Mystical Nostalgia9 mins 355 9 mins 355
It was a regular day. I was on my way back home, the evening crowd and mutters echoed around. It was 6:15 in the evening and still ten minutes to my stop when I saw an old notebook lying on the metro seat opposite of me. I waited to see if someone picked it up but no one seemed to care. The last station arrived. As I was about to alight, I picked up the book after a moment of debate in my head. It was an old school notebook which was easy to guess due to the folded pages and the woody smell which came from it. I was surprised to find a picture of my old school on the cover. I turned the pages of the book to find poems and songs written in it. There were also various sketches and drawings in it too. I had a sense of déjà vu after going through the contents of the notebook. The songs and poems represented each picture drawn on the blank pages of the notebook.
A lot of details very similar to my life were mentioned in that book. I turned to the first page of the book to see if I could find a name or any other detail about the owner but I could not find anything. Now I really started wondering about the book’s owner who might have mistakenly dropped it or rather left it there for me to notice. With a series of thoughts going on in my head, my heart skipped a few beats. What if he is a creep? Is this a dream? Or a nightmare? I hesitated to read the contents inside but as I ruffled through the pages I came across a very familiar drawing akin to the one I had drawn when I was a child. It was a drawing of me sitting on my favourite bench in the park. I wondered about the owner. Who must that person be? Why was there a picture of my school on it? There was something uncannily familiar about the book which I was not able to recall. The thing I found most creepy was that the owner was someone who shared similar thoughts as me. Will the person be looking for it? Does the owner know that there is a personal item missing? Millions of questions clouded my mind as I was walking on the side lane.
It was nostalgic to see him in the metro. As soon as I dropped the book on the seat I was patiently waiting for him to notice it. After getting down I started walking towards the park. I knew he would come there. I sat on the bench right outside of the park and started wondering whether he must have noticed the book or not. Did he pick it up? Did he recognise it? Was the idea of coming here altogether a big mistake? Will he throw it down? Everything in my surrounding was a part of the nostalgia, as I sat there and pondered about my childhood and all the adventures I shared with my friends. I had a purpose of coming here. I just hoped that he gets the message and finds me. It is of utmost importance for me as well as for him. The book is a treasure I am willing to keep with me forever and I wish to remind him the same. All these thoughts were running in my mind and all of a sudden I heard a person saying something out to me. I turned around to find him standing there asking me to move a bit and give him some space too. I moved aside, doing the needful.
After walking for a long time I thought of visiting the park and my favourite bench as millions of questions crowded inside my head. I thought that it might help me relax and clear my mind as well but as I came nearer to the bench, I saw an old man sitting on it. The old man had wrinkled skin and a white moustache; he had a hat on like he wore it always come what may. He looked tired as if he no longer wished to live. I asked him to move aside. I sat there and laid the book on my lap and kept staring at it. Just then I heard a voice whispering my name. I turned to find the old man smiling at me.
I was shocked to find that the man knew my name.
"So… I see you picked up the notebook." He said.
"Uh…yes? Do I know you? How do you know me? Have we met before?" I asked the old man.
"You can say that we have known each other since childhood."
I was not able to understand what was going on.
"What do you mean? Who are you? How do you know my name?"
"Consider me as your well-wisher. I wanted you to pick this book because this book belongs to you. You can say that this belongs to both of us. It is a part of our childhood. This book contains all the things which you had penned down. I found this book hidden on the shelf behind our favourite paper stand."
I was so confused. I was not able to focus on what exactly I had heard. It was all a blur. I was still trying to process the idea that a person who identifies himself as me but is old, is talking to me and we are having a conversation about my childhood.
"What the hell is even going on here?" I blurted out loud.
"Why did you leave this book? I don't remember this book but still, it feels very familiar. Why did you leave it? Is this some kind of a joke? Where are the cameras?" So many questions came tumbling out like a can of worms let loose making the old man laugh.
"I am not joking here and this is not a show. There are no hidden cameras anywhere. This book was a precious part of your childhood which you had forgotten overtime as you grew up. All the things you shared with your friends, your first love and your childhood memories are written in it. But you have forgotten the innocence you once had. You are no longer the same person you were once. The creativity and thoughtfulness you once possessed are no longer seen in you. This growing chaos in life has made you a machine. It is because of this that you no longer spend time with your children, and you don't share the same intimacy with your wife. It is just the routine of 9 to 5 which seems important to you and I want to change it. Because of your activities, our children no longer talk to me. I am not important to them anymore. The only other important person to me was my wife who also left me because of the carelessness and selfishness I showed when I was young. I want to change things. I want the togetherness and intimacy with the love of my life. I want a family. I don't want to die a lonely and painful death. I request you to relive each moment and enjoy your life. Give time to your wife. Love her. Make her the happiest woman on Earth. Play with your children, spend time with them. This is why I came here today, to tell you to cherish the time now, so you don't end up dying all alone without anyone by your side."
Unable to think anything, I turned the pages of the notebook lying on my lap. I smelled it again. The familiarity of the scent brought tears in my eyes. I saw the stories of my childhood written in it. The story of my summer camp where I broke my leg while climbing up a tree or when I was the one who would get all the scolding when my friends would disappear leaving me behind after doing all the mischief. I could relive the memories again, all the ups and downs of my childhood. I started remembering everything. I remembered writing it down when I was 16. I wrote things I felt. I wrote about the first time I was in love. I kept the book hidden away from everyone so that no one finds it. But then I grew up and I forgot everything about the days I spent sketching and writing poems.
Everything was overwhelming. I closed my eyes to calm my nerves. I was unable to understand what the hell just happened. Is that old man me? Will I be the same when I grow old? Will I die a lonely death? Is all of this even real? I was talking to the old man beside me and asking him questions. All this seemed like dream or fantasy I was caught in. I was deep in my thoughts when my eyes jerked open because of a loud thud and saw people nearby staring at me as the notebook had fallen on the ground. As I looked around, I found the seat beside me empty. There was no trace of any old man.
Was this all even real? Was I dreaming? Who was that man?
I picked up the book and walked home the rest of the way. It gave me time to process the events of the evening and clear my addled head. As soon as I reached home, I hugged my wife and kissed her like there was no tomorrow. She looked at me with confused expression all over her face. I played with my kids and they seemed really happy to play with their daddy. I laughed and spent time with my family. It felt like I had not done this since a very long time. It felt good. At night, I was in the bedroom and I decided to look for the book where the old man described it to be and there it was, the old dusty book lying in the corner of the shelf.
“Oh! What an evening!” I thought out loud.
It all seemed like a weird mystery.
But in all that chaos I learned one thing that day, and it was that the notebook brought back happiness in my life and the mysterious encounter changed my life forever.