By: Nikita Mandhani
As I was browsing through a few articles today, I read one about ‘solo dinners’. I’d rather call it: “solo eating” because now in this fast-paced modern independent world, we all do it so often. This reminds me of something that happened about ten years ago. I was 15 or 16 perhaps when an older friend and I talked about the possibility of sitting alone in a restaurant and eating. I told him that’s no big deal for me. I hadn’t done it before but just to prove my point I went out for breakfast at a restaurant usually crowded with people. The waiters looked at me and asked at least three times if someone was going to join me. I told them I was on my own. There were a few old men and women staring at me time and again and probably not feeling as comfortable as I was. It did seem awkward back then especially because in a small town from where I hail, eating alone isn’t a part of the standard culture.
Today, years later, I feel that the world and the environment have transformed so much or maybe I was enveloped in my little domain of ‘dependence’ and ‘rules’. I moved out from my hometown about three years back and went on to live in a bigger city where life was faster-paced and somewhere down the line, more independent. I’d go and eat alone. I’d sit in Starbucks for hours with a laptop, a diary and a pen and I’d love to do just that. My friends still never seemed to like it. They’d always wonder how unusual it is to sit on your own for hours, have coffee, eat something and gaze at the nothingness of moments. They’d tell me: “You’re insane.” And I’d laugh it off. I must admit that I like being called just that.
Later, when I quit my job and used a good part of my savings on travel, people were in awe. This is how a majority of the population in India reacts. However, what I have learnt from my experiences of moving out is that your existence finds its real essence when you explore all the possibilities of life. Back in Singapore, there were many instances when I traveled alone, spent a few hours at coffee shops or restaurants and ate whatever I fancied. People don’t actually stare at you too much there and it’s so perfectly normal to allow yourself the pleasure of eating, even if it means doing it alone.
When I went to Bali, I would eat my breakfast, lunch and dinner at a solo table most of the time. It wasn’t too intimidating. It just felt very liberating and I understood that sometimes the nothingness of moments and surroundings add to the meaning of your life. I went to a beautiful beach side restaurant in Seminyak (Bali). It’s called the Ku De Ta. It’s one of the most admired and beautiful places in the region and it’s always swarming with people from different corners of the world. Amidst these lovely people, I took a corner for myself and ordered a drink along with some tidbits.
The table next to me was occupied by a group of girls whose faces evidently revealed their diverse nationalities. There were couples who had come for their celebratory or special times, there were groups of men and women, boys and girls and then, there was I, alone, gazing at the wonderful waves of the sea and relishing in the delectable food. That was perhaps the first time I had gone for an appropriate dinner date with myself. Breakfasts, lunches and sunset munching are so very different from dark, solitary yet soothing dinners.
A few days thereafter, I went to the Clear Café in Ubud for lunch. It seemed so much more vigorous and compliant because there were many people sitting on the tables unaccompanied and reading or even writing. You know that’s how sometimes being with yourself makes so much sense. It allows you to be a part of a wider world, a better world and it brings you closer to your own self. I talk about packing your bags for a solo travel expedition time and again and one reason behind the whole ordeal is to make you realize that solo-eating can also be a lovely way of savoring the romantic dates you can plan with yourself. And who knows, you might find someone special right there, gazing at the nothingness and isolation of existence; just like you. Can’t that be the beginning of a brilliant friendship? What do you think?
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