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Yesterdays pretend to be sweet. One of the most popular poets of Kerala, ONV Kurup, composed an unforgettable song about the poet persona’s longing to return to the days of his childhood and wander once again in the courtyard where his memories roam, shake the fruit trees, draw water from the well and taste its pristine sweetness…

The past is supposed to be pristine and hence sweet. I have a huge collection of old Malayalam film songs in the pen drive that plays while I drive. Many people who have travelled with me have wondered whether I’m in love with the past. I am not. My past had nothing to make me feel nostalgic about it, let alone romantic. My childhood was a pain and youth was worse. There is nothing sweet or pristine about any of it. Absolutely nothing. My childhood reminds me of the canes wielded by my parents and teachers with Gradgrindian cold brutality. Those canes were replaced by repressive social games played by certain missionaries in my youth.

So why do the Malayalam film songs of 1970s enchant me? They have elegant lyrics, stirring melody, and soothing caresses, much unlike today’s songs which are all sound and fury. They transport me to a world which I would have loved to inhabit, a world that never belonged to me, a world that was snatched from me by many agents who all pretended to be my well-wishers.

Am I an escapist then? I am not. I don’t live in any fantasy world. I don’t lament about my losses. Nor do I run away from my present duties and inevitable pains. I only let the songs soothe my soul. Yesterday is not what is sweet for me but yesterday’s songs.

Even if yesterday was better than today, I wouldn’t have romanticised it as some of our politicians are doing. I don’t believe that Rama Rajya can be recreated now. Humanity has travelled far, too far, from Rama’s quiver, Lakshmana’s fealty, Hanuman’s obsequiousness, and Sita’s fire tests. There is no going back. We need to go forward. There is a whole cosmos with a hundred billion galaxies for us to explore. Why go back by a few thousand years?

I don’t think there is anything great about the old days, however good they may sound to be in our legends and myths. Life expectancy of the average Indian when the country became independent was merely 31 years. Earlier it would have been much worse. A lot of children died at birth or in the first few months. There was misery all around. Who wants to go back to those days?

We need to stop glorifying the past. We need to look at ways and means for creating a happy present here and now. We need to look ahead too.

PS. I am participating in the #BlogchatterA2Z

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  1. I too have many old Malayalam songs which I love listening to. However, I agree that we have all moved on and need to keep moving. After all, change is the only constant. Your posts have a piquancy about them that make reading them enjoyable, yet thought-provoking!

  2. Songs from 70s and 80s in my mother tongue are my favourite too. They mostly were influenced by 'abhanga' by great Saints of Maharashtra.
    As for Rama rajya... i suppose it's a utopian concept where everything was ideal. Even the common man was ideal. It is more of a guiding principle for building a society that brings in peace prosperity and equality.

    1. 70s and 80s in India were soul-searching decades. That's why we had good music and art in those years.
      Utopia is never practical. That's only meant for delusional consolations. Politicians know it too well. They are cheating people with promises of Rama Rajya. Modi is a big fraud. I am worried about what he's going to do next when he comes to know that India will throw him out in the next election.

  3. We listen to music sometimes to feel something which is not real and agree on present music being all blare and sound..rightnow am sitting on a salon and requested them to switch off the horrendous music.....!! Cane treatment in childhood sounds quite severe :( anyhow ya i too wonder about our moving back in time and sticking to old principles when there is so much to be done to progress

    1. Have you ever thought of why present music and other arts are about blare and sound? We have failed to teach the generation that life is more than blare and sound.

  4. Hari OM
    In every age and culture there is a representation of the ideal of that society, a guide by which we might steer our course. To make it a tableau - to attempt to force all around one into that tableau - is to fantisise and even fetishise that ideal, thus immediately loosing any positive quality that could arise from it.

    To compound things, the excessive nostalgia that pervades so many political leaderships the world over now, the "make it great again" mentality, is actually causing a disintegration of the very fabric of each society.

    No, I'm with you all the way on this one, TM; look to the future but keep the feet planted very much in the present and knock out the ghosts of the past! YAM xx

    1. First of all, thank you Yamini for understanding me so well.

      I love ideals. What will life be without them? There must be paradises and Rama Rajyas and Jannats in people's imaginations. But making them tableau - ah, you put it so well - is the problem.

  5. this is so so true Sir, we cannot ,and should not look to the past.

    1. The past shapes us, Harshita. But we will shape the future. We should.

  6. Pasts can be remembered to improve ourselves. It is not about the Ram or Ravana Rajya - But about the way to realize how we improved ourselves over a period and more importantly, where we failed. As you said, no meaning in mourning or lamenting. BTW, playlists of 80's Malayalam songs cheer me during my walking and jogging :-). Thank you sir, for another thought provoking post.

    1. I mention Rama Rajya because of what's happening in the country in its name. My last post Zeigeist will make that clearer, perhaps.

  7. I was wondering where this was going when you started with the music . And then , how beautifully you connected the dots . Absolutely, the present times is all about glorifying the past and one sided "Man ki Baats"

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  9. I couldn't agree more. I don't know why we want to recreate the past? I never understand when people reminisce about old days and say 'If only we could go back to those days - school/college whatever' and I had a good childhood and those good old days too, but I don't want to go back. I like my present too and I would like to look ahead to the future as well! Half our problems are because people don't want to move ahead!
    Deepa from FictionPies


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