Vantage point

Monday, May 29, 2006

An Avalanche of Nostalgia

Normally I use my bike to get around Pune. This weekend I had to use auto rickshaws since the bike's horn refused to blare. Coming back from M G Road to my house near Vanaz, I was hit by a strong avalanche of nostalgia.

I don't know if any of you has had such an experience. Memories, one after another, in no particular chronological order, started refreshing themselves. They always had to do with the building, or the street corner that my rickshaw was passing by. And they tumbled down many times faster than the rickshaw was moving ahead.

A burst of nostalgia as I passed my old engineering college wasn't surprising, and was in fact expected. But even afterwards, they kept hurtling on.

Institution of Engineers... the place which hosted a book fair every other day. This is where I bought The Complete Sherlock Holmes, one of my most cherished books. This is also the place where I conducted a couple of quizzes for Rotaract. Modern Cafe was our favourite haunt during Engineering, but for some reason the memory that jostled ahead of others was the fact that on 26th January 2001, I was sitting at Modern cafe when the earthquake hit Gujarat. Jangli Maharaj Mandir.... that droll cartoon in some marathi magazine's diwali issue I read as a kid. Three men sitting in a PMT bus - a guy dressed like Tilak saying "Tilak Road", a guy dressed like Gandhi saying "M G Road", and a guy dressed like a sadhu from a forest saying "Jangli Maharaj Road".

Medinova... isn't this where Chinmay's dad went for consultation sometimes? Then the memory of a Ganpati Visarjan night spent in the Tilak Road clinic of Chinmay's dad. The "Best of Ganpati Visarjan Nights" suddenly rushed through my head in ten minutes, astonishingly compressing two decades worth of memories.

WIE Badminton Complex. That inter-college match in which Mitali was playing, and we had all gone to cheer her. Nice girl that she is, she would actually mean it when she earnestly said 'sorry' every time the shuttle cock hit the net and plopped into her opponents' court. At times she would say sorry just for a brilliant shot, and rubbing it in without meaning to.

Calcutta Lodge... the place where we tasted Bengali cuisine for the first time. And inside the lane after that, there used to be some coaching class. I didn't attend it, but many of my friends did. It was an old guy teaching engineering maths...somewhere near Congress Bhavan. What was his name....?

Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir. Of the hundreds of memories I had associated with that place, for some reason I remembered that day in 1997 when Roger Penrose held a lecture there. IUCAA was hosting him, and had organised a lecture at Bal Gandharva where they invited interested students to attend. They underestimated the response, and the hall was so packed that at least a couple of thousand students, including Ani and myself, could not even get an entry into the hall premisis.

Memories were ambushing me from every angle, engulfing me, almost threatening to spirit me away to the past. They were trying to make me pine for those days, yearn for a simpler and nicer time gone by. To say to myself "if only I could have those days back" and declare today as a loser and all the yesterdays and the days before as winners. To make the past seem a lot more significant than it actually is.

As the rickshaw crossed a memory-packed Karve Road, and descended the Paud Phata flyover, I was feeling overwhelmed by that blitzkrieg of memories, maybe even a bit choked up. I did the only thing that could calm me down and put the memories into perspective. I did the only thing that could let me savour the memories of yesterday without making my today and tomorrow seem unpalatable.

I put my arm around the person sitting next to me, the person whose presence ensured that my today was just as special, if not more. I squeezed her shoulder and drew her close to me, feeling contented that some day in the future, today would be very prominent in another avalanche of nostalgia.