Bazm-Tanhai — The Duality of Crowd and Solitude

Runjhun Noopur
6 min readApr 3, 2024

Celebrating Life’s Dualities The Sufi Way — One Alphabet At A Time

Author’s Note: This is the second part of my A to Z Sufi Dualities series, a spiritual sequel to Sufi Celebration of Life. This sequel is an attempt to continue my journey into the spiritual and mystical learnings that started with the previous series and had a life-altering impact on me.

Previous Article: Andaz-Ehsaas — The Duality Of Form and Feeling

Bazm — A Crowd or A Gathering. Tanhai — Solitude or Loneliness

The unique thing about Bazm-Tanhai duality is that despite being literal opposites, they seem to tag along with each other a lot.

Urdu poetry and literature are replete with references to Bazm-e-Tanhai which translates to assembly of loneliness, and Bazm me Tanhai which means loneliness amid a crowd.

Har taraf har jagah be-shumār aadmī

Phir bhī tanhāiyoñ kā shikār aadmī

-Nida Fazli

Every place, every corner is crowded with people

And yet every person is plagued by loneliness

Loneliness is endemic to our times. As our cities balloon and nations expand, the spaces for human beings seem to be shrinking. There is a Bazm around us — a crowd, a gathering, a party if you please. But abject loneliness hangs over our heads like a looming shadow.

It would be a cliche to say that our mad rush into materialistic ambition and the mirage of progress has ended up driving us into an abyss of civilizational loneliness.

But it would be a cliche for a reason.

We live in times where we have access to all material pleasures but have lost touch with each other. As we chase phantom ideals of what it means to be rich and successful and modern and anything else that may be aspirational at the moment, we are losing sight of things that make us human.

With the advent of AI, our humanity and our interconnectivity as human beings have been endangered as never before. Eliminating the need for human interactions may be a triumph for technology but it does not bode well for our future as social animals.

Sure AI has its uses. And sure we cannot and should not halt the pace of civilizational growth and development for speculative and abstract fears. But to ignore what it means for us may not be the best way ahead.

But then again, is it really AI?

AI won’t make us lonely any more than any other tech advancements of our time. It can only increase the chances of us being alone and accelerate our path into inevitable loneliness.

Japan has created a Ministry of Loneliness to ‘alleviate social isolation’. But then again, can a Ministry really solve a human condition older than time?

Loneliness isn’t new. It has been around for as long as humans have been capable of feeling any emotion. And for as long as we have known the idea of a crowd. Bazm and Tanhai are a duality for a reason. They exist because of each other.

We seek crowds because we are lonely. We feel lonely because we are amid a crowd. The dichotomy is maddening. More so now when the crowd is virtual and accessible from the lonely corners of our beds.

Loneliness has always been around. But maybe we have begun to feel it with a little more intensity. So maybe AI raises some concerns. But not in the way that we imagine.

Solitude isn’t a problem. Being alone isn’t a travesty. So many of us enjoy a healthy dose of solitude. So many of us seek it out for creative and meditative purposes. It is often a balm for the cacophony weary souls of our world.

Solitude is not the issue. It is loneliness.

It is the loneliness that shatters our soul. And it has nothing to do with the number of people that surround us.

Loneliness is the malaise of the spirit that no crowd can solve.

Bazm me Tanhai. Lonely amid a crowd

So what is the solution for our loneliness?

It is a question philosophers, poets, and minds far greater than our own have grappled with for, perhaps, centuries.

The bad news is that there isn’t an objective, fit-for-all answer.

The good news is we are free to find our own.

Khat likh ke kabhī aur kabhī ḳhat ko jalā kar

Tanhā.ī ko rañgīn banā kyuuñ nahīñ lete

-Zafar Gorakhpuri

Write a letter, or burn it sometimes

Why don’t you make your loneliness a little more colorful

One way to conquer loneliness is to take a leaf out of our Urdu poetry books and cultivate a healthy respect for the intertwined Bazm-Tanhai duality.

To know that every Bazm will also be a cradle for Tanhai. Every crowd will germinate loneliness. Every life-altering advancement in tech or AI would bring with it a new set of challenges to our fundamental humanity.

And to remember that we can’t give up.

To conquer loneliness, we must first accept it as an essential human condition. This acceptance forms the foundation of connections that transcend transactional human needs.

The second step is to redefine Bazm.

Because the Bazm that cures Tanhai may not always look like a party. Or even a crowd.

Sometimes it is a book, sometimes a poem, sometimes words floating in the ether of the internet that momentarily make us forget ourselves.

Sometimes Bazm is a friend, sometimes it is family, sometimes it’s a loved one who needs us, and sometimes a stranger we form a fleeting connection with.

Sometimes Bazm is a philosophy, sometimes a spiritual experience.

Sometimes it is faith, sometimes it is God.

And sometimes, it is our own soul making its profound presence felt in the simplest of forms.

What is important is to remember that loneliness may be pervasive, but it is not the end. There is always a way out if only we are willing to look.

Zindagī yuuñ huī basar tanhā

Qāfila saath aur safar tanhā


This life has been so lonely

A caravan accompanies me, and yet I travel alone

We owe it to ourselves to keep seeking our way out of our loneliness. To not give in to its forces. To never surrender. Because if we do, if we lose ourselves to the vagaries of modern loneliness, we lose the battle not just for ourselves but also for the next generations.

We owe it to the next generations to create a template for preserving our humanity as much as we owe them the next earth-shattering tech advancement.

Because AI is not a threat. Our willingness to surrender our humanity to it is.

Hum ne kuchh geet likhe hain jo sunaanaa hain tumhein
tum kabhi bazm sajaanaa to khabar kar denaa


I have written a few songs for you that I want you to hear

If you ever have a gathering, let me know

Now more than ever, we need to strive to preserve who we are and what it means to be a human being. In the blinding celebration of technological marvels, let’s also remember to light a candle for our humanity.

Let’s remember to write a letter, share a poem, tell a story, dance like nobody’s watching, sing like the world is our shower, tell a lame joke, make a cringe meme, click a few pictures, take a few calls, laugh at a long lost memory, and remind ourselves of the world beyond our phone screens.

AI will make us lonely only if we let it. And it helps to remember that we can choose not to.

Once we do, we can enjoy our Tanhai as much as we revel in the Bazm of our choice.

After all, solitude that is devoid of loneliness is the ultimate celebration of life.

Tum nahīñ ġham nahīñ sharāb nahīñ

Aisī tanhāī kā jawāb nahīñ


You are not here, nor is sorrow, nor alcohol

What a wondrous solitude this is



Runjhun Noopur

Author. Entrepreneur. Emotional Sustainability Coach. Founder, Almost Spiritual.