Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Self centred and Loner.....or simply Individualistic and Introvert?

"Not going home? Diwali in a pg, all alone??"
I answer with a cool "yeah and not alone, with 2 others" plus a reassuring giggle at her childish concern. But my friend is not convinced that I can be happy celebrating alone. (When did I tell her by the way that I enjoy celebrating festivals?). I defend my case saying that a 3 day holiday (1 mass-bunk lol) is not meant for travelling 1300 km and back and somehow hoping to squeeze-in a day's puja and a night's celebrations, that exams are near and so I can't afford to skip lectures in college if I am to further my stay, that I am saving a lot of time in which I can read at least 2 novels (already done with one!) and write something (the two things I enjoy the most, far more than any festival) blah, blah, blah.
To no avail.
She is convinced that I will be badly missing my family, that no novel is a sustitute for the on-goings of a family in the days leading to a festival and that I am only putting up a brave face since nothing can be done now.

Now the last one, in the language of psychoanalysis, is the defence mechanism of 'denial'- refusing to accept that the problem exists, to do away with the associated anxiety. The moment I come to realise this, I know I have to make her understand.
Of course I could not straightaway tell her that a fiercely individualistic person like me accidentally took birth in a collectivistic culture (harmony with in-group members is a more central goal than developing autonomous individual entities) of ours and not in some Western country that knows only individualism , and that my individualistic instincts keep finding an outlet for their expression no matter how strong my aculturisation. That is the explanation I offer myself for my actions. If I say the same thing to anybody else, studying psychology will be seen as having done more harm than good to me. 
So I carefully avoid the use of any term with psychological strings attached and make her stand a 15 or 20 minute long lecture on why I am the way I am and why I feel the way I feel, trying every trick in my hat to avoid sounding either self-glorifying or abnormal. At the end, just to make sure that her 'education' doesn't ring hollow and that she too can lecture somebody on the same topic in the future, I bequeath her the term 'individualistic'. And guess what she says. "Your good old technical jargon again Sudha, this time for self-centredness". Hung.

And I used to believe that only the male chauvinists, who are obsessed with controlling the social lives of women and the previous-generation females viz. the mothers and mothers-in-law you see in daily soaps who glorify family honour but, paradoxically, are blind to individual dignity, are anti-individualism!

Imagine a 19 year old educated, urban girl equating individualism with self centredness and detesting it!

Perhaps I shouldn't forget that I am,at the end of the day, still in a collectivistic culture. In a culture where fitting into the group is the only way acceptable. In a culture where behaving in ways that are in line with the social norms are the only 'normal' ways of behavior. In a culture where group solidarity is more important than personal achievement. In a culture where people, especially females, are supposed to gain a sense of identity from being a part of the group and hence no priority to personal goals over socially expected goals is appreciated. And in a culture that detests most of the Western concepts. An individualist like me who defines her own identity, and doesn't want the society to do it, and who does that according to her own personal behavior and attributes is bound to be ridiculed.

And in my case, the problem turns more severe since I am also an introvert. And you can only understand what battering we introverts receive at the hands of well-wishing and concerned relatives, if you yourself have suffered the same fate. If you are an introvert, taking birth in a joint family can be a curse. Thankfully, mine is a nuclear one. Yet the 365 festivals in a year hardly ever let me have my way for a good, long period. Some or the other 'important' festival would arrive-bringing with itself all my preaching relatives and the 'friendly' family friends and neighbors. 
I often picture a festival as a lovable monster that comes with its devillish laugh (muhuuhhaaaahhhhaaahhhaaaahhhhhaa) and enjoys poking its nose at my personal space, grinning all the time at my pitiable state yet bringing joy to all the people around me.

Much ado about nothing, did you say?

Well only a fellow introvert can empathise with what an introvert one feels when expected to be with people, of all shapes and sizes, all day round, to talk to them, entertain them, bear their stupid jokes and silly gossip or else be tagged as arrogant and loner. 

No denying that the atmosphere is of joviality and mirth.
But what if the same jolly atmosphere pinches you? What if you just want to be left alone with a book on the couch or a pen and a notepad in the balcony? What if you just want to watch a movie on your laptop, alone, as you want to study the dialogues and expectedly your well knowing relatives are bewildered as to why someone would like to watch a movie like 'Khuda Ke liye' or 'Bol' since movies are supposed to be stress busters? 

Hold on to your wish and again you will be tagged as a loner or too arrogant to mingle with those around.

Guess what? It is the insensitivity to our personality and interests that hurts more than the boisterous atmosphere.

Of course the society is changing. Yet nothing has changed.
By the way Happy Diwali ;)


  1. Society, Sudha is like a circus...with clowns all around...when you walk in with a magic wand..those clowns laugh at you and say you are the clown...:) just adding me two pennies...

  2. A second one just to thank you for the kind words left on me blog...loved ur blog...simple, straight forward and out there :) keep bloggin :)

  3. hey thank you so much for breezing past my blog and for these simple, straight forward n out there comments ;)

  4. i am sailing in the same boat...;)...short and handsome post...

  5. Hey there ,Sudha.
    First off you have a lovely blog. You have a clear voice as a writer so writing truly is your first love. How did I arrive here? I was looking for more bloggers from Orissa(should say Odisha to be politically correct) and your profile was there on the first page and that's how I got here :)

    I completely agree and empathize with you , being somewhat of a introvert myself.Society has never been kind to people who don't fit into its narrow scheme of things and always thrusts its myopic view points as a collective on people who don't follow the herd or dare to be different or question.

  6. Hi Sudha,

    Indeed, a lovely read about festivity time in India.

    I feel that every individual is different, some people view being alone as a way to rejuvenate themselves while some see it as a way to escape the noise. It depends on the individual.


    My Newest Blog Post | My Entry to Indiblogger Get Published

    1. Your story idea sounds interesting. Just now voted for it :)
      Keep coming back. Happy blogging :)

  7. I can empathize with you, being an introvert myself and called self centered a few times by some of my best friends - out of frustration, of course and I end up feeling bad at the end that I didn't go out with them, but not sure if I would've had a good time if I had. I would rather sit and talk with them for hours than go out to a movie.

    But, on the other hand, Western culture is not quite easy on the introvert either. There is a premium placed on networking and meeting people (which may or may not influence your career growth :) ) ; it could be challenging at the workplace if you are an introvert. And sometimes out of work too, when you are invited to social gatherings and you just don't want to go and rather sit and watch TV.

    I suggest reading "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking ", you might find it interesting.

    1. I know western culture is not easy on introverts. But at least individualism is not looked at as something abnormal :D Thanks for the recommendation. It's been on my to-read list since long. I think now it's gonna be my next purchase :)
      Keep coming back. Comments from people like you mean a lot. Cheers!


Hey there! Your comment might prove to be just the push needed for me to write more frequently and with a bit more thought and planning. Do take out a minute or two and tell me what you felt about this blog or this post of mine and any suggestions you think might prove to be useful. Your comment is highly awaited...