nostalgia

Music in my neighbor’s backyard

I’ve been trying to write lately but my thoughts wander. It’s been about changes in life, embracing growing up, growing old and of noticing changes that makes you realize that it’s not so scary growing old after all. There will always be people who, when you meet, talk about the same reservations that you have about this trickery of growing old, and so all of a sudden, you’re not alone. There’s always nostalgia, fatigue and the sharply advancing generation around you that makes you realize that late twenties might not be the ‘sought after’ age to be–that’s only till twenty-three. I’ve been listening to this live gig from my room at this hour from our neighbor’s backyard. It’s an intimate gathering—from the noise of it, a bunch of friends, laughter, guitar and songs. It’s almost Spring—where your rooms are cold enough at night to keep the fans turned off, but windows opened, so I can listen to the chatter and every stroke of the pick on guitar. From the looks of it, the company is my age—they have played Wo Lamhay, Tum he tou ho, Wake me up when September ends, The Fray. I don’t know why but it makes me feel connected. Millennials, the depressed generation, the pioneers of social media, generation with the highest suicide rate—somehow we find the reason to connect. The boy who sings is a little rough with his voice but he plays the instrument alright. He plays Wo Lamhay while I carry out ablution, plays Tum he tou ho, while I pray and think about a thousand things unconsciously that the song reminds me of. I’ve started reading W.B Yeats today and was planning to finish a part of the book but the music from my window asks me to write—about unfinished tasks, unfulfilled promises, almost-happiness, driving at night without the music on, unresolved resolutions, lists on my phone and in my notebook and about people close to my heart; in books, in pictures and in real life.

Two of the boys sing Atif’s Ye Meri Kahani and I remember the first the time I heard the song. I still think about the little optimistic girl I used to be. It’s like a reel unraveling. I wonder how it would be moments before you’re going to die. Are there going to be flashbacks? Of good moments and the worse? Or is it going to be all blank? No memories retained, nothing lost?

It has started to rain. Boys have stopped playing. Winter is over. I do not await the summer.

The Homely Feeling

Hum bhool gae har baat magar tera piyar nahi bhoolay

Kia kia hua dil ke sath, magar tera piyar nahi bhoolay

We forgot everything but we did not forget your love/ whatever happened to the heart but did not forget your love

I stand in the light bluish marbled floor lounge, a seven year old, scowling at the cassette playing Lata on the tape. It’s a cold Sunday morning, the light entering through the long horizontal windows that run along the upper edge of the wall with the entrance door, throwing squares of clean sunlight in the living room which is the center of activity on most weekend days. The cassettes play Lata (or her sister, you can never tell who), Rafi and Mehdi Hasan alternating between the three every weekend—their songs audible in all rooms while my father polishes his shoes for the week and mother makes breakfast and then lunch. Often my father sings along with the singer just to tease us, or maybe not, but we get annoyed by the two singers now singing in chorus, one of the them slightly offbeat. All we want to do is, turn on the TV on a Sunday and watch it for the rest of the day. But we wait till the shoes are polished and other weekly house chores done; till the cassette (or one of its sides) has ended, and someone from the siblings stealthily switches it off and turns on the TV instead.

I stand in the marbled floor lounge, eight years old, nine years old, ten years old, listening to Baharo Phool Barsao, Jo Waada Kia Wo Nibhana Paray Ga, Choudhween Ka Chaand ho, until I can’t remember when the songs stopped playing on Sundays, when I started singing along with Rafi, when I finally understood meaning of lyrics or played one of those songs when I was alone and feeling low; but years later when I come across an old song somewhere from those cassettes, in the car, at a dhaaba or a fancy desi restaurant, I am transported back to our old house—bare feet on the cold marbled floor with indistinct noise of the kitchen’s exhaust fan whirring and my father’s clear strokes of brush on his shoes—I think about how home is sometimes a feeling, a nostalgia, an unconscious learning of being at ease with your past.

 

Nostalgia

Merriam Webster defines Nostalgia as ‘pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again.’

Dictionaries are supposed to be accurate in their meanings that they provide. However, it doesn’t do justice with the word ‘nostalgia’. I’m not good with words but I do feel more than an average person does and it doesn’t feel right that nostalgia is just a ‘noun’ given to some feeling we think is bitter and sweet. Nostalgia is a past that sticks with your present and haunts you with emptiness and loss of all good things that were once yours when you so much as come to brush something vaguely similar, that might or might not be yours at present. It is that tingling sensation of hopelessness and misery that comes with knowing that you cannot go back to what you’ve lived, that seeing other people go through it will make you smile but hate that you’re not in their place again. It’s the reluctance to play that song for the fear that it would trigger those memories of goofing around at sunset at the top of your lungs blanketed in 5 layers of clothes and still shivering but not letting that moment go. Nostalgia is the fear that when you play that song, you won’t be able to believe it was you—and how an eternity seems to have passed making it an unreal fragment of memory.

Why can’t we have a time-turner? No really. Not the Harry Potter one where you could make deviations so the future is safe, but just the one where you could go back and relive it once more, just like it happened in reality—where you could experience it just like it happened the first time, those heart palpitations, those real laughters in between exam preps at 3 am in the morning to release stress of failing the next day; late night winter walks amid security situations and curfew timings and singing 90s pop songs in horrendous voices which would lead to complains the next day. I don’t know if we could call it cruel that we were once those people in photographs which are now stored in long forgotten folders somewhere in the PC waiting to be opened only when one of the us passes away. Also isn’t it strange how photographs never do justice to the memory, either being too visually bright—when the memory’s only source of light is bonfire—or being too still, hiding away all behind-the-scenes and position-settings and everyone-yelling-at-the-top-of-their-lungs-to-be-heard for taking the picture perfect? The only good photographs are the blurred ones where the moment is caught in between being and having been done. And yet it misses the frame-worthy click. Shucks.

But nostalgia is not just the moments, it’s the smells, the sounds, the playlists and those lights that make us feel a certain way that no one can explain. It’s excruciating and not pleasant despite what they tell us in books and novels. A bowl of badly cooked noodles, a cup of black coffee on a hot evening, a randomly switched channel on TV which plays Coke Studio’sKinara, a group of friends procrastinating late at night for their group project—it’s like a remake of a movie, only we’re not the main character this time. It’s almost mocking, in-your-face, déjà vu, where we have no control.

I’ve met people who move on, no longer smile at old photographs, not even look at them anymore—it doesn’t work as a stimulus for them. Would I rather be like them? Maybe. It’s a good state to be, a past no longer there to haunt with beautiful memories. Would I choose to? I don’t think so.     

 

State of Colours

Point of insolvency. Studies. Music. Movies. Farewells. Rejections. Depression. And then it comes over all over again. No, don’t assume my life is only full of miseries. There are pranks, songs, discussions, arguments, ice creams and Biriyani. But again, it’s only one part of the picture. Other side is always dark, more like the rough surface of the glass which makes mirror a mirror. If it weren’t for the rough surface, you wouldn’t be able to look at yourself in the mirror.

But I was talking about the farewells. Ever wondered why these farewells happen? Are there ever any happy farewells? What would happen if we just left one day, not being able to bid farewell to anyone? People, who we love, people who love us.

I am not really sure what I am writing about. It’s an alien, unsung, obscure feeling. Feeling of dropped ice-cream on the shirt, of a missed class, a missed deadline, an unmarked quiz, a missed family. It’s like a bottomless guilty feeling when you can’t keep a record of your younger sibling’s exams, and crack your own family jokes that no one else can ever understand. It’s even more hurting that you can’t advice what your younger siblings should go for; the way you were career counselled. It’s only more remorseful. No more detailed talking because you are simply not there. It is simply like: you are nowhere. A nut would even be more satisfied with itself.

It’s a feeling when you want to cry, but tears never come out, you want to scream but your voice hurts to make a sound, you want to break all the clutter and emerge out as plain white. But all of this looks decent when you think about it or maybe write it down, I don’t know how it would look if I say it out loud. I may be better at debating, arguing and making my point about things where you need logic and make a sensible point but this may not even look sense.

Maybe I might explain myself better if I use only words rather than sentences. Sentences make things complicated. Words make it look simple and plain. Or maybe colours will make it more beautiful and honest, so I’ll just stick to colours.

Bright, shiny nail colours that I seldom put because they make me feel a lot more like a girl.

Black and white photocopied handouts whose smell makes me go crazy but no more attracts me to read them. I have conditioned myself to the surroundings I dwell.

That big white chart labelled “timetable” that I’ve pasted on my wall above my study table to remind me of the day I get free of a never ending semester.

Those blue and black ‘crosses’ I made on her feet and kept on drawing until she swore at me and told me that it was time to get admitted in the biggest mental asylum that coincidentally is located in my city.

The Dark brown stains of chocolate on shirt which were a result of late night ice-cream licking. The phenomenon explained me that it’s not only 10 year olds who lick chocolate ice-creams but 21 year old sane friend who just ‘wanted to look cute.’

Loud dark red jamming sessions of previous seasons of Coke Studio being played as late as 3 in the morning just to explain your friends how inspired you are with the Sufi music. Providing translations along comes as an additional point altogether.

Walks under the dark blue sky only so that the sky would know you were there. No more witnesses. I want to be sure I am alone.

Light blue of Twitter and dark blue of Facebook. I only think how better or worse my life would have been if they were not there. But perhaps they wonder the same.

A plain (but not colourless) text from your mom who never uses text as a medium to communicate, makes you want to leave everything, run back home and tell her the how you love her.

A dark brown coffee, hot but tasteless just made because I demanded it from a friend. No milk in it of course.

A bright coloured smile from a teacher that just made your day for no reason.

A state of black depression.

I have more colors; colours of mischief, of colors of friendship, of joint depression, of sleepless nights, of endless laughs, of exploding anger, of heated debates, of sarcastic humor, of bhangra and party, of karaoke and cheap gaanay and Qawali, and Sufism and in-process genres of melodies that we invented ourselves; of people we talked about and knew they would be talking about us. I know of colours that even nature hasn’t even named yet. Colours that we all know of, but have second thoughts about sharing them.

 

(27 May, 2012)