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.