Every once in a while we feel the need to make a clean break from our past. It is true, what George Eliot once said: “And our past follows from afar and what we have been makes us what we are.” However, at times we need to distance our self from the immediate past to put things into perspective. Ever wary of romanticising the past, or wallowing in grief or staying stuck in a situation, I prepared a step-by-step manual for those keen on snapping that bond, cutting the cord, and turning over a new leaf.
Step One: Clean your room, your closet, the space underneath your bed and most importantly your table; your table must be decluttered, throw away all the old notes to the self, memos, lists of to-dos, spoilt candies, chipped cups, and dead flowers. Wipe it clean, the surface of the table must reflect like polished steel. No memories from the past, no dust that settles and clouds your vision, or extraneous things that burden you down. Have a light heart. Live with a light heart.
Put something new and bright on your table, not necessarily something nostalgic, something around which you can weave new memories. Draw a different itinerary for yourself, or better still leave the page of the diary blank. Why plan? Why pre-decide? Why forecast? Live, a moment at a time.
Step Two: Finish reading the books you have been meaning to read, but have been eating dust on the table. In order to close the book, you will have to go through every word, every letter, and every character, ever tone and lilt of the speech, every mood, every sense of the metaphor. You cannot finish that which you never started, so start. Funny, how even in life, to get over something, you must go through it again from the start to the end, do a re-run to make peace with the past, you cannot leave out any detail, no matter how painful or tiring it might be. It is the price you pay for reconciliation.
Step Three: Change and recreate. Reassemble your room, agreed there’s fun in old geographies, but landscapes (and mindscapes) are and have always been fluid. Change them. Probably the table beside the door, should have been placed facing the window, why sit on the table watching people leave? Sit with a glorious view in front, of sunrays creeping in.
Change your bedcover, bedsheet and pillowcovers. So many have lain, sat, reclined, perched, there. And they have all left behind something. Stains don’t taint, but they do keep the memory alive—memory of the absence.
Something like those empty tombs and graves of Mehrauli, do they have any remnant or memorabilia or belonging of the deceased? No, they were probably buried somewhere else, and while most people believe tombs, graves, and headstones commemorate the ones lying there, the body (if buried there) is long gone, crumbled to dust. There is nothing that keeps the one who once was there, there. However what remains there, is the person’s absence. Nothing more. Tombs and graves make space for absence to be felt.
Step Four: Discard. Abandon. Donate generously. Give away your prized possessions, those that you never wanted to part with. And surprise yourself—that which you considered most dear was something in your life, very ordinary, very trivial. Don’t hold back. Old clothes gifted by some favourite person, books with dogeared pages and oil smudges, class notes from the last semester—stories dwelling inside you, memories waiting to be shared, dreams gone sour which you must pour out, and many other caged birds that must be led free.
Step Five: While it is not always possible to travel, instead what you can do is: step out. Walk. Run. Wander aimlessly. Follow a trail. We crave for movement, mobility, a perverse sense of homelessness; whether wanderlust or not. While out, watch and observe. You might have missed a turn or a path to some interesting place. Explore. Take an alternate route to class this time, just for the heck of it, why not?
Step Six: Learn a new song. It helps, yes! You need to tune into something new! Something to keep you preoccupied while waiting for long hours at the deserted bus stop. Some tune or melody to add to that bounce in your step. Create it yourself, if you cannot think of anything new. “Remember the world better with a song,” said the poet and playwright John Masefield.
Step Seven: “Get a Haircut!” –somebody had suggested to me on Facebook, in response to my depressed status update. And what can I say; it has never failed to work. Agreed, a change in appearance will not turn you into a new person or change your perspective on things, or even alter what others think about you (not that it matters). For women and men (who are very particular about their hairstyle) it is a gesture, symbolic to a large extent—but nonetheless one that stands for the spirit of resilience (indomitable?) on the face of any difficulty big or small. That you can adapt, change survive and carry on feeling okay at your own will. That to change is not difficult, and certainly not a distant dream.
For some it takes time, adapting to changes is never easy; meanwhile it might help to remember the old adage “this too shall pass away.”
The writer is a research scholar at JNU and works for The Informer. Views expressed are personal, for any comments and suggestions please write to email@example.com
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