I am guilty of living in the past. I can’t really explain why. It’s like an aching. A longing. A strong conviction that the past held magic amidst the mundane. The glittering golden glory days of yore – far superior than the modern day drudgery. Something about those bygone days captivate me. Something about musty albums with black and white photos pasted carefully on cardboard pages and separated by layers of tissue. Something romantic about the lifestyle. Glimpses of my ancestors hobnobbing with royalty. Girls married off at puberty. Love letters tied up with ribbon and stored in biscuit tins. Where travelling to England meant a long treacherous voyage by sea.
While strolling through the rooms of the Cochin Palace I felt this strong yearning for the past. I imagined the princesses bathing in the pond and then taking long walks through the gardens with deer flitting by. The ladies-in-waiting dressed their hair with jewels and wrapped them in “kasavu” saris. I could almost hear the strains of music and the tinkling of anklets. My heart fluttered at the thought of going back to that time in history. My friend shook me out of my reverie and narrated “not so romantic” aspects of a woman’s life in days of the Raj.
I have only my grandma to blame for painting such a glorious picture of her high society days. She threw parties galore and had Russian ex-pats wining and dining with her. Although her trip to England was marked by hardship and disease, it still held a certain magic for me. I wish I could go back in time just to see my grandpa and how tenderly he looked at my grandma, the love of his life. To maybe dance with him, the way he danced with all the little girls in the room, crouching down to their height and sashaying them around till they giggled in pure glee. Or to just hear his voice and the authority it held. To travel back to England and help my grandma bake bread or watch as she presided over an Indian committee.
Or if I could simply pack my bags and stow away on a ship to the past and be an invisible observer – not intruding, not changing the course of history, but simply taking it all in – turning all the musty, black and white photos to fragrant Technicolor movies if you will. The war, the rations, the biting cold of an English winter, the glamorous parties and the beautifully furnished bungalows. See my grandma as she grieved the loss of my grandpa and quietly but unobtrusively send her vibes of sympathy and courage so she could go on and meet me later. Only to tell tales of how things were and how we could never go back to that charmed life.
When I visit mountains where Native Americans once roamed, the very same yearning fills my heart. Of roaming free in the wilderness, one with nature, drinking from the stream, picking berries and running away from bears. Like Pocahontas but without any interference from the British. Maybe I’d like to go to even Ireland, when druids made potions and witches spoke spells. Or Japan when emperors ruled and Buddhism was taking root. Maybe I travel to these places in my dreams and maybe some day time travel won’t be just an idea in a book.
But until then I have resigned myself to live with that aching, that longing, knowing that it is gone, much like the people that lived in it, mingled in the dust, faint in the memories of those still alive, every fading ever more.