Culture & Society

Short Story: Nostalgia's Milieu

Sometimes, an ache and despondency crawl beneath the skin. However, the author tries to flaunt their best crescent. For, that’s life, with all its sweet, tangy, bitter, not-so-good, and delicious flavours. Isn’t it? 

Down nostalgia alley

Tonight, the sky plays an ocean to the thousands of stars akin to tiny ships floating across a yawning ocean. The moon is the lighthouse showing them direction. And memories cascade, softly, tenderly, lovingly, through the crevices of my mind like my mother’s lullabies. These are the moments when I forget about the world and its nightmares- and dream a cosy dream, a utopian world where everyone loves one another and there is no room for hatred and hostility. I forget the belligerence of the world as I’m held up by the soft arms of the motherly night. It breaks into thousands of fireflies twinkling, stuttering, and straying around my being, making me feel safe and cosy. 

Dawdling at the nostalgia’s promenade, I take a deep breath, filling my lungs with the fresh air of the bygone. Not lamenting the loss of what once was as I usually do, but basking in the moment of Is-ness, spritzing a cologne of “ all things good”. And navigating the core of my being, like a tourist trying to recce a hotel. It’s intriguing how we play life like a Quidditch Snitch with an instinctive incessant cycle of navigating and connecting with ourselves and the people around us! 

Sometimes, an ache and despondency crawl beneath my skin. However, I try to flaunt my best crescent, but when I’m tired, I instinctively reach out for the sweetness of solitude - My unrestrained space! For, that’s life, with all its sweet, tangy, bitter, not-so-good, and delicious flavours. Isn’t it? 

Tonight, I’m marooned in a deluge of thoughts, as the sky turns from blue to grey and cerulean, the colour palate moving back and forth, light to dark, climbing and hanging, reminding me of the show of trapeze I watched in a circus when I was 7. 

The sky that gives sojourn to the flaccid clouds within it, gives company to my attic of thoughts where memories cock a snook, threatening to break down in titan waves of tears and laughter, all at once.

The elegantly poised night reminds me of the flurry and flutter of Durga Puja milieu that is just a breath away. There’s a sudden nip in the air, a prelude to nostalgia. And I chase down time to go back to my periwinkle days. The far-fetched empty fields where Kaash flowers swayed to the tickle of the wind. The days of waking up to the smell of Shiuli (parijaat) flowers. There is a familiar sight and smell that still lurks in my mind’s room to this day, like the shadows do! The smell of incense sticks - my grandma’s morning prayers, the colour of grandma’s saree no matter the occasion. White. Bleached. Starched - Like the full moon on a clear blue sky. Her grizzled hair that she would plait and coil at the crown of her head. 

I often thought that the wrinkles on her face looked like Cloude Monet’s Water Lily paintings - intricate, tranquil, classy! After all these years, she still smells the same in my mind’s olfactory organ. Her memories bring me the smell of an earthen stove mingled with her perspiration and her favourite body-mist wrapping me in the percale of “ days gone by” ! 

Pujo reminds me of the Dhaaki uncle waking us at 4.30 in the morning before the crack of dawn! 

Mahisasurmardini programme by Birendra Krishna Bhadra in grandfather’s Murphy radio. Also, grandpa’s narration of Mahisasurmardini's story and the sound of his laughter lightening up the veranda when he reached the part in the story where Maa Durga Kills the demon Mahisasura. We would listen to him in awe. The sound of his unalloyed laughter lives in my heart to this day! Grandfather laughed heartily, from the pit of his soul.

The Durga temple was not very far from our home. We could hear the gong of the temple and the Durgastruti all day through! 

How can I not mention the morning ritual of kaku, my uncle, invoking the Goddess Durga -  “jago tumi jago, jago Durga” and the smell of sharodotsav as we inhaled the rich inky redolent aroma of a Dhuno- sodden morning! All of these flash in front of my eyes, reels after reels like the bioscope we watched during our childhood in the village fares. They charged 2 rupees, I remember. Reels reminds me how I still run to the bookshelf, when I visit home, the corner where my mother keeps all the albums of my childhood. The faded photographs developed from negatives. The ones where I am little, merry-making with my loved ones and there are fewer houses in the background and more greenery. In one of the photos, I’m sitting on a haystack. As kids, we would love to play and jump on the haystacks kept in our backyard. 

My first school uniform. The red Tobu tricycle that I inherited from my didi. The green cloak of chaparral in our backyard. The tire swing on the Mango tree. The skittering frogs in the fronds during the rainy season. I sit on the floor surrounded by all these memories and more. I remember the time when happiness were all the little things - those were the days! How different yet how Beautiful! 

Sometimes, when I remember my carefree, spendthrift childhood days, I feel like going to a  place where doing nothing on some days is just fine. Some place where I can sit and look across the window for as long as I want to, with nothing to rush for, no deadlines, not being judged or asked questions about where do I work and how much do I earn or if at all I earn! A place where I do not have to live as per a prescribed checklist - A place where People do not ask me what the purpose of my life is! A place where I do not need to nudge myself to  
“fit in”. A place where I am more of Me - the Real, Raw, ME! 

Lost in my thoughts I realise how the  September night wraps itself around the girth of my room- like a toddler hugging her mother after being sapped of energy by playing the game of “ catch me if you can” . I see the God Forsaken trail of traffic from my room’s window, puking up purple smoke that devours the lung tissue of a street urchin scavenging the roadside dustbin for a bite of morsel, perhaps. 

Suddenly a car stops by and a young man disembarks from the car, hands a McDonald’s packet to the little boy and the boy, exuberant, baffled, scurried homeward (I thought so) - bringing a sudden smile to my lips. 


Out of the blue, the clouds cascaded down in laughter and rain, tip-tapping on my window pane ... and  my Gaana app plays - “ 

“Ai Giri Nandini Nanditha Medini Vishwa Vinodhini Nanda Nuthe
Girivara Vindhya Shirodhini Vassini Vishnu Vilassini Jishnu Nuthe
Bhagawathi Hey Shithi Kantha Kutumbini Bhuri Kutumbini Bhuri Krithe
Jaya Jaya Hey Mahishasura Mardhini Ramya Kapardhini Shaila Suthe”

And a torrent of nostalgia dances to the tunes of the pitter patter on my window ! 
I repeat Kris Kristofferson’s words- 
“I'd trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday”

(Mahua Sen is a multiple award-winning Poet/Author/Editor based out of Hyderabad. She works with Bull’s Eye Outsourcing as the Regional Director, South.)