In loneliness, the lonely one eats himself; in a crowd, the many eat him. Now choose.
Reading a book is like embarking on a journey for me. Just as we encounter different things on a journey, I too encounter various themes when I read a book. In the book ‘Ekanta’ (Aloneness), consisting of nineteen stories, the author weaves together different themes through which I embarked on a meaningful journey.
The book explores the concept of aloneness. We often associate aloneness with loneliness but they are nothing alike. The author, Nirmal, skillfully blends both positive and negative aspects of this emotional state of being through various characters in the book. Nirmal offers us a nuanced portrayal of the complexities of aloneness and loneliness in our lives. His writing encourages readers to shed their masks and embrace their true selves, like the madman in Gibran’s Madman who becomes happy after losing his mask.
The story ‘Dear Professor, Obnoxious Journalist, and Senior Litterateur’ has presented three main characters: a professor who teaches at a university, a journalist who is full of ego and does not regard anyone, and the litterateur who only follow them and has been in their trap. The professor’s illicit relationship with his student portrays his loneliness and he is unable to find aloneness in his life because “The beloved character Professor Jhunjhunwala is the leader of the society, but he himself is trapped. Conscience is locked in Balwan stamped tobacco-box”.
The character Putali Baaje is depicted as someone who values and seeks out aloneness in his life, as seen in his joy of collecting butterflies in Nepal. However, as he reaches the age of 80 and no one comes to visit him, the writer suggests that Putali Baaje is experiencing loneliness. It’s possible that Putali Baaje is still maintaining his aloneness in the sense that he hasn’t been surrounded by a crowd. Putali Baaje’s love for collecting butterflies reflects his appreciation for being alone. Nirmal’s characterization of Putali Bajee suggests that through activities such as meditation and introspection, individuals can learn to appreciate and embrace their aloneness, and become more comfortable in their own company. Putali Bajee’s love for collecting butterflies is an example of how aloneness can be a source of joy and fulfillment.
‘The Ekanta’ deals with the justice system of our country. The story entitled ‘Shriman Lallanaprashad Srivastava’ connects us with the court. The story talks about the Panchayat (not Mahendra’s Panchayat) which is a group of people of five tendencies that connect different issues nationally and internationally. The story addresses how the issue of border disputes escalates from a personal matter to a national crisis, with nationalism, religion, and culture being used as weapons. Despite being portrayed as a symbol of ancient justice, Mr Lallan’s rulings reflect the contemporary issues of our time.
Currently, Nepal’s court system faces challenges from the district level to the Supreme Court, and it’s crucial for state agencies and conscious citizens to take responsibility for upholding the law. Mr. Lallan’s ability to make surprising and just decisions is featured on the Eternal Coordinating Society. From minor disputes in peculiar situations to global debates, his decision-making skills are truly remarkable.
Another story is ‘Saya Uthaune Mahasaya’ (Monsieur who raises a hundred) which shows the security sensitivity of the responsible police. We get to see how through exemplary behavior a common policeman can rise from a low rank to a high rank with integrity. Since there is a tendency for those in the police service in Nepal to be promoted and transferred at the mercy of the leaders, the main character could be an ideal policeman.
In the story ‘A Love Letter Vibrating in Memory’, the author portrays the youthful psychology of a student who, in a way, is a keeper of memories. This story is an eye-opener for lovers who find themselves drowning in fantasy. In ‘Tea Talk’, there is a worldly pleasure of unmistakable taste for those who enjoy the world of tea. The sip of tea doesn’t only provide us with worldly joy but also helps us unbundle our anxieties and worries.
The main character in the story ‘Uncle Nepal’, a British resident, carries the ambivalent situations of an immigrant. Uncle is more worried about Nepal than anything else. When he comes to Nepal, he starts to worry about his family back in Britain. In this sense, ‘Uncle Nepal’ is the vivid image of non-resident or expatriate Nepalis.
The last story of the collection, ‘Cloud Nine’, depicts the struggles of a Nepali girl who is forced to go abroad. It’s the journey of a girl who fights against society. The story deals with the compulsion of having to leave your home country and the difficulties of leaving your family behind, and how that can make you sad. It’s about loneliness due to the socio-political situations of Nepal.
Nietzsche in the phrase “In loneliness, the lonely one eats himself,” suggests that when someone is alone and isolated, they can become consumed by their own thoughts and emotions. They may dwell on negative feelings and experiences, and these can become overwhelming to the point where they feel like they are eating themselves.
The phrase “in a crowd, the many eat him,” suggests that when someone is part of a larger group, they might lose their individuality and become consumed by the group’s dynamics and expectations. Neither option is necessarily desirable, as both can lead to a loss of individuality and a sense of being consumed or overwhelmed. Nietzsche doesn’t give us the choice of loneliness, but Nirmal provides us the alternative—aloneness, the most important aspect of eastern philosophy. The book is a nuanced portrayal of aloneness and loneliness, which can help readers appreciate and embrace their aloneness and become more comfortable in their own company.