Memory is what we capture, what we preserve, what we get ourselves attached to and what we don’t want to let go. We remember how we feel, how someone made us feel or how we made someone feel. Feelings about someone,someplace or something – is the basis of all our memories. Reality fades away and memories last – that makes the memories very special. I think memories also follow the theory of relativity. What is a good memory for one person can be bad for the other. Sometimes, we loose someone from our life. We often even loose our homes, neighborhoods and even cities. Sometimes, we loose our identity as a country. We loose heritage of our history. But we also rebuild what we loose. New people enter into our lives. New cities are built. New histories are created.
I have heard childhood stories from the older generation in Kathmandu about how wonderful the time was in the city 40 years ago. They remember the city as a city of delight where snow capped mountains could be seen from the terrace of their houses, how they used to go swimming in the river Bagmati, how the forests once shadowed the hustling bustling neighborhood of today with green lush trees and the smell of wild flowers, how on the way to school they saw cucumber, corn and carrots growing. And how the smell of the hippies and the smell of the roses lingered together in the air.
On the other hand, I have heard my friends telling me their childhood stories about Kathmandu(of 80s-90s) which mostly begins by a complaint of how the beautiful city streets of their memory are now so crowded. They remember the city as the city where green forests were turning into mountains of concrete. They remember the river Bagmati as the river of plastic and stinking waste (and you don’t want to swim in it!). People, pollution and poverty filled the city with no electricity, no water and no stars in the sky. They remember the transition. A transition that political unrest, urban migration and economic slowdown brought with it. They remember how breath by breath,the city exhausted itself and got severely sick. This generation remembers how the beautiful memories of their parents got lost in the disappointments that the new Kathmandu brought with it. However, between this chaos, there were memories of good times and of fun. Unlike their parents, they did not relate with the Jhochhen Tole (the old Freak street) of the Hippies, rather they remember the live jazz music nights at Thamel (the nightlife area of Kathmandu). They remembered the long political gossips at the street side tea stalls. They have no memories of cucumber growing besides the street, but they remember how they went from school to grab a plate of spicy tasty mo:mo from their pocket money. They remember the secret corners of the stinking Bagmati river where they went to smoke the sacred plant (you know what I mean). They tell me how much fun it is to drive like crazy among the chaotic traffic.
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The life that we know in our youth leaves such a deep mark in our perception of our surroundings that we make it a baseline to compare everything else that changes later in life. For today’s young children living in Kathmandu, the life before April 25 earthquake and after is a big influence on how their memories will shape their perceptions. They have seen at a very early stage in life how mother nature can destroy the man made world in just a few seconds. For people of my generation and older, their good memories of the heritage square where the political leaders conducted their protests, the house on that little lane across the tea stall, the mo:mo shop and the party street – many of this memories are in rubble after the devastating earthquake of Nepal. For them, these memories reflect sadness, disappointments and helplessness. The reality has changed. And their memories are fading away.
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I wonder how do the children and young generation of today see this reality? Do they see how a city who hardly ever made itself into an international news is now a prime focus? How the world and people can come together in the time of crisis? What do they think when they observe good intentions coming down to ruins due to an unstable governance? Do they see a city full of chaos and crowd created by man or do they see a city destroyed by the mother nature? Do they have hope? Do their memories capture how a city can rise again from ruins when people come together for each other? Today’s youth has and will see a long transition spread across decades that will breath by breath change the reality. I wonder how in this confused phase of hope as well as helplessness, will they create their pockets of happiness in their memories?
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Article written by – Bansri Pandey
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