Longing for the past

Published On: May 25, 2019 12:25 AM NPT By: Usha Pokharel

Adults need to share the stories of past with their children so that they can know what life was like while their parents and grandparents were growing up

The other day I read a Facebook post which said “I saw a guy at Starbucks.  He had no smartphone, tablet or laptop. He just sat there drinking his coffee like a psychopath.”  This really threw me back. Actually, I was troubled and shocked at the thought of someone who did not know the reality of the situation.  It made me think twice what this world had come to.  Not more than 30 years ago and even now in some parts of our country that’s exactly what people do in a coffee shop—sit and enjoy a cup of coffee without the distraction of modern-day gadgets. People tend to forget that getting away from distraction of gadgets, spending a little time contemplating is not being a psychopath. This whole thought process raised couple of questions in my mind. Does the new generation even think beyond these gadgets? Can they survive without them? 

If someone asks me ‘how would you react to life before these modern-day gadgets?’ I would have to think really hard to respond to the question. I would say a mixed bag.  I will survive but will struggle a bit initially.  That’s because I have experienced the past and adjusted to the present, so I can very well readjust to the past condition. Such a question creates a sort of nostalgia for the past and some good and some not so good memories come flooding in.  It is entirely possible that you do not agree with my response.  That’s because memories differ for each individual, depending on what s/he chooses to remember. Why so? That is because we tend to be very selective, so far as memories are concerned. We remember the ones we like and forget the ones we don’t like.

Life before gadgets 
I am pretty sure you too have become nostalgic and are thinking life before these gadgets came into existence was uncomplicated and that was the time of reality. Everything was so real—books, newspapers or friends. You consulted a real dictionary instead of Google to find the meaning of a word. Yes, I know you are tempted to add ‘there was such a thing as a thesaurus, to find different words that meant the same thing. At the same time mental calculations were big.  Most people knew their time table.’ Not just these, there are many other reasons for people to feel good about the past. 

Yes, generally speaking life sure was beautiful, charming and heart-warming. Just running about from place to place, playing pranks on others, committing small mischiefs and with that came being reprimanded for those mischiefs by teachers and parents. For some of us this was quite a regular experience.  Along with this was the fact that we read real books that had special smell about them, almost like a fragrance.  Wait there is something else associated with this.  I wonder how many of us gave up on a book, just because there were too many words that we did not know meaning of and on top did not have a dictionary to go look at the meaning either.  Even if we did have a dictionary, we were tired of turning its pages every now and then to find meaning of unfamiliar words.  Now, that sure was a pain and eventually and we gave up reading the book all together.  I ended up doing just that couple of times as a child. 

I am sure some of us still have those books with difficult words underlined. Just as I do and often look at the underlined words and smile, remembering the circumstances of purchasing the book.  Those are some of the fond memories that we choose to remember.  As children we always found a way to keep busy when not in school or doing homework. I can very well imagine some smiling faces just thinking about those days. Some of us might even remember playing different kinds of games as children.  There were no computers or video games, so most of the games had to be outdoors. 

Playing football in school’s grassy playground, or even playing hide and seek, running away on seeing a teacher coming to the classroom.   I remember someone telling me that they played ‘ghoche lauri’ (a field version of dart with pointed sticks) and I remember playing ‘gatta’ and ‘ghaawi’ not to forget the skipping. And there was ‘guchaa’ (marbals). Somehow, I never got into playing with dolls my mother made for me. They were cute but they did not hold my attention for long.  I was more into playing gulley cricket with older children.   How can I forget playing ‘chor sipai’ as a child with my friends?  I am not sure how many of you played it but for us it used to be the last game of the day. Unable to find the ‘chor’, everyone eventually went home and that was the end of the game.  Communicating with others was also fun.

Yelling with the full capacity of your throat used to be the popular method especially in the villages.  I know I have made you nostalgic.  There are no words to describe the life as it used to be in the past.  While we are being nostalgic about the past, we also need to remember a few things that were not as convenient then. There were no telephones so talking to friends was just face-to-face and passing messages was through individual people or had to visit the concerned person yourself. This process was time-consuming because it involved a lot of walking, in the absence of modern mode of transportation.

Yes, there were bullock carts but they were pretty slow.  For the most part there was no electricity.  People can identify with this because it’s only few years since we have had continuous supply of electricity.  Most people have almost forgotten about the long power cuts that we used to have.   In the past, people slept early, woke up early and worked till sun down.  They had their own time management mechanism.  That was fun.  Remember, your mom telling you the time you were born? She must have said something like you were born while the cows were returning home from grazing or even when the goats were being put in their pen. Under such circumstances, don’t you wish they had a clock or something to note the time?

Let the children know 
Nostalgia for the past is well and good but expecting your children to experience the same type of life now does not make any sense.  Times have changed and so have the children. It would be a good idea for you to tell them about your past experiences—whatever you remember of it. Yes, they will laugh. Just remember that children laugh at anything and everything. Just for the sake of fun, also mention to them that people wrote letters and waited for ages to receive a reply. Don’t forget to tell them about experiencing butterflies-in-the-stomach while watching the postman come toward the house with a telegram. That’s because telegrams did not usually bring good news. Don’t feel shy of your past experiences.  Share it with your children so that they can know what life was like while their parents and grandparents were growing up.  That will be a sensible thing to do. Don’t you think so, parents?


Pokharel is an educationist and author of several children’s books

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