Retracing the past, step by step

Aneet Kanwal Randhawa

Nostalgia beckons like nothing else. As one traverses the paths once traversed, one is bound take a dive down memory lane. But the change that has come between fleeting moments is too perceptible. New shoots have sprouted in the accompanying flora. The grass is anew, and so are the feet that stroll upon it. The companions are new, too, as is the accompanying discourse.

The path exudes a charm that has no parallel. The moments, edifices, companions, their faces, their gait, the discourse and the breaths, all come alive. The prejudices seem to have withered away. The beauteous and loved ones that one had encountered on the path render the alley worthy of prostration. The breeze retains the serenity of erstwhile murmurings and the environs echo its eloquence.

Retreading a path is also a lesson in humility. Those who once occupied thrones and held sceptres become mere fragments of history. Conversely, those once biting the dust tend to consolidate themselves, and yet, only the sane amongst them remain conscious of the impending vulnerabilities. Humility is not one of the choices but a singular choice in the course of life. A path treaded consciously leaves little scope for regrets.

A conscious realisation reveals how time renders our prized possessions redundant. This is especially true in the context of technological innovations. A gramophone was a prized possession that gave musical succour to our preceding generation. A black-and-white television set was once a visual treat. Doordarshan was once the sole, cherished choice of entertainment. But in the light of the pace of present technological innovations, they have become redundant. And yet, these antiquities kindle a charming sense of nostalgia, and many of them are displayed prominently in our households. This is what probably explains the high price which antiques fetch. Indeed, nostalgia is priceless.

To each his own. A friend remembers fondly the exquisite mannerism of a bygone era. The adab and tehzeeb, so intrinsic to our culture, is depleting fast, like our Himalayan glaciers. That reminds us about changing weather patterns and deteriorating air quality. Surely, in the times of yore, the air was more breathable. What kindles nostalgia in an individual is very subjective.

Poet Sahir Ludhianvi had sagaciously remarked in his nazm, ‘Woh mere beech nahin aaye main unke beech kyun aaoon…’ At times, a whole new generation comes alive in the span of revisiting an alley. A generation that never decided upon the ways in which one had treaded this path, and yet, immune to change, one tends to find faults with the succeeding generation. As proselytised by Sahir, one should be susceptible to change and concede that one’s existence is just momentary. Expressing one’s ideas to a succeeding generation is sagacity, but imposing it is folly.

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