NRIs’ misplaced nostalgia of good old days

It is human nature – to be nostalgic.We like to think about and romanticize the past memories. But, the past is long gone – even in India!

If you listen to the first generation of Indian Americans abroad – especially those who migrated long time ago – they paint a very bright and rosy picture of their past memories of India:

“Those were different days – happier times. We never cared much about anything – anything but friendship and good company. The schools were like never end-ending parties – a meeting place where all the good and bad schemes were hatched…”

“All summer we played cards under the big shady tree next to the pond…and, when we got bored of cards, we played marbles, or took a nap on a cot. No air-conditioners could compete with the monsoon soaked eastern breeze of summer days. Those were the days….!”

The first generation of immigrants misses the homeland of India more than anything. In most of the week-end parties or desi social gatherings abroad, talking about ‘good old days’ is one of the common topics. The nostalgic discussion intensifies after a few drinks. The memories of childhood, the growing up, the friends back home, the food, the aimless wandering…well, there is no end to the journey down the memory lane, the memories of a past left behind..

Yearning for the past is a human nature. We always cling to the memories of yesterdays. Regardless where we live, the nostalgia is nothing more than trying to hold on to the past. The past is not easy to let go, even though we all talk about moving on. Living abroad just adds one more dimension to all this – the living in the past.

The longing for the past becomes stronger when we leave the home country. In this subconscious struggle between the two worlds, the past becomes an escape from the present problems. Everything gets blamed on the foreign place – the compromises, the hurdles of living abroad, the culture, the morality of the next generation …everything..

We rarely think about the advantages or the comforts of living in our own country when we are in India. However, every little thing, every small comfort of Indian life, gets magnified and compared against the discomfort of living abroad. The best channel to escape the challenges of living abroad is the past – the memories of life in India.

Taking it one step further, may be irrational a bit; many of us start to compare everything present with the times in India from yesterday. When we think about back home, we always think in terms of the past; as if nothing has changed all this time since we left India, as if the time stopped right after me migrated.

The fact is that everything has changed with time, even in India. Actually, the change in India is much faster and much more noticeable than most of the countries we migrate to.

The tree next to the pond has aged and dried out, or disappeared altogether. The childhood friends have their own things to worry about. Everybody has grown up and moved on. The things are not the same as they once were, the street looks different, and the bazaar is not the same anymore. It does not feel like the India we left behind, the India from a long time ago.

The careless school days, the aimless wandering – all gone. As much as we would love to be, we are not kids anymore, neither are the friends back home!

The time changes everything. Everybody changes with time. There is no cure for nostalgia of yester years. Everybody has moved on – this is the brutal reality of time and mortal human existence.

It is normal to be nostalgic, it is very natural to romanticize the past. But the past is long gone – even the good old Indian life from old days.

And, when going back to India after a long time, the reality is very different. Rather than feeling at home, it is often quite the opposite.  Everything that was eagerly yearned for all those years, is nowhere to be found. You feel like a stranger– a stranger in your own home.

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4 Replies to “NRIs’ misplaced nostalgia of good old days”

  1. Yes, I agree with this viewpoint. Someone on another blog summed it up nicely- the only innocent part of the past is that ‘we were children then’. The world was never so innocent, we were just unaware of it, because our responsibilities were different then, our perspective a bit more sheltered by our parents care.

  2. yes, things are not same. But it still feels like home, but differently. If planning to return permanently, try it out first. Live there for a few months before deciding.

  3. I am not Indian, but I can relate to a lot of this in my own experience as well. My family moved to the US from Croatia when I was a young child. I often hear my family and their friends romanticizing the past in Croatia, but the reality is very different when they visit. Now as an adult, I see myself feeling this way too, even just within my experiences in America. I am often nostalgic and thinking about the American town that I grew up in. I have dreams of my childhood home often. But when I go visit, this comfortable place of my dreams has morphed into something very different, and I do feel like a stranger, just as you say. This is an excellent article. I think anybody who moves from the place where they grew up experiences these feelings. You do an excellent job of putting it into words.

    Some of it is because the place changes. We leave, but the place continues to evolve and things are different when we return. But also, we change too. We do not see things through the same eyes anymore. With this combination, it can be shocking and you are right that the nostalgia is misplaced.

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