Nostalgia

Nostalgia – from the Greek “nostos,” meaning “a return” and “algos,” meaning, “pain.”

The sun is shining. The blue sky is radiant, with puffs of cotton-wool-like clouds, looking as though the slightest wind may cause them to disintegrate. I can hear the birds singing in the nearby woods. As I stand on the road, in front of the farm gate, a sense of happiness, mixed with nostalgic memories, overwhelms me. I stand for a few minutes, staring at the farm gate, seeing nothing but memories. Then I walk up to the gate and shout for the watchman.

The watchman, an ancient fellow, who came with the farm when it was acquired by my uncle twenty years ago, had been there for more than sixty years. He was nearing eighty, and was not much use as a watchman in the strict sense of the word, but he had two able lads to help him, and he managed quite well.

He comes up to the gate and squints at me. Then, recognising me, his bearded face breaks into a welcoming smile. He opens the gate, shouting for the lads and enquiring after my health. The young men, one about twenty and the other slightly older, relieve me of my suitcase and bedroll, and accompany me to the farmhouse. The old man walks by me, talking about the affairs of the farm.

At the farmhouse, the young men leave both of us alone and go away. I sit on the stone steps and let nostalgia take over. I try to suppress the painful memories, but they come on, like waves at the seashore. I can see both of us, holding hands, walking barefoot through the cool grass, sitting by the creek, saying things that meant nothing, but having a great meaning for us, tossing pebbles into the creek. And then, the painful ones, going to her house one day and finding it locked, enquiries about her to no avail, waiting for a letter that never came, waiting for her to return, something that never happened.

Suddenly, my reverie is broken. The old man is talking but I cannot get his meaning. His words flow through me making no impact on my understanding. I ask him whether the old shed by the creek is still there. He tells me that it has not been used for more than a year. I ask him to prepare lunch and I go out saying that I will be back to eat it.

I walk slowly, letting the sun soak into me, warming me. The feel of the cool grass against my bare feet comes back from old times. On impulse, I sit down and remove my shoes. I carry them in my hand, walking barefoot on the grass.

I reach the shed, a dilapidated old structure, with weeds all around it, a part of the roof fallen in and the door hanging by a single hinge. I enter the old shed, leaving prints of my bare feet on the dusty floor. On an impulse, I look for a particular boarded-up window. There it is, behind a dusty table with a broken leg, amidst dust and cobwebs. I clear the cobwebs away and blow the dust off. It makes me sneeze. I push the table aside and approach the window. I clear the dust away with my handkerchief. There, carved on the boarded-up window, are our names, written in an intertwined manner. For a moment, I go back in time. She is there with me, and wants to do something that would last for a long time. Together we carve our names on that boarded-up window. And then, suddenly, she is gone, and I am left alone yearning for something that will never come true.

My heart is broken, but my spirit is not. I shall go on living but my love is exhausted. I shall live, not love. I shall be one among the millions of machines who pass for men. The monotony of daily routine shall try to erase the memories from me, but I do not think that it is possible. I shall live, but not forget.

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