Will-o’-the-Wisp

By- Nayantara Govindrajan


Six pm in a sweaty railway station and through the crush of bodies, I catch a glimpse of the trains leaving, carrying away in them someone’s wife, someone’s son-packed with people who mean so much to someone but to you sitting on the platform they’re just a blur of faces. And it hits me then, how many times have I caught the train out of a chapter in my life?

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We cram our lives to the brim with memories, with people who mean so much at one point of time but the current that is life keeps dragging us ahead, leaving the shores awash with nostalgia. I for one am all for marching forward. Nostalgia can be comforting with its sepia-tinted warmth, but it can be a will-o’-the-wisp, leading you away from the path you should be travelling on.

While nostalgia might be a siren call, I wonder- just as people have flitted in and out of the chapters of my life, how many pages in someone else’s book is my name sprinkled across?

The friends you grew up with-from games of dodge ball to childhood crushes, from petty fights to promises of sticking together-would you even wave if you saw them across the street?

The people you lived with in college, four in a room, peas in a pod so tight it had no room for anyone else. Sitting on one bed piled with junk food, shoving away the pillow I cower behind while watching a horror movie. Playing cards on trains to impromptu trips, picking out places to eat even before we’ve reached. Now you have jobs in different pin points of the world, with the slip stream of reality already pulling you away.

The boy you loved- catastrophic memories on a foundation of sand-will not even be digits in a contact list. The person who meant the world to you- left behind in a heap labelled bad decisions, until the scabs fall off and you pick up the memories, dust them off and place them on the higher shelf they deserve. The boy you loved will love someone else, and so will you.

The friends you make as adult, functional relationships with the understanding that they arose out of being at the same place at the right time. Inside jokes and Saturday beers and the comfort of familiarity.

Will-o’-the-wisps, calling out to me, tempting me as I forge through the vagaries of adult life.

Memories, some worn at the edges, some shiny and new, which I will save carefully like the rose petals from my first love- between the pages of a book. Paper thin and delicate, but still holding the whiff of a joyful day, and the promise of others to come.

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