Loneliness and the "social animal"

A year is nearing its end as I write this post. We will be moving into 2011, hopefully a  new and happy year! Nearly forty such new years have come and gone through my life.. But ushering in the new year seems to have become something so different from what it used to be when we were younger. The news today on television was full of how Bombay is getting ready to "party" despite possibilities of a terror attack. Police in Bombay are considering extending liquor sales hours in the bars till 5AM. It is not just Bombay but conservative Madras ( or Chennai) also seems to be gearing up to party! Advertisements abound in newspapers about hotels hosting "New Year Extravagazas" for which one has to pay a huge entry fee.

Life in Metros certainly seems to have undergone a huge change! To "party" is something that appears to have become a compulsive need. Now, this is not something bad-going to a party and meeting friends and/or relatives is a part of being a social animal that defines being human. But given the way we seem to be living our daily existence with little or no contact with our immediate neighbours and investing a large part of our day at work it is really surprising that we should want to define our social existence amidst strangers...!!

Now let me explain this a bit more. We leave our homes in the mornings for work and come back often so late in the evenings that we do not have much time for either our friends or our families. Then, when an occasion comes to celebrate we prefer to go out again into the maddening crowd to enjoy ourselves!! We like to go into crowded resturants or discos to spend an evening with family and friends. I wonder how it might have been  had we stayed at home and spent quality time together - either having a pot luck meal or ordering food from outside ( from the same resturants where we wait endlessly to be seated on a Saturday evening or new year)?

I think it may be the complete loneliness of our existence in these urban settings which seeks comfort in a crowd.  I rarely see groups of 2-3 youngsters these days in any public place - they are usually in 2-3 dozens! Now when a dozen or more in itself is a crowd why do they have to go out again into a crowd is something that beats me!!

So, when loneliness is the unstated fear that most people have, invitation to join a crowd in the name of socializing becomes the psychological weapon to wield power. Birthdays for kids are no longer events that involved inviting a few  friends with mom cooking- they are now complicated affairs which involve strategising on who to call and who not to- they certainly are learning young these days!! People become so desparate to be included into the crowd that they are willing to do anything for it!!

I remember meeting a young girl on the street some time back when my daugther and I were coming back after grocery shopping. This pretty twenty something girl stopped me and asked " Ma'm is there a mall somewhere nearby where I can  hang out?" When we moved on after informing her that there were no malls nearby for her to "hang out" my daughter voiced the question that was ringing in my mind  " Why does she want to be out in a mall?"- the same reason I guess why people want to be out on a new year- deriving comfort from the presence of a large number of people around them rather than being home alone!