Saturday, April 29, 2006

This thing called 'nostalgia'

Nostalgia is not the same anymore. It used to have a jaded and sepia tinted look with scratchy audio to go with it. Not anymore. These days nostalgia wears a familiar face and can be easily recognised as a childhood friend or as songs and movies that defined our growing-up years, or as old fashion statements that once wowed us but now look decidedly dated and passé.

There was a time, not too long ago, when nostalgia seemed to be the sole monopoly of our parents and other grown-ups. Of course, they called it something else. They called it ‘the good old days’ and used this phrase to remind us of how fabulous life was during their salad days, and how things are just not the same anymore. Talking to them, it would seem as if our generation was primarily responsible for ruining this idyllic landscape that they and their elders had so lovingly created.

But fast-forward twenty-two years later, and it’s quite likely that we’d be talking the same lingo as our parents and other grown-ups. Our language, too, begins to, eventually, acquire a slightly greyer shade, and we end up talking the same lingo as our parents and other grown-ups from back then.

What a déjà vu moment.

The only difference being that it's us in the dock and not somebody else. We are the ones who are talking the boring language, and the younger lot are the ones looking at us the way we did at those who were older than us. Most of us fail to catch the irony in the situation because we are so caught up in the heat of the moment that we are left unaware of what we are actually doing. Nostalgia does that. Or at least, our love and passion for nostalgia makes us behave and act like that.

Nostalgia produces strange effects on people. And naturally so. It is, perhaps, the only means by which we can connect ourselves to a remote and inaccessible past and bring back pleasant memories of all that happened back then. As we grow older, our kinship with nostalgia gets that much stronger and our relationship with the present gets marred by disenchantment, cynicism and disappointment. We become acutely aware that things are just not the same anymore because the familiar will no longer make a return journey.

Some are able to adjust and adapt, but many cannot because of cherished memories. They end up living in two worlds, and exchanging few words with them makes it pretty clear where they actually reside, emotionally speaking, that is.

For the past three - four months, I've been, somewhat, occupied with nostalgia as well. Now I'm not sure if I'm behaving like some of the people I've described here but you never know. A number of factors and events have just collided in just the right proportion to produce this effect.

All of a sudden - and completely out of the blue - I got in touch with some of my old batchmates in school, and after exchanging notes, pictures, comments with friends I thought I had lost forever made 1984 seem like 'yesterday once more', to quote Karen Carpenter. And if this wasn't enough, I began receiving VH1 and Boomerang on the Showtime network. Both channels with their emphasis on classic music and classic cartoons conspired to drag me further into the past. They gave a cultural context to my nostalgic trip and, in a sense, provided appropriate background music to the things I began to remember from my childhood and teenage years.

It's amazing how nostalgia, inevitably, forces us to examine the present and look at it from all possible angles. Now I am not the type who cherishes romantic ideas about the 'good old days' because I know it wasn't all rosy back then, but a casual observation makes it clear that 'the more things change the more they remain the same'.

We might be slightly older now, but we still cannot escape peer pressure, the senseless hankering for applause and acceptance, the need for more toys, the desire for company, and the occasional need to be alone. Of course, we give different names to all these urges because, as adults, we have given up childish ways. Or so we like to remind ourselves but we know better, don't we?

But if there is one thing that has changed in the past 22 years, it is this... the world is technologically more sophisticated in its desire to inflict cruelty on the innocent. Compared to present-day terrorists, their counterparts from the 70s seem almost coy and innocent. There is an aggression bordering on madness, and even many governments seem to be borrowing the same style and tactics. A vicious cycle that often leads to an orgy of senseless and endless violence.

In such a scenario, nostalgia is comfortable because it provides an escape from the present. And such escapes are worth pursuing because they show us that human beings were capable of leading sensible lives at one time.

Talking to old friends just makes it a lot more fun and enjoyable as well as adding that much needed human touch into the equation.

3 comments:

Pragya said...

Completely resonates with me! Told you I've been meeting old schoolmates after 22 years as well, it feels so surreal. And it is so good to converse with people who shared exactly the same set of experiences, day in and day out, for 10-12 years. For instance, in my case - these guys were the only ones who even knew what I was talking about when I mentioned Chitrahaar and the six o'clock old Hindi movie on Doordarshan on Sundays and the ever famous Krishi Darshan. And of course all the old teachers and their quirks, their "gol fundas" etc. I was just thinking of writing a similar piece to yours on my blog!

Pragya

gautami tripathy said...

Couldn't agree more! It made me so nostalgic that I think I too will write something about it. See what you have let loose!

It was so good to meet two of my old school friends day before. The time just fell away, and we were back at being kids, talking about the quirks of our teachers anything, everything!

Cyberswami said...

there's something about school friends, isn't there? you can sit for hours and hours with virtually every sentence beginning with "Remember when...?"

Becomes harder and harder to do as you grow older too. Can't imagine quite the same sort of thing happening with college friends, and still less with colleagues.

Another advantage of this form of reminiscing is that, after many years, things finally fall into perspective in your head. Old enmities forgotten and that kind of thing... Fun.

You have a very interesting blog. I'll be back.