Nostalgia is a weird thing, it tickles your senses in the middle of nowhere. Like this morning when I took the usual route and crossed a Mexican food store, I remembered the evening when I went to search for a late night dinner there, the palm tree covered tiny house served the best hot food that night and I walked home with a happy mind. I mean, good food makes me a happy person. Good memories keeps me alive.
I went to that store twice in last a few years but I don’t remember how the food was each time, or how tasty their pizza was. That happy one time memory of first dinner there covered up everything.
Sometimes I find it so amusing when I land in a new city, to me every single thing of that city looks like an unsolved puzzle, from weather to the regular food joint, from bank building to the café. And then months after months, years after years I untangle the puzzle to make myself familiar with those things. Those buildings which looked sad and big earlier now hold an invisible smile for me. Like we became friends and no one has that news. The eyes which stared at my non-white, non-brown, peach-ish yellow Indian skin-tone now offer an empty seat and friendly smiles. That landscape that I never could manage to remember without the help of a very much active GPS, now seems like a tiny portrait of familiar figurines. Someone once told me, difficult situations are fragile, just break them into two halves and make them easy. That makes sense nowadays.
Every city I know behaved like a new friend on the first day. Slowly we became good friends. Not only she gave me shelter and food but she started memorizing my favorite things and hobbies too. She was changing too, as long as I was willing to change, by replacing regular coffee with Columbia roasted beans, by replacing NY style pizza with deep dish Chicago style, by replacing snow-wrapped hills with dark blue Ocean, by replacing whole wheat bread with sourdoughs, by replacing puzzles with lovely memories. At the end we both brought changes in ourselves, we both grew older and stronger. That’s how love changes us, it paints us old and fills us with alluring sentiments.
I remember each city by its own fragrance. Like how you remember your close people. I lived in a city of southern India for some time. Each evening after office hours I used to take a short route to reach my apartment. At 7 o’ clock, seeing the Sun tired and half asleep, everyone there would get more awake. Elder ladies of the neighborhood would put Jasmine garland on their plaited buns and make rice and lentil soup with fresh spices, herbs and coconut flakes for dinner, while blending the fragrance of Jasmine flower and aroma of fried herbs and spices in coconut oil with the evening breeze. That mixed fragrance still reminds of that small city and its bigger hopes. The apartment in another city in another country where a popular Persian bakery served fresh baked food to almost everyone always comes back to my memory when I enter a bakery or a Persian food joint.
Maybe this is how I live my life, by making memories and filling backpacks with them. Maybe this is how every single person moves forward, not without a backpack of fragrance, some colored pictures and a few monochromatic agonies.