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The enigma of collective love for solitude

Shihab Sarkar | Published: April 25, 2019 21:25:43 | Updated: April 25, 2019 21:36:40


Hand-made dolls are dotted across the village to replace the dwindling local population in Nagoro village, Miyoshi, Japan

Existence of incredibly desolate places is not rare even in today's world. In February 2019, the world population went past the 7.71 billion people mark, and this number continues to grow every day. In this overpopulated world, there are places outside the knowledge of most of the general people. Sparse population and its carefully nurtured wilderness at times stun the people living far from these places. The places include both villages and small towns. As for instance, one may cite the recent media report of Nagoro in western Japan. The village is so eerily under-populated that a few of its inhabitants have placed life-size mannequins on concrete benches beside its deserted roads. There are only fleeting glimpses of passersby or bike riders throughout the day. Although the villagers appear to love the place's desolation and forlornness, at times the loneliness stifles them. The mannequin-man ratio in this Japanese village comes to an absurd level. Though outside the spheres of our knowledge, there are lots of such self-exiled settlements nestled amid inaccessible mountains, in the middle of vast forests like the Amazon and in the seemingly endless deserts.

The average people in the industrialised countries are viewed as synonymous with a mental set-up which promotes bursts of activities and day-to-day hustle and bustle. But the lonely places are great exceptions. They remain mostly silent and invisible; but they do exist in every part of the world. These villages and small towns are scattered across the continents ranging from Australia, the Americas to the French Alpine region. Areas in some Balkan countries are proverbially so sparsely populated and closed in terms of social fraternity that even the recent ME refugees declined to settle there. These enclaves are also found in the mountainous central Asia. In a cursory view they are incredibly sequestered. The residents of these places bother little about modern amenities and the continued developments in science, technology and in the other fields. In Australia's southeastern state of Victoria, some of these areas give the look of ghost towns. They remained out of public view for so many centuries that many Australians are fully ignorant of them. Even their names sound strange to many people. Names of towns like Lue and Bundanoon are alien to even people thoroughly acquainted with the landscape of the country. Many might visualise the places as being dominated by the Australian aboriginals. Amazingly, the inhabitants of these villages and towns are mostly white. There is no authentic history of why and when people chose these far-off swathes for permanent settlement. But there is little doubt that they have for ages been fully content with their antiquated but idyllic way of life in these places.

In a few such villages and sleepy towns, outsiders are initially viewed with suspicion. In fact, their residents do not welcome outside influences that might infiltrate their carefully guarded privacy and culture. Many such villagers do not even read newspapers. They have little interest about the outside world; they do not watch television and have no online connections. Apart from Australia, these pockets of cocooned and veritably self-exiled people dot the USA and even many European countries. At a casual glance, they might appear to be communities severing ties with the mainstream society for being uncomfortable to become a part of it; or they are made to pass their lives in an isolated place for mysterious or other exclusive reasons.  But no proofs of any cryptic prejudices or creeds associated with them have yet to back these assumptions. Then should we finally take recourse to the existentialist observation --- man is essentially a lone being. In the case of isolated communities, in accordance with the above premise, the loneliness of the individuals just spreads to collective selves. Segments of a society preferring privacy have been evolving since ancient times. They came to be known under different names in different civilisations. The truth is people living under these distinctive identities relish solitude, which finally takes the form of an unbreakable bond created spontaneously among themselves.

Self-distanced people have long been a part of society. Many of them gather under different schools of belief and philosophy. Their number has marked a sharp rise with the advent of modern life. Many might feel tempted to term them as being part of certain belief-related sects, like that related to cabalism. The stiflingly mechanised life has its many forms of fallout. A certain group slowly finding itself dissociated from the social mainstream has, thus, emerged as a new phenomenon. In many respects, these groups are different from those found as close-knit and self-sufficient communities living far from the busy areas. There are, however, some unique aspects to the episode.  In the 21st century, groups of loners also move everywhere and live amid people. They do not need to go far away from their own neighbourhoods. One can also enjoy solitude in his or her unique way among crowds. Or the other way round, loneliness can erode them while in the vibrant company of others. This, however, is a different subject altogether.

Let's get back to quaint villages and towns and their inhabitants in Australia, America and Europe. By profession farmers or petty traders, these isolated communities lead a normal life with no special preference for things advocating hermitage or esotericism. It has long perplexed ethnologists and racial historians as to why these isolated pockets of people around the world have chosen this unconventional life-style. So far there have been no convincing conclusions. It really appears as an enigma to see horse-drawn carriages plying the roads of some of these small towns, with a handful of pedestrians languidly walking along the tree-shaded walkways. The detached and self-content communities have never been seen showing the least curiosity about the developments in outer space explorations. In fact, they are far from the continuously evolving developments around the world. Being farmers, they grow crops for their own use only, and sell the surplus at remote markets. With no higher-grade schools in the vicinity, children of these villages complete their junior-level courses at schools attached to local churches. 

 Except those at the restaurants and tiny pubs, people in these villages put out their residential lights after dinner. Baton-wielding guards from the local Sheriff's office come out on patrol. Theft, burglaries or violence are unheard of. They have their own festivals. Those mainly include Christmas and the New Year. In one sense, these people have created their own patches of arcadia on this strife-torn and violence-ridden earth. In a way, it is them who appear to be holding the ever-elusive key to happiness. They have proven, albeit disputably, that 'ignorance is bliss'. Every man has a latent wish: the quest for happiness in solitude. But earthly complications spoil it. Upon being far from the filth and grime of reality, the so-called self-exiled communities apparently have the last laugh.

shihabskr@ymail.com

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