It’s been a year of having no time. I woke to shrill alarms, I lived on sheets of paper that lay tasks before me like death bells, I hurried from deadline to deadline, I shared a room. My solitude was of the fugitive kind. It was stolen during summer nights as I walked from building to building, captured from early mornings on my way to breakfast, and occasionally, on weekend nights when work had eased itself into check marks on to-do lists. I was too busy to miss my solitude. I like having things to do, people to see, places to be. Busy means I’m working, learning, creating memories and friends and accomplishments and other banalities of that variety. Busy means I’m not slumbering my way through my life, busy means I’m doing something right.
But then the summer began. At first I was thrown off by the endlessness of days. What could I possibly do with all this time? Time was a luxury I had forgotten the taste of, and it tasted a lot like boredom. I wasn’t used to being alone so often. I commuted alone, I sat at my desk at work alone, I spent huge chunks of the weekends alone too. I was lonely. When I was in Chicago, I missed home like someone had taken my bones and flung them across the globe. And now that I was here, I ached to go back to my routine, my friends, my busy life. Before my internship in Delhi even started, I was in Calcutta, at the same time as my family and friends, and yet I couldn’t let the comfortable prison of counting my hours go. What was time if I could not divide it into neat little squares of productivity and leisure?
But as the days of summer dwindled, my internship ended, and most of my friends went back to college, something changed. I still counted my hours, splitting them by my commitments and responsibilities, but there was an addition— my commitment to myself. I’d almost forgotten what decompressing felt like; how to pick myself apart, sort through my days, and piece it all together— alone and unhurriedly.
Every morning, my brothers leave for school, and my parents go to work. I awake early enough to enjoy a leisurely breakfast. I sip my tea like nectar from the heavens. Hours of solitude stretch before me, like someone hung up a purdah to shield the world from me. Time is suspended, shimmering in the sunlight, just still enough for me to scoop up greedily. I read, I watch TV, I write, I doodle, I nap, I listen to music, I do whatever it is I want. I have time to think, and to let my thoughts fester without urgency, without worry.I can enjoy my own company without wondering what I’m missing out on, because in sleepy, sweltering Calcutta the afternoon is for rest. It feels sacred— the couch under the bookshelves is a temple in which I pray to myself. In varying degrees of dishevelment or dressed to the nines, I sprawl my legs on the sofa just like morning crawls into afternoon, accompanied by the same calm silence that has become my favorite sound.
My favorite afternoons are the rainy ones. The sturdy tree knocks on the window that faces my nook, its leaves waving hello. I set my book down and stare out the wet glass pane in peace— no noise, no people, no impending ticking clocks. It’s just my city and me, insignificant in the face of clouds roaring their power. And yet, I feel like a part of something monumental and important. I feel more complete than I’ve felt in months. I feel at home.