Natasha walks quickly down the street, eager to reach the comforts of her home after a long day at work. Who knew it would be so exhausting to live alone? She’s about to turn around the corner when she heard a familiar tune playing from a small tea stall across the street. She runs her hand through her short blue hair, trying to remember the name of the song. As she walks closer, she recognizes the song. It was one of her maa’s favorites, ‘Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar’ by Jagjit Sahab. A million memories flashed through her mind. She’s transported back to the back porch of her old home with her mom. She remembers her mother braiding her long black hair, sipping ‘masala chai’ while telling her stories of the time she snuck out of her house to watch old Hindi movies in Kalamandir. With a faint smile on her face, she turns and approaches the teal stall and asks, “Ek masala chai, bhaiya.”
This feeling of the fond or rueful longing of a past experience is nostalgia. It’s the feeling that overwhelms you when you see that book sitting on the top shelf after a long time or finding that childhood candy that they mysteriously stopped making for no apparent reason. It’s an emotional experience of missing what you once loved or hated in the past. But, have you ever felt the nostalgia that you can’t quite pin down? It’s that feeling when you look at the old photos of your parents or grandparents and you can’t help but feel a sharp pang of nostalgia for a time you’ve never seen. This feeling of blurry-edged sepia hazed memories that never really existed, of a time we’ve never really known, is called anemoia. How does one feel this complex emotion of longing for non-existent memories? Are these memories just another one of the tricks played by our brain, or do they really exist somewhere between the deep crevices of our complicated minds? What if we actually experienced these dusty memories? What if we lived before we existed?
We have come a long way with the help of technology and science. Although science has answered questions we never thought could be, there still remain many unexplained. Few such questions: what exactly is consciousness? Where were we before we were born? This is a murky, grey area, especially where science meets philosophy. Amidst all the chaos, the fact that we can neither agree nor deny the concept of a past life as a possible answer for the whereabouts of one’s consciousness is frustratingly elusive. What if this longing of non-existent memories were, in reality, fragments of our past lives resurfacing from the depths of our minds?
This would greatly validate the theory of reincarnation and past life. We would be obsessed with figuring out our “interesting” pasts and would try to understand the choices we have made in our past life and their consequences. Instead of discussing the Game of Thrones finale, we would be watching ‘Raaz Pichle Janam Ka‘ (The Mystery of Past-Life) Season 23.
With the theories of reincarnation and past life holding true, karma would make a lot more sense. The idea of vengeance and long lost lovers would not just be an overused plot of some fantasy novel. Some of the pop culture’s fervor for reincarnation—”Come As You Were” (in your past life) parties hosted by experienced past life regressionists would become much more famous than they are now. We would finally understand the mysteries behind some weird phobias.
Remember how, while playing Super Mario, when we got stuck at some difficult level and didn’t have an easy way out, we’d go ahead and touch a goomba or jump into the hole of oblivion because we knew that we would get another chance to start anew? Some people might use video game tactics in real life too, which would be a significant problem.
Though the idea of having a past-life, of never dying, of the people we once loved still living amongst us in some other form seems fascinating, the world is a much better place without it. Living is a constant process of dying. So why do we not just live in the moment instead of digging into the past and worrying about the unforeseen future? Yes, we would miss out on some awesome parties, but at least our parents won’t tell us the past life achievements of Sharma Ji’s son. Cheers to that!