Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wish You Were Here

As the candles dance in the forced breeze coming from the frantically spinning fan, I sit on my narrow bed and wonder about the concept of nostalgia. At any given point in time, we may experience a number of different triggers that take our minds through a silent film of moments in our lives. The flames flickering might remind me of my Stony Brook dorm room, Arnob’s music in my ears might remind me of hazy winter mornings in Dhaka, the touch of the wind on my bare shoulders might remind me of someone hundreds of miles away… and yet, all these distant or disjointed memories come together at the same time, making a whole new memory. Not just a whole new memory, but a cacophony of sensations: different languages colliding and conglomerating, colors, smells, touches, emotions, all of them crashing one after the other upon the mind, vying for dominance. What does one do with all these decapitated memories? Do we let them build upon each other and create a veritable monster of nostalgia? Or do we brush them off, throwing them in a pile of Unwanteds and just keep looking for newer memories? Is it possible to simply have a memory and not feel nostalgia? Is nostalgia the thing that makes a good memory good?

I would have no problems with nostalgia if it didn’t have the feelings associated with it; if it didn’t have that which defines it. Why can one not listen to a song without feeling one’s insides melting vein by vein, tearing away all shreds of sensibility? Why can one not smell something without thinking of nothing but that certain someone’s fingers, entwining and caressing, tugging at the heart? Why do we fall prey to such emotions when memories are really nothing but neurons and nerve impulses? It would be pointless to wonder what our worlds would be like without memories; but what if we lived without nostalgia? Would that make us more efficient at planning our present and our future, since we would spend less time upon the past? Would it not make us happier in a way, since we wouldn’t be spending any time or emotions on feeling sad or lonely or depressed? Technically, perhaps that could be the case. But something tells me that life would lose all its hope, all its charm, all its indescribable bits of honeyed happiness that we hold so dearly to our hearts. That must be where nostalgia lies; that must be the purpose of nostalgia. To remind us, with not just a small stab at our hearts, that those fragments of memories that float to us on lonely, hot nights like tonight are actually proofs of life’s cruel beauty. They come to us to make us pause in our mindless days and nights and remember things that once made us love life, or gave us hope, or gave us the reasons that we needed to get through our days. The after-effects of nostalgia are a bit harder to deal with, but I suppose if we can sort through the collage of memories one by one, we might come to look at them pleasantly, and stow them away for another day when we might need that memory… Perhaps I can yet learn to pick and choose my nostalgia. Until then, it seems appropriate that I’ll keep echoing Pink Floyd: How I wish, how I wish you were here….