Remember Nostalgia?

Just thinking about nostalgia makes me nostalgic. That’s how big a sucker I am for this soppy stuff. Ever since my last two posts about grandmothers, I’ve been completely disabled by this hopeless emotion. I say hopeless because it’s a lose-lose proposition.
Think about happy times and it’s: ‘(Sigh) It’s just not the same anymore!’
Think about bad times and it’s: ‘(Sigh) If only that hadn’t happened!’

And yet nostalgia is wonderful.

One note of an obscure Kishore Kumar song takes me instantly to a day in Kodaikanal, where we had gone as a family during my school summer vacation. We were having breakfast and that song was playing in the background, when an English lady staying in the same hotel stopped by at our table and chatted with my dad. They shook hands. To a ten-year-old me that was blasphemy. I warned my six-year-old brother to be prepared to accept a new mom by the end of our stay there. It ruined our vacation. I still dislike that song and have never gone to Kodai after that, but I still love to think about it because it’s such a cute memory.

Similarly, the aroma of freshly brewed filter coffee always takes me to my tuition teacher’s home. After burdening me with enough sums that would take even the brightest boy 15 minutes to do, he would disappear into his kitchen for his evening snacks. He would return after 45 minutes (such faith!) with a tumbler full of steaming, aromatic coffee. As I continued to struggle with the sums, he would finish his coffee in five long, noisy sips, smacking his lips loudly at the end in appreciation of its taste. Perhaps, to let his wife in the kitchen know.
Even today, no matter how 5-star the ambiance, I can’t drink filter coffee without slurping or smacking my lips loudly at the end.

Another example. Whenever I see a Navy-blue & white colour combo, I get teleported to my school days in Kendriya Vidyalaya. Especially to the reopening day of a new academic year, when the heart was full of hopes and promises of starting afresh. That’s the only day the Navy-blue & white remained Navy-blue & white. Much like those hopes and promises.

Mostly, life seems full of such cues. But at times when life denies me such cues for months together, like a true nostalgia junkie, I look for my fix in old dusty albums.

Nostalgia is so well colour-coded in albums. Sepia toned snaps take me to my grandparents’ days. Black & white takes me to my early childhood. With colour come teens, long hair, facial hair and bell-bottoms. Starting with Indu 120mm, followed by Fuji 35mm. then Konica and later Kodak. With the arrival of digital prints, come wife and kids. Unfortunately, that’s around the time that Memory lane hits a dead-end. Paper albums end. And Album becomes a file on a CD.
Nostalgia is a temperamental emotion that has no patience for computers to boot and files to load.
This technological hitch is I think the reason why nostalgia is dying.
Someone put it nicely: Nostalgia is not what it used to be.
What will be the fate of nostalgia 20 years from now? Is this generation capable of being nostalgic? Coming to think of it, what of today is nostalgia-worthy?
PS-3? i-phone 4? Chetan Bhagat? Lady Gaga?
I’ll tell you why these will never be a part of tomorrow’s nostalgia.
There are 2 things that define nostalgia.
1. Attachments (To someone or something)
2. Experiences (Milestones in feelings or relationships)
The first needs to be long and strong, and the second needs to be few and precious.
On those counts today’s potential nostalgia-worthy lists fail. My guess is that today there are too many bigger-better experiences happening too quickly that there is hardly any time to dwell on them, get deeply impacted by them and get attached to them.
Look how we have already forgotten a brand called Nokia.

My head was full of these thoughts, when I sat down for dinner last night. I began to empty it on my kids. The second one slinked out on the pretext of finishing his pending homework. The first one sat through my sermon on nostalgia, bent over his plate, separating the green chillies from the green veggies with a finger that had overgrown nails. He had an expression throughout that would have given no one any clue of the gravity of my content.

‘Do you know that next week I’m going to meet all my school friends? It’s our memory of each other that made us search, reach out and get in touch with each other after 34 years. That’s the power of nostalgia! Now tell me, would you care to get in touch with your school friends after 20 years?’ I asked, demanding a response.
‘Guess not,’ he replied without looking up, still segregating the chillies and veggies with that overgrown finger nail.
‘All of them are already on Facebook.’

‘THOSE ARE NOT CHILLIES! THOSE ARE VEGGIES!’ I screamed, pushing all of it back into his To-Be-Eaten side.
He ate them. All of them.

You think last night’s dinner is what he will remember whenever he sees chillies from now on?


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