What does loneliness mean to you?
This article is about the fantastic people I have met in Canada so far.
Seeing a homeless man share his coins with another homeless person, sort of, activated my writing buds for this article. He was himself homeless and was collecting coins from people, yet he chose to share his coins with the other homeless person who was looking quite frail. This was quite fascinating. Ever since I have landed in Canada, I have been curious about the homeless and loneliness in general. In India, homelessness is mainly due to poverty.
For years I trusted nature and animals more than humans. I would take solo trips to places where I could meet nature up close and personal. I would go to places where a conventional tourist would not even venture. Consider this; I even found such secluded spots in a bustling tourist destination such as Goa in India as well. A few called me a loner while others, and the more caring one’s, called me deranged and thought that I needed help; mental help that is. Call me whatever you like, but I am always attracted to the loners. Some of my best friends are people who never got married, are alone most of the time, they travel solo and are quite happy. An exceptional case to point out is that of my Aunt, who has lived a solo life all her life. She decided to go solo in time (back in the ’70s) when soloness (not sure if this is even a word) in India didn’t exist, let alone a female going solo. I too wanted to model my life after her life, but as it happened that I met my wife in 2014, and I happily gave up my soloness to be with her, without any regrets.
Before I talk about the fantastic people I have met in Canada; I wanted to talk about ‘loneliness’. Loneliness is perceived differently by different people, and most of the time, loners are perceived to be shy, not so confident individuals. In India, loners are not respected in the traditional family setup or in society in general.
So, how would you define loneliness? Loneliness is generally defined as a curse, and a simple definition of loneliness can be a situation where a person is alone aka Tom Hanks in Cast Away or maybe an average person living alone in a big city. But, what do you call a situation where a person feels lonely even amongst people? So, let’s agree that the definition of loneliness is subjective and different for everyone.
I wanted to talk about four beautiful individuals, I have met so far. Well, I have only met or rather spoken to three of them, and I have only observed one from a distance. If anyone has read my book, ‘The Metro-Maniac Chronicles’, then they would know how closely I observe people. Anyways, I have recently moved to Canada along with my wife, and currently, we are staying at temporary accommodation as the house is only available from the 1st of Oct. So, I got a lot of time on my hand. This is the kind of a period where I get to experiment a lot with writing, career opportunities and people and places near me as well. It is during this exploration that I came across these four individuals.
Something familiar between all of them is that they all are living solo in different conditions. Whether their condition is good or bad; I leave that for them and you to decide.
Let’s start with the proverbial chivalry and talk about the lady first. The lady can be seen around the park opposite Kings St West. During the day she can be found lazing under a tree at Beaty Boulevard Park, while at night she can be found inside one of the transit stops’ waiting cabin (Made of glass. Pardon my ignorance about the exact name of the cabin because like I said I am new in Canada). I watch her every day, and I don’t know for how long she has been in this condition, but I have noticed that since she is always either sitting or lying on the ground, she has put on a lot of weight. I have never seen her walk around. Every time I look at her, and she looks back, all I can see is a blank face with virtually no expressions, and that is why she caught my attention. You see, every homeless I have come across in the vicinity, so far, seems to smile when you look at them, probably in anticipation of a quarter or food and many simply ask for whatever they want; money or food. So, her blank face is different. She doesn’t ask for anything or talk to anyone walking by; she just keeps staring at people passing by. I have always wondered if she’s happy living like this or not? I am curious to know the story behind her silence. I have this urge to talk to her but being new in the country I always get cold feet about talking to a female. What if she gets offended if I offered help? This is partly because even before I landed in Canada, I was advised by many to stay away from the homeless. Though I have given her food may times I have chosen to simply observe her from a distance and have refrained from a conversation. Notwithstanding the advice, I am sincerely confused about how to start a conversation with strangers I meet on the street. So far, I have met really nice people in the old part of Toronto. I often converse with strangers; some reciprocate while others don’t. Anyways, I have got a few days left here before I move to the permanent house, so probably I might go ahead and talk to her later and find out the story behind her silence.
The second amazing person I have met here is my favorite because he can speak bits and pieces of Hindi. He can even sing; ‘Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mei Khayal Aata Hai,’ & ‘Le Jayenge Le Jayenge Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge,’ joyfully, with a Canadian accent. He roams around alone. I have seen many like him asking for a cigarette, but his knowledge about India makes him my favorite. He can be found around the King St area asking for a cigarette. Every time he’s around, I make it a point to say hello to him, and it is almost every day that I see him around. He is always talking about India, Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini. He is also curious about Mumbai. He asks a lot of questions about India and Indians. I like him because I get to talk about India and Indians with him. He has never been to India, yet he knows so much about India and Indians is what made me curious about him. I intend to enquire this the next time I meet him. I am not sure if he’s a junkie or not, but one thing is for sure that he’s very good at making conversations. He’s a happy go lucky guy who doesn’t bother people. He could use his communication skills in any profession, yet he chooses a life despised by many; fascinating.
The third exciting person happens to be a famous Chef and our neighbor in the Air BnB (The West House: Charming Escape). His name is Cam Nelson (#chefcamnelson — Insta). He is writing his biography, so I don’t want to reveal specific details about his life but what I can tell you is that he’s a great guy and a fantastic chef and the book is going to be SPICY. COVID caused a lot of discomfort in his life, and he had to re-evaluate his life’s direction completely; can’t wait to read his life story. Seeing him in action in the shared kitchen is amazing. I have nicknamed him the ‘Meat Scientist’ because of his in-depth knowledge about meat. He is a seasoned chef. His hands move like the hands of a magician. He moves so fast that it’s hard to even keep up with whatever he’s doing. I had to pause the video many times to note down the exact steps he was following. I have seen many chefs in action, but his passion surpasses others. Even after so much loss during COVID, the way he keeps going on is just amazing. He’s recently bought a Greyhound bus and plans to convert it into a restaurant; can’t wait to dine out at his new venture. I wish him all the best. One thing that stands out about Cam is his never say never attitude. He has lost so much yet his body language, and his attitude is so positive and radiant. Watch out for Chef Cam Nelson; he’s undoubtedly going to make it big.
Next up is Sam, a Libyan living in Canada for the past 32 years. I met him while exploring a market in old Toronto. He lives alone because his kids are all grown up and living their lives. We connected while talking about his amazing modified car. When I saw the car parked on the roadside, I stopped to admire it closely. Sam came in from the driver’s side and saw me looking at the car, and he immediately walked towards me. I looked at him and smiled, and I gave his car thumbs up. He smiled and the next thing you know we talked for over half an hour. He narrated how he managed to get the car at half the price they had quoted him initially. He loves the car not because he got it cheap but because this was his first car in Canada. He was so excited narrating the story that we lost track of time. He was telling the story as if a parent was telling a story about their child. We also shared his experience an an immigrant in Canada. I hope to keep in touch with Sam even when we move to a permanent accommodation outside of Toronto city.
I have learnt lessons from all these wonderful and unique people, lessons which will help me settle in this country. I have learnt that soloness is a state of mind and not necessarily a physical condition. All of them appreciate a good conversation. They are open and optimistic about their life, irrespective of whatever is happening in their life, and are not judgmental. I think we all need to practice soloness once in our lifetime to know the real value of those around us.
Well, that was a brief about people I have met so far in Canada. You may call it an outsiders perspective; an outsider looking to be an insider very soon :)
Originally published on https://jasveersinghdangi-87442.medium.com/soloness-24328ac2d9cd