exhausted. Above him were trees in full bloom, and beyond them the sky with great cottony clouds passing by. He was humming a song that had become quite his favourite from a recent movie he had seen when his friend handed him over a used cigarette. Pressing the butt between his lips, he imagined himself to be looking like some actor. “How wonderful would it be if a director from up inside the skies would spot me and offer me a role in his movie where the song I love would be re-picturised on me.” He made known with such significance. “Wake up!” exclaimed his friend as he held before him half a slice of dried bread, “For all you know we might be quite looking like used paper bags strewn about on the floor for anyone who would spot us from that distance.” He grinned wearily at what his friend had just expressed. “You very well know that paper bags don’t get roles in movies now, don’t you,” his friend went on, “the only thing that they would see would be the inside of wastebaskets.” They chuckled and lay next to each other, too tired to talk more.

It turned to night rather swiftly. Their bodies now reposed, both of them embarked towards home; a makeshift shelter that four of them shared in a ghetto meant for a certain minority community. Whilst walking, they came across a bunch of men embroiled in an argument. He strolled up to them. One of the men stopped talking and turned to him. He had glassy eyes and his face appeared hard-bitten from the vagaries of life. “What?” He snarled. He pointed to the puncture. “Oh,” he said brusquely, “I didn’t realise.” He smiled back kindly at the ill-mannered man. “Change it, you dunce,” growled another man curtly from the same cluster. He bobbed his head and waved out for his friend who was standing at a distance. The friend came closer to him. “These arseholes don’t seem like they merit any help.” He patted his friend gently on his shoulders and pointed to the sky above. “Last I heard they were looking for a replacement of Mother Teresa . . . and this time they aren’t advertising for any particular gender, so . . .” He smiled and asked his friend to hold the wheel as he seized the spanner and began unscrewing the bolts. While they were changing the tyre, they heard the three men quarrel about the failing economic state of the country and how nearly everything around the world was taking a turn for the worse. Two of the fellows were moderate in their views, and the one with the glassy eyes and hardened face was the venomous of the entire lot. He was incapable to accept a viewpoint that did not align with his own and used his voice in full capacity in order to display his raucous resistance. The spare tyre now secured in its place, his friend and he dusted their hands and gave the men a nod before making away. The men were so knotted in their row that they had overlooked to offer them any monetary reward. Humming his favourite tune, they were hardly a few steps away when one of the men called out loud. “Hey!” he barked, “Come back here and take this!” He noticed that the man was holding a bill of cash. “Thank you,” he said loud enough to be heard, “we didn’t help you for the money.” The man rolled his eyes and returned to the squabble with his associates.  

“So what did you think about what they were speaking about the state of the country?” asked his friend, the breeze jesting about fondly on their skin. “Really?” he said squinting, “Do poor people like us enjoy the luxury to indulge in subjects like those?” His friend smiled. “I know what you mean, but we can have an opinion, can’t we?” He stopped walking and twisted his torso to face his friend. “Who would care for our opinion, eh? These rich people cannot even change a tyre and they talk of society like it were a shop. They have nothing worthy to call it a conversation simply because their bellies are full, and we have nothing worthy to call a conversation simply because our empty bellies leave us no room for theories. It is enough if we keep ourselves occupied with thinking about how best to secure our next meal than indulging in world affairs, don’t you think.” 

He was a graduate, but worked as a daily wage operative at construction sites owing to the markets that were dreadfully haemorrhaging despite the media stating otherwise. There was no saviour in sight as the press was tortuously controlled by the ruling leadership, and in such a forbidding scenario, steady employment was extremely hard to come by. If by some stroke of luck something fruitful had ensued between you and your freelance work provider, you were conferred a contract with a construction firm that took care of your income for a minimum of three months, and after that, it was back to square one. It was at such trying times, with no apparent sign of any hope that life became not only troubling, but also demoralising, and his fellow mates and he humoured themselves to petty crimes, the only assured method that offered them meals daily at the local lockup. They also had, over the years, come to an understanding with the police – they shared with them some of their income as a barter of them letting them use the prison facilities until they had not found themselves a steady stream of income again. 

Before tossing away the soiled piece of paper that the samosas were wrapped in, something grabbed his attention. He looked at his friend. “Did you see this?” he said, handing over the piece of paper on which was a picture of the house of the richest man on earth. His friend glanced at the snippet, “Whoa, twenty-five floors for what? After all we sleep in one, we shit in one, and we fuck in one.” They both laughed as his friend crumpled the soiled paper into a ball, flung it on the floor and kicked it as it went flying in the air, and onto the road where it was runover by an automobile.

Owing to their regularity of visiting the police station, the head constable had become a friend of sorts. As they sat one evening inside the cell, a rat was scampering nearby. He asked the head constable if he was happy with his job considering he was a part of the majority that were claiming stake of this nation as nobody else’s but their own. “What can I say,” said the head constable, “we are nothing but puppets of the politicians, and whether we have a conscience or not, we have to carry out our duties that the uniform demands.” He became thoughtfully silent and watched how the rat ran about here and there frantically in order to escape the piercing eyes of the cat that had now entered the cell. The rat, he observed at first was nimble, and past a few minutes his speed slackened, and that was exactly when he ended up being devoured by the chubby cat who smacked her lips and made away mewing like she had won a jackpot of a meal. “And what about when you are off your uniform?” he asked. “I am as human as anybody else. I love those who love me. I don’t look at it via the lens of caste, class or culture.” He rested his back to the cold wall of the lockup. “What do you think has gone wrong with the world?” The head constable breathed deeply, “I wish I could answer that.”  

Once out of the lockup, he knocked at the door of a woman he often visited. They had met on a worksite, and ever since then he had grown into a habit of calling upon her for sexual musts. They asked no questions, offered no explanations, and purely followed whatever their bodies led them to whenever such appetites were aroused in their groins. He was dabbing away his sweat from his armpits with a tiny towel after a satisfactory session of intercourse when she informed him that she was leaving the country because things for their community were getting unhealthier by the day. He met her declaration with thorough disbelief. “We are born here and we will die here,” he declared with some deliberation, “how can you even think of leaving your land?” She sauntered up to him and held his face in her hands tenderly. They exchanged a prolonged look, a look that said more than what words might have been able to convey. 

A week later certain parts of the city were struck by communal insurgence. He was enroute his house from the house of this woman when a mob confronted him. He recognised that they were the same men whom he had helped with the tyre puncture. They asked him bitterly as they began hammering him with blows if he had thought that he was a hero to have refused the money that they had offered him that day. His face pale with fright, he pleaded that they let him go because what he had done was not for any benefits but purely out of help to humanity. The hard-faced fellow gripped his jaw forcefully and squeezed it as he glared wrathfully into his mild eyes. He ordered him to chant some words of their deities. He did as he was told. They beat him further stating that they abhorred to hear names of their gods spoken from an unclean mouth such as his. He was about to say something when another man picked up a medium sized boulder from the side of the pavement and cast him a deadly blow to his head from behind. He dropped to the ground in an instant. The rest of the men kicked him mercilessly just as somebody in the cruel cluster lifted the same blood-spattered boulder and bludgeoned him to death. 

When the news of his murder reached her, she opened a canister of rat poison and gulped it down her throat. 

In no time people had assembled at the scene of the killing. 
“Move away to some place safer I had warned him long ago,” said someone, “and he had said, ‘these are my people, they won’t hurt me’ and see what his people have done to him! See!”
“He deserved it,” murmured someone.  
“For what?” someone else asked.
“Do I need to answer that?” said another man present there. 
“Today you are enjoying this, but remember that . . .” 
“That every dog has its day,” completed another. 
“I think everyone from his creed must be doomed to die in a similar fashion,” voiced someone else astringently.
“What a dreary time to live in when people think like this,” whispered another and walked away. 

The whiff of his butchery had spread over social media like wildfire. Though the police took their own time to arrive, the head constable dashed to the spot of the crime. The instant he set his eyes on him, he felt an unexplainable bite in his heart – to see someone as caring and ebullient as him lying there dead was something he felt was the worst form of injustice that god’s creatures could have ever bestowed upon him. He closed his eyes and tried to compose himself when the commissioner drew up in his car. A shifty and fidgety man, the commissioner inspected the corpse. The staff around him were awaiting orders when he grinned at them and said in the jolliest tone, “Seeing this blood reminds me that I have some strawberry pies in my jeep.” He paused and consulted his wristwatch, and then gestured that his staff fetch him the box from his jeep. He began then chomping on the strawberry pie with the body of an innocent man resting a few inches away, flies now feasting on the open wounds of the departed. Once done, he threw the box on the body and made away in his jeep.  

The following day the headlines read – 

Young man from a minority community atoned for his wrongdoings. He was carrying on him meat of an animal that was sacrosanct to the nation. Killed brutally by unidentified assailants. The police has closed the case due to lack of any evidence on the site, and due to the fact that there was no manner in which to find who had done this since there were no eye witnesses, or any kind of camera footage to provide any concrete proof.  

The head constable who used a pseudonym online, tweeted: Before leaving they left a bag of animal meat near him to mislead everyone that he was killed because he was carrying on him that meat. The Truth: he was a vegetarian. 

The public went berserk that someone from the their community was so agreeably in support of the minority. Organisations swore that if they unearthed the identity of the individual they would decapitate him.

Two days later, the head constable was discovered by his subordinates in a pool of blood. The cause: he had accidently moved the trigger while cleaning the gun that had resulted in his death.

The internet rejoiced. And so did majority of the people. 

His friend was stretched out on the same spot that he was killed. The trees were blooming, as usual. The sky was clear, as usual. Tears streamed down the corners of his eyes. He made no attempt to wipe them.