The nostalgia for unseen past

The building being demolished

I had often noticed this old brick building while going up or coming down the escalators at Trinity Metro. I have a vivid memory of seeing some such buildings in my hometown as a child – the good, old buildings from British era. British era – when we were slaves, but when things were cheaper and more reliable and durable! But I digress. Combine those childhood memories with my general affinity for old buildings, even ruins, and you can understand why I have been feeling sad recently. That building behind the Trinity Metro was not put to any remarkable use. I think it had a couple of shops running in it, one of them a computer shop. I had never gone inside. But a couple of weeks back, I noticed that something about the building looked different. On closer inspection I realized that each of the bricks had been marked with a number. The building is being demolished. It is coming down now – brick by brick. We are a young, growing country. That fate is inevitable for older stuff. We don’t have the luxury of space to keep those buildings around now. They must be replaced with space-efficient multi-storied ones. And to be honest, affinity to British Raj stuff feels elitist, snobbish, even non-patriotic. Their society was built to exclude, belittle and oppress us Indians, after all. (Is the building even from British era, or do I just imagine all such brick buildings to be from that era?)

Still, it saddens me. Disappearance of a past I was never a part of! I don’t know what life was like in a city like Bangalore, when it wasn’t so crowded, when people (British and elites?) lived in neat bungalows, when Residency road must have looked very broad and no one would have thought that they couldn’t go on it in the other direction someday, when M G Road (South Parade) and Frazer Town were differentiated by the status of people living there, when there was British Raj. British Raj – in which we were slaves, but things were cheaper and more reliable and durable. British era – that I have never seen. Why British era – I haven’t even seen the early post-independence time either, when the aura was still around. Not in Bangalore, not in my hometown.

Why do I try to hold on to that past then? Why do I dreamily imagine of a time when life was slower, noise was lesser, automobiles on the roads rarer, dependence on people higher, and future more predictable? Did those people feel it that way? Or were they as overwhelmed with the complications of modern life of their times, as I am today?

Whatever be the case, why do I feel nostalgic about a past I have never seen? Has there been a soul reborn yearning to complete an old, unfinished story? Or are these just the ramblings of an escapist trying to imagine a more manageable time than the current one?

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About Jaya

Jaya Jha is an entrepreneur, a techie, a writer and a poet. She was born and brought up in various towns of Bihar and Jharkhand. A graduate of IIT Kanpur and IIM Lucknow, she realized early on that the corporate world was not her cup of tea. In 2008, she started, one of the first print-on-demand publishing platform in India. She currently lives in Bangalore and divides her time between writing and working on her company's latest product InstaScribe ( with a vision to make it the best e-book creation tool. Blog: Twitter: @jayajha Facebook:

2 thoughts on “The nostalgia for unseen past

  1. I visited Ghalib ki Haveli in the bylanes of Gali Ballimaraan in Puraani Dilli a few years back. My spirits dampened to see just two rooms which have been preserved and the rest taken over for commercial and residential purposes. The romantic in me had expected to see a “haveli” well preserved and well maintained. The reality was, however, a rude shock. High time for us to get a reality check.

  2. probably because old buildings are more interesting,whit decorations and ornaments.Modern buildings are just simple squares,soulless,like a song made of a single note.

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