Of late, I have been seeing a strong wave of nostalgia sweep over people as they are making great efforts to remember fondly the places and people of their towns or cities that have now vanished. On social media, there are now many groups that are bringing forth memories of the days gone by through their posts on various shops, shopkeepers , cafes, cinema halls or old houses of their cities which cannot be seen any longer due to the scenario of fast development and change. Old photographs of these places are being frequently shared on these groups and notes exchanged. Groups like Old Bombay are extremely interesting as they are a great source of information about the social and cultural history of the city. As far as our own Dehradun is concerned, memories are abundant and people living in the valley for the past many decades can easily reveal how things have changed and how the old landmarks can be found no more. Regret and nostalgia are two emotions that can be felt through these posts and also the effort to ensure that these memories are gathered and passed on to the next generation who has not actually seen these places and things. Black and white or sepia tinted photographs of the Doon valley can be often seen on these groups on social media, leading to a feeling of longing and yearning for the good old days when the valley was a haven of greenery and serenity, a much sought-after place for retired people. It was called the town of “grey heads and green hedges”. Mostly, it was left alone to bask in the glory of its beauty. It was not aggressively targeted by visitors. Relatives of people staying here did visit them during summer to escape from the heat in the plains and enjoy the litchi season. But the valley’s floating population was never that much that it could not be handled. Now, it seems people from anywhere and everywhere head towards Doon as soon as they get a chance to leave their own cities and fulfill their aspiration of being in the hills or somewhere near them. This adds to our traffic woes and increases the pollution in the valley.
These groups that have preserving nostalgia as their objective are creating a space for everyone’s memories. Though there is a view that social media is taking us away from our emotions and personal interaction, such groups are uniting people in a special bond where they feel a joy when they keep watching new photos and posts every day. The collective memories etch the picture of towns as they once were, when we grew up in them, when we saw their days of glory, when all was not ruined by over population, new ideas of development and materialism. Shops were small but they met all our needs, cafes were few but more than enough for us, people were down to earth and simple, far from consumerism, the air was clean and fresh and we were free to walk on near –empty roads. Now, we have “progressed” a lot. Our little, sleepy town has grown into an overcrowded city that is the focus of attention of people from all over the country and abroad. It is a valley with limited space and resources. Yet it has been expanded beyond one’s imagination to accommodate all people who wish to be here, permanently or for some time. Thus, we are now in the midst of a physical and mental chaos that has replaced our forests, our greenery in the city, our simple and tranquil existence. And this chaos will only get worse. Nostalgia cannot cure it, memories cannot check it. Our orchards are gone, our rice fields are now a fading memory, our litchis have dwindled, our canals are all covered up, we have forgotten what we used to do and how people of the valley used to live. The rush is quite maddening and the changes drastic. So, in this scenario, such groups of nostalgic people give us some respite when we can go back in time through shared memories. Some of the old photos move one to tears. At the same time, these groups enhance one’s feeling of regret and loss, one’s longing for the beautiful times one has seen. The feeling of kinship among the citizens of a small town is recalled and gives one pain. It is no longer there! However, the nostalgia is welcome despite the pain it evokes at times.
Saturday, 06 July 2019 | Jaskiran Chopra | Dehradun
Author: Jaskiran Chopra
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