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Nostalgia is a difficult emotion…

We are always asked to move ahead in life and never to look back at things past or passing. A very positive attitude. But sometimes, nostalgia also marks your progress through life and times. Nostalgic travel through one’s memory lanes is a kind of progress report I would say. How do you feel when after many years you stumble across an old email from a friend whom you have lost somewhere in the crowded moments of passing time? How does it feel when you find your school English/Hindi/Maths/Science notebook which you read, to count your own mistakes in thousands? πŸ™‚ How does it feel when you find a book where your grandfather scribbled some note in an almost illegible shaking handwriting? How does it feel when you get to hear that your earliest crush is married to a charming young person and is now happily settled? How does it feel when you visit the house/school where you lived as a child but had to leave it for some reasons?

All these are diverse emotions with different contexts, however they can also be clubbed under the broad name “nostalgia”. But why this choice of a topic which is so personal in content and theme for a blog? One answer to it is, self-gratification. Personally, I would want to see such things in print which reflect one’s feelings with a certain degree of honesty as well. I mean there are many novels which do, many short stories which do reflect individual emotions, but somehow with every new read I am increasingly starting to feel that these days it is more of a sociological and activist kind of pursuit which stories are engaged in. If I am a female, I have to come out of the cocooned society which keeps me under suppression, come to the city, undergo many different ordeals, face sexual harassment, get involved with the “wrong-men” and so on. If I am a male, I have to overcome financial problems, get involved in riots, caste (applies to both genders) and language barriers, go abroad, never return may be, or if return live the rest of my life as an alien, and so on. In this entire gamut of changing necessities, I wonder where does the individual stand with his/her little worries, emotions, wishes, etc. This article is a tribute to the individual self and the self in others.

Coming back to nostalgia, it helps me a lot to watch my movement through life and time. For instance, this evening we had a function where Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia was performing live — enthralling performance as usual. Listening to Panditji’s flute seems like watching him play with notes in reed. But the performance also took me back to 2005 when I had first got the opportunity to listen to him in the same place around the same time. If I recollect properly, the emotion that I had then is different from what I had today. In 2005, it was the very sensation of seeing “Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia” — a dream come true which I would have never got in a smaller University campus, that overpowered my sense of appreciation for whatever he was playing. I shared this with some batch mates who were watching the same performance along with me, and my enthu was broken with the statement “we have seen him perform even better”. I had never seen him. Nor, did I ever imagine in my dreams that I would see such a legendary performer in my life. So, I was basking in the glory of seeing him perform live on stage. But, today after three years it is as a distant witness and as an admirer of classical music that I witness his performance. That idol worshiping, the raw passion of seeing a legend “live” has vanished into the background. I have high admiration and respect for the performance, but the performer is somehow a shadow.

Conversely, there are some moments from University days which come vividly to mind and leave me nostalgic for the days that I have left behind. Some days ago, I was watching with a lot of enthu the matki-phod ritual of the Janmasthami celebrations in the campus. Generally, in my hostel the M.Tech’s and M.Phils or M.Sc’s are high volt involved in these joyous occasions. PhDs are in general thought of by both B.Techs and M.Techs as silent people, with hardly anything but their thesis left in their lives — quiet and bored of everything including themselves. Well, on this occasion I was simultaneously observing many PhD students (some of them senior in age) silently but joyously witnessing the celebrations. I suddenly felt an unnamed bond, an empathy with all these silent creatures. In the University, when I was myself in Post graduation and M.Phil, I would be jumping from table to table, mimicking teachers, dancing during breaks in the crowded class, over-decked up for any Annual Function or Welcome, anchoring-dancing-singing-fighting all simultaneously.

In short, life was Filmy.

We had a place which we called khatti , where all the single(both sexes please), political, FOSLA (frustrated lovers’ association) and OSLA (one sided lovers’ association) souls gathered from 5-6pm (the girls’s hostel closed its doors at 6.00pm) to discuss their own, the University’s and the nation’s fate. My favorite sense of liberal, cooed πŸ˜‰ , open-hearted, left-right wing education was to perch on one of the bikes (Pulsar or Hoodibaba only) with a hot cup of tea from the OMFED parlor and imagine that I was Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf reincarnated to create ripples in the world of lesser-mortals. The place became over-animated when we had departmental Annual Functions.

It would be war time then and each department would fight tooth and nail with the other pre-,post- and during function. Performing in the University auditorium was itself a joy of a life time. Strange things happened, strange occurrence back stage and during the rehearsals. I remember on the final day of the rehearsals for the Annual Function, I got suddenly possessed ( πŸ˜‰ ) with the soul of either Radha or Meera (or may be both πŸ˜€ ) while practicing a dance number called “Ek Radha, Ek Meera, Dono ne Shyam ko Chaha”. Can you imagine in front of all the teachers, juniors and batchmates, I fainted on stage while dancing πŸ˜› !!! Till day it makes me blush! With another song “Piya Toshe Naina Lage Re” , I knocked the mike box, the tablist and the singer with one single movement 😦 ! When, I realized the wrongs that I had done, I found the tablist and the singer hiding for their lives under the table 😦 …. From modern Ramayan to the inter-departmental Mahabharats, we were omnipresent and omniscent.

I tried to recreate the magic of those bygone years in a performance in IIT recently. But sadly, couldn’t! Now, it has become a lone pursuit attracting more criticism than fun. People who consider PhDs here as dumb or silent, actually do not realize that these very PhDs might have had the blast of many life times before they came here. Respect for the tag called “PhD” is seriously warranted not only in the institute but also in my own country. Somehow, certain people have a notion that if you are in a job (especially software in India) and are earning a lot of money — you qualify for a better life/wife πŸ˜‰ or are IIT B.Techs/Gate scorers , you are the “licensed enjoyment buyers”. PhDs are incidental/accidental in this scheme of happenings for some people. As researchers we also have a shortcoming, that with passing time and not-so-pleasant experiences in life, we become self-conscious and sensitive. Well, next time when you meet a Research Scholar think that these are the people who are battling for a research degree that they sometimes hold more precious than their own lives. Five most precious years of their lives are spent in achieving this one goal.

But the past has a sepia charm and nostalgia colours them with its own hues…. πŸ™‚