The Cambridge dictionary defines nostalgia as ‘a feeling of pleasure and also slight sadness when you think about things that happened in the past’. Each and every one of us experiences it – and when we do, we love to share it with the world through our social media profiles, with the hash-tag #Nostalgia in tow.
Nostalgia is associated with so many aspects of our lives – things that seemed ordinary once, but assume significance as time passes by. Why then do we not indulge in these memories more often? Why do we reminisce about a person, an event, a day, a memory and then go back to our daily lives just as easily? Is nostalgia that convenient?
You hear a song on the radio that takes you back several years. It reminds you of the time with a special someone that you have lost touch with. You are suddenly lost in thought as you sift through those memories, blissfully unaware of your surroundings as music and lyrics envelopes your senses. The song ends and you’re brought back to reality. You heave a sigh of relief, maybe wipe off a tear. But then do you add that song to your music library? Probably not.
The same evening, you go out for drinks with friends where the pub is playing the latest Bollywood trash that everyone is dancing to. It’s the same sequence of songs that you heard last weekend. And the weekend before that. The lyrics don’t make sense. The music is inspired, no, copied, from an old classic and murdered to make it compatible with the times. And these are the songs that we choose to listen to, day in day out.
You’re driving around in town and you slow down as you happen to pass by this small stall that sells local street food. Vada pav, misal pav, bhaji pav, bhel puri and the likes. You recognize the stall owner. It’s been 20 years but he is still there, serving his customers with a smile on his face, humming a tune as he goes about his business. You remember the time you spent at the stall with your friends, armed with pocket money, slurping on the gol gappa or sinking your teeth into a hot samosa. Your mouth starts watering. But do you get down from your car and indulge, just like you did ages ago? Probably not.
Now, you are used to eating at restaurants – air-conditioned, well-lit interiors with expensive cutlery and valet parking. You have a choice between still and sparkling water. The amuse-bouche keeps you company till your main course is ready. You now click a photo of your food before you eat, as if it is some holy ritual. The cuisine matters. It’s Italian this weekend. Chinese, the weekend before. Greek, the weekend before that one. But never, road-side street food.
It’s the summer holidays and you are taking your family out for a drive to the country-side. It’s time to visit your ancestral home – where you spent most of your childhood, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. As soon as you step out of the car, you feel the freshness in the air – a stark contrast from the polluted air back home. You take off your shoes and step onto the lush, green grass still wet from the dew the previous night. You step inside the house and sit in the rocking chair where once your grandfather once sat, with you on his lap. You shut your eyes as you feel a sense of peace and tranquility that you can never imagine feeling as you go about your hectic daily life back in the city. You feel like staying back. But do you? Probably not.
You now prefer the view from the 28th floor of a high-rise building that you now reside in. You love the high-speed Wi-Fi at home. Or the 4G LTE connection on your phone as you are on the move (Just kidding – mobile data speeds are still laughably low unless you are really lucky). Your children now go to one of the best schools in India. Your city has an international airport from where you can fly in and out, for business or pleasure. You have easy access to all the latest tech and fashion brands in the nearest mall. You can watch larger-than-life superhero movies on massive screens, even in 3D if you wish. You are now used to what you call the ‘spirit’ of the city.
So then, is nostalgia over-rated? Definitely not. It involves a very strong mix of emotions. So why do we not indulge more regularly in things that make us nostalgic? Well, maybe that’s what nostalgia is about. It’s not about doing something every day, for a long time. It’s all about that ‘whiff’ that makes it beautiful – just a teaser of your past experiences that pull you away from reality, dropping you into a world of memories that you thought had forgotten but really hadn’t.
What makes you nostalgic? Would you go back to that old house? That old road-side stall? Listen to that old song on loop? Will there be a day where we become nostalgic about the very things that are completely normal right now? Only time will tell.
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