I spend all day, every day with about 300 strangers. We are voluntary captives together, in this self-imposed prison – this closed-campus school – this surreal summer camp! We all boarded that early train in Delhi together. We followed each other 5 hours later like a straggling herd to the ashram. We stood in line, got checked in, got our keys and towels and toilet paper, and now – we all live together. Eat every meal together, drink chai together, chop vegetables and clean the kitchens together, walk to the VISITORS ONLY/HALF DAY WEDNESDAY supplies counter together, hang laundry, share a payphone, wake to the 3 a.m. bell for meditation together. We know each other through the thin walls and constant group activities.
Makes for a strange social situation, this relentless fellowship. It’s not bad at all; there’s no metal cups being hit against the bars just yet, but it’s not socially normal either.
We DO have metal cups, though.
However. I didn’t come here to make friends, or chit-chat, or to be clever or funny or quick-witted or cute or show off or keep up or prove anything. I do enough of that at home. I don’t need or want to maintain a certain persona here. I’m more than happy to talk to anyone, but I’m not going out of my way to do so. It’s actually nice to just shut the hell up for a while. I realize how much of my energy is typically taken up by others: wondering how they are, if they are ok, if they are ok with me, what are they doing anyway? I wonder if they will call. I haven’t heard from them in like two whole hours. Where are they? I bet I made them mad, when I did that thing. Shit I hope I didn’t make them mad. I wonder if they are ok…
…and on and on.
None of that here. Home and its inhabitants are now too far away to worry about. My cellphone doesn’t work and there’s no internet access. I’ve gone cold turkey on the information era. I am solitary, despite all this togetherness… lonely but selfishly relaxing. I am happy to stand to the side and observe, watching the roles people have appointed themselves, watching alliances form and avoidances begin. It’s a new chapter every day, with character development and deepening plotlines. I look forward to seeing what happens.