Karl Lagerfield: “What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce”.
The other day I was chatting with a very good friend from my university i.e. Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, days. I called him ‘Comrade’ then and still do He spoke very nostalgically of our time there… “us, sitting on the ‘School of International Studies’ lawn and basking in the sun.. us, waiting for the chicken and sweet corn soup and momos at “Kichas”, and then us, chatting in the “Ganga dhaba” bus stop until 1am or 2am in the morning. Sigh! Those, days will never come back”. I told him “Someone is on a trip of nostalgia I wouldn’t want those days to come back.Memories should be just that…memories.Or their perfection will be marred”.
A little later my elder sister had their school reunion.The class of 1980.Many other classes/batches of our school, St Joseph’s Convent & Girls’ High School,in Cuttack,Orissa have had such reunions. I keep seeing the photographs in Facebook of my old school, the classroom,the games field,the assembly ground etc.My own class is also preparing for a reunion soon.Somehow I have mixed feelings about such a reunion.
Don’t get me wrong. I am terribly excited about meeting my friends and the people I have grown up with. Some of them I would meet after twenty years.
But I wouldn’t want to re-create my memories of my school, college, university etc. I want to remember these institutions that have played such a major part in my life and making me who I am today, just the way they were.Naturally, these places of my childhood and youth have changed. New buildings have been added, old ones refurbished. From the Facebook pictures, I don’t recognize my school any longer! Everything is undoubtedly very smart….but I miss the wooden staircases, the noisy lunch room, the tamarind laced chips and ‘ghugni’ made by Joseph( who has passed away) in his rickety old cabin, the verandah in front of Sister Joseph’s office where we were given detention, the horrible smelling Chemistry & Biology labs with their ancient jars and bottles.
The Ravenshaw College that I remember has also changed.The grand , red old building is still there but the magnificent lawns in front have been replaced by tennis courts.Everything and everybody in front of the psychology department have changed.No longer is there a group of young boys on their motorcyles and scooters parked haphazardly to prove their anti-Establishment credentials, languidly smoking and with lot of ‘tashan’ ( hipness) waiting for the girls to pass by and make smart alec comments!The guys seemed to be more mature now as well 🙂 And come in cars now that are neatly parked! The pre-graduate girls don an uniform these days! Jeez! I remember my friends and me wearing the latest , trendy fashions…and secretly being thrilled when it was noticed by the guys 🙂
Nothing had prepared me for the changes that has taken place in Jawaharlal Nehru University though. The whole university has become too antiseptic, too disciplined, too formal.I missed that fabulous free atmosphere and spirit which was the hallmark of JNU, when I was there.The shopping complex or ‘Kamal Complex’ has smart looking shops now.While Choudhary ji is still around and dishes out his famous ‘poorie-subzi’, he does so on shinning steel plates and also provides previously unheard of tissues/napkins. The ‘poorie’ is no longer that heavenly oily though or served on square cut pieces of newspaper 🙂 I would feel strange calling out to the ‘dhaba’ guys ‘Chotu, ek bun anda” any longer! They are all very nattily turned out with headphones attached to their mobiles and possibly like burgers. And Hallelujah, the ubiquitous Chinese joint ‘Kicha’s is actually clean with smart ,red plastic chairs! One really can’t doubt/question the authenticity of the meat/chicken which it sells now. When I was there, strange rumors used to float that ‘the chicken was actually not chicken’ 🙂 What about those glorious ‘Parthasarthy Rocks”? The place which was the haven for smooching or smoking pot? Still there…but looks civilized.I doubt whether couples have passionate rendezvous there any longer!
In my mind, therefore is what Murakami ( ‘Kafka on the Shore’) calls a ‘private library’. A little room where I store reference cards about these wonderful institutions of my past. I dust them off once in a while, look at them,feel their warmth and smile. But, only in my mind 🙂 I wouldn’t want to go back there.
That brings me back to people and memories associated with them.In a very beautiful song from the fabulous movie ‘Maachis’, the great Gulzar saheb says “Ek chhotaa saa lamhaa hai,Jo khatm nahin hotaa,Main laakh jalaataa huun
Yeh bhasm nahiin hotaa’ ( Translation:There is a small moment in time.I try to burn it desperately.But it doesn’t turn to ashes).We all have had/have/will have such moments, I guess. How does the accidental sufi deal with it ? Well, the power of her mind that she thanks God everyday for, has given her the ability to turn those people who are not worthy or impure moments to ashes. So Linda Goodman says “the typical Scorpio will emerge from any discovery still strong and pure. If she allows the journey to soil her inner spirit, Pluto will punish her with anguished remorse and guilt; yet she can still call on her great strength of character to rise again, like the phoenix, from the ashes of her experiments. In Kahlil Gibran’s writings, the Prophet replies, in answer to a question about Evil, “Of the Good in you I can speak, but not of the Evil. For what is Evil but Good-tortured by its own hunger and thirst? When Good is hungry, it seeks food, even in dark caves, and when it thirsts, it drinks even of dead waters.” Umm…guess that’s what we need to do …keep the worthy companions and their memories through an entire life time …and freeze the shallow, the common, the unworthy.
Kundera talks about ‘poetic memory’. In ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ he says “The brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful”. Time to build more poetic memories, guys….the past is already there, let it remain so.
Au revoir, guys with the immortal words of Kierkegaard “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards” :).
How can the accidental sufi leave you without a song ? Happy tripping 😀 Here:http://youtu.be/RnLyoNmOogQ