Nostalgia is something I like to indulge in every once in a while. And it is indulgent I think, to savour memories and thoughts, re-play incidents and moments in slow motion with omissions and additions. To not take take stock of the present and revel in a past re-imagined. Phrases like 'the good old days' and 'hamaare zamaane mein..' or even my latest favourite 'aaj kal ke bacche' trigger a chain of thought that follows a trail of old phtotgraphs, memorabilia and notes from a diary. The present pales in comparison to the glorious past.And somehow things never seem as great as they used to be.
A wise wise man once said "We live life in retrospect." When i first heard that statement I was astonished by the simplicity of its truth. Generation after generation has believed that there was never a better time to live (not exist) than when they were young. The air is always cleaner, the trees more abundant, the children more child-like and life infinitely simpler back then.
Grandparents are among the first people to introduce you to this curious world that belongs to their memory and is eventually given over to your imagination. The ancestral house with a dozen rooms to get lost in. The crazy cook whose adamanga you steal at your own risk. The large family you wished you could have. The music sessions your grandfather had with his daughters as he played the veena and they sang. The story about the namboodiri who cured the sick boy of a snake-bite but died himself. And the many many ammavans, chittammas, chechis and chettans you just can't keep up with.
Then....you have memories of your own. The railway track that you named 'trackey' and then returned to years later with a little cousin in tow. The swimming instructor whom you threatened with instant death at the hands of your father (who FYI is a doctor). The pond at the back of your grandmother's house where you poked the turtles while your cousins thrashed around trying to swim. The aunt who died of cancer but taught you how to squeeze colours out of a flower. The time when you lost one slipper in the slush after the rain and went home with one foot in a slipper and the other in a cast of mud.The train journeys when you would wait for a glimpse of the hill shaped like a thumb. The history projects at school that you put your heart and soul into. The teacher who made you not just like the subject, but love it. The moment when you knew you had made it to that one institute you had been obsessing about for 3 years..... and everything that followed.
It's the good stuff we romanticize. The rest is all reluctant remembrance. The things we leave behind don't actually get left behind. They get shelved into some compartment or the other and are labeled unanimously "For Future Reference." And then we reminisce about the good, bad and the ugly....incessantly and unabashedly. Why wouldn't the present then seem like a mere shadow of the past?