Do you ever look at a woman in the cafe or a little boy on the bus and wonder and marvel at the fact that their lives are a complicated web of places, people and thoughts just like yours? To us, they are random strangers and blurry characters in the background of our story. But the old man you saw on the street has an entire life, full of experiences! He may have had a beautiful childhood in his ancestral home on a hilltop where he played with his brothers and his friends. He may have worked hard, graduated at the top of his class and become a doctor. He may have worked in the army and fought in wars. The smile on his face when you saw him maybe the result of him thinking about the wonderful weekend he spent playing with his grandchildren.

Our lives have a whole lot of people and an array of scenes that keep our mind busy. As I enter class and see the teacher who sent me out of class a long time ago, I sigh and the entire scene plays out in my mind. I smile and wave at the friend with whom I had a meaningful conversation the previous day. I rewind and think about what each of us said. Even as I write down notes, I think of the quarrel two of my friends had and the drama surrounding it all. Every little incident has brought an emotion to mind, every second of living has impacted me. There is no person in the entire world who has had exactly the same experiences as I, or interacted with the same people as I have and in exactly the same way as I have. This means that no being has had the same thoughts and emotions as I have had, and in exactly the same intensity. There is an entire universe of words, contemplation, triumphs, ambitions and sorrows that have made me who I am. Had I been born a day later, magically, my life would have been entirely different!

I am merely one person. Every single person has created a world of their own and our worlds are connected by blood, friendship, love or even the likes on a post on the Internet. The magnitude, complexity and intricacies of this design are at the same time magnificent and frightening. Consider every person who has touched your life against the thousands of others whom you are totally oblivious to because your paths were never meant to cross, or because your existences were centuries apart in time. Who/what decides this?

That man whom you didn’t let pass in the traffic on your way to work? Was he in a hurry to drop his daughter to school? The old man whom you pushed past as you grabbed groceries? Had he perhaps lost his wife recently? Every person has a story. You may have an inkling about the life of someone very close to you, but you would never really understand them until you lived their life. This is a sonder of sorts, the realisation of the depth of each life around me….

‘Sonder’ is a word taken from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.


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