Last week, on my way to office, I heard Arijit Singh’s song “Nashe si chad gayi oye” (I am intoxicated.…) I had heard this song before in parties; somehow it didn’t stick. That morning, I don’t know what happened, but the carefree energy and passion of the song gripped me. It kept playing in my head through the day. I had to consciously restrain myself from humming the tune in office. Imagine a middle-aged professional, a self-declared conservative lady, humming “Nashe si chad gayi” in office!! Would have been quite a shock to my colleagues and team members to see this side of me 🙂
On way back home that evening, I played it on Youtube in my phone, and saw the music video. I was fascinated by the graceful and carefree dance steps, the passion, energy and dreams. Even as I enjoyed watching it, a tinge of sadness hit me. Melancholy for bygone years – those carefree times as young adult with endless dreams for future – suddenly engulfed me.
My mind traversed back to college days and early years as a professional in Calcutta. Endless gossip with friends deep into the night, biking at high speed, train journeys with friends, laughing over stupid things, fighting over even more stupid things, loud music and dancing (much to the chagrin of professors), late night movies, vicariously enjoying romance, going to college library not to study but ogle at few handsome guys (why not be honest about it now, 2.5 decades is a long time!).
When the car stopped in front of my building, the driver’s voice broke my reverie. I walked into my flat with mixed emotions; happy for the good old times, angry for limited opportunities in those years (I had my first tequila shot in 30s, danced on a proper dance floor somewhere around same time). I craved for the impossible – go back to the old times and live it again. The desire was so strong! Like a stubborn child who wants the moon for his toy, and want it now!! I spent rest of the evening pining for the past. Thankfully, the mood passed by next morning. I was back into reality of September 2017.
What’s behind this nostalgia? I am happy, I love what I am doing, have been blessed to have achieved most of my dreams, I have no regrets for past. But, there are moments (fortunately rare and few) when I wish the impossible, turn the clock and go back to childhood days, college days, first few years of career.
Why this yearning? Is it triggered by the irony that we stay young at heart, even as our bodies start showing signs of passing years? Is it a cruel joke played by God, keep the heart young and age the body? Am I the only one to feel like this? Or are there others like me, who are fast moving towards half a century mark in life; yet feel nostalgic for bygone days!
Interestingly, everything was not rosy in those days. I had some very difficult times in college. First few years in career were rather tough. I was working in an inappropriate role; an introvert working in a role that needed high extroversion – in key account management. I wouldn’t achieve my sales targets, I hated to repair those machines. In those days, I wondered why I didn’t like going to office many days? Now I know why.
Still I ached for those days! Isn’t it strange?
Triggered by curiosity about nostalgia, I read up the topic. It threw some interesting facts. Am sharing them for benefit of friends who like me experience nostalgia sometimes.
As per Alan Hirsch, “nostalgia is a yearning for an idealised past – a longing for a sanitised impression of the past, what in psychoanalysis is referred to as a screen memory – not a true recreation of the past, but rather a combination of many different memories, all integrated together, and in the process all negative emotions are filtered out.”
We remember fleeting feelings, the emotions of joy, happiness and thrill. Our memory erases the pain, hurt and sadness. We remember what our biased mind has chosen to recall. Thus, nostalgia is not about a specific memory at all, it’s rather an emotional state. On similar lines, Sigmund Freud had said, “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”
This answers as to why those bygone days, despite all the challenges, seem rosy and beautiful.
Another piece of research indicate that it’s fairly common for people to be nostalgic. (I had an inkling that I am not alone in this, but data and research always helps, isn’t it?). Nostalgia is like any other emotion. Its shared across ages, races and culture.
Is it okay to be nostalgic? Well, according to John Tierney of the The New York Times, living in the past or nostalgia was deemed a disorder in 17th century (thank God, we are living in 21st century). A Swiss physician attributed soldiers’ mental and physical ailments to their longing to return home.
Fortunately, later research has indicated that nostalgia helps in overcoming depression. It counteracts loneliness and anxiety. When people speak longingly about past, they also tend to become hopeful about future. As per Clay Routledge, nostalgia serves an existential function. The cherished experiences assure us that we are valued and have meaningful life.
I found all this quite reassuring! So, go ahead, it’s ok to feel nostalgic, at least once in a while