A whiff of perfume thousands of miles away in a remote land amidst dozens of enchanting pefumes and suddenly time winds back 2o years as if your nostrils had chosen storage and kept that hidden somewhere deep in nose or in mind, you can’t tell and despite decades have passed, nerves actuate and vivid silent pictures start effortlessly through the invisible projector back in your head.
One faded track that forces itself one fine day takes you back into the 8×10 tiny college room, full of posters which a teenager would put on his hostel room walls, cheap deodorant which is quarter on your t-shirt and three quarter on the wall and the floor. You see yourself with the comb in your hands gyrating on the tune that you are crooning never mind the different track on your desktop. A smile forces its way despite the gloomy day you had in the office when you recall you were getting ready to meet your college date.
A cold almost frozen winter when keeping hands on the bicycle is impossible as the semi-frozen blood in your fingers faces the incoming wind and the sword-shield like impact crushes your fingers with pain searing your innermost nerves, you come home to the warmth of a coal oven, lit up by your mother to cook your favorite stew with smoke-infused flatbreads. Every time you look at the stew, you crave the burning sensations on your tongue that morning. You search the crispy fragrance of that morning every time you feel cold in otherwise stale mornings.
Nostalgia is a difficult feeling to express in words. For decades, writers have either used ‘sweet pain’ or longing to describe the acute blankness and light headedness you feel when you are nostalgic. Suddenly your blood pressure drops and a you feel light on your feet. May be this is what drugs do to you. Lightness and weightlessness which alleviates the burden of realities. Nostalgia is also reminder of the most magical gift nature has bestowed upon people- selective amnesia. Nostalgia’s sweet basis lies in the fact we forget all difficult or less palatable section out of the memory but remember only beautiful parts. A young lover only remembers the whiff of roses when he first met his lover but does not remember anything about the smell of street or damp bench he sat on while waiting for her.
Selective amnesia is what makes past life in reel romantic and happy. We are designed to store happy memories as strong memories while the mind constantly tries to erase even the strongest memories which are painful. This is a rather understated and underrated gift of our life and conscious attention to hone this can lead to happiness and resilience.
Nostalgia is also strong manifestation of constant rejection of present as unbearable and painful. The mind, in such cases, relapses into chosen happy memories to keep present at distance or provide an escape route. Unchecked, it can lead to delusions of grandeur of past. Often celebrities in their twilight suffer from this more accute form of Nostalgia which is not just an escape from past but develops into alternative world unhinged from reality altogether.
Nostalgia should be honed as a tool to fight lows and disappointments just like sleep. It needs to be understood and used as a medicine to postpone the fight to the world and restore energy and happiness in present. J K Rowling best understood the power of Nostalgia when she gives it the magical name of Patronus Charm in the Harry Potter movie which is basically to summon happy memories to fight depression and lows of life. However, just like any medicine, one should not indulge in too much to get addicted to it.