Learning to let go: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/learning-to-let-go/article9345942.ece

22 Nov

Learning to let go

It may hurt more to hang on than to leave, in certain contexts

I had sold my ancestral house in Nagamalai in the Madurai region of Tamil Nadu several years ago. It was ‘Sara House’, named after my mother. When my parents were no more, gone for good, there really was no reason I should hold on to a house where I wouldn’t be living. I bought a flat in Bangalore and live there now, for several reasons that a big city offers. I visit Madurai once in a year to keep in touch with some of my relatives.

One day, spurred by nostalgia and in a fit of reckless financial bravado, I phoned the current owner of ‘Sara House’ (who too did not live there), and offered to buy back the house at the current market rate. I cited sentimental reasons, money was no object. I wanted to come back and live there, I told him.

The current owner had no reason to be sentimental, I should have known. He was nice and understanding about it as he heard me out, but I guess some business instinct had alerted him. He hemmed and hawed and said he wanted to hold on to it as an investment. Maybe he thought the real estate market in the area was rising, and wanted to see how high it would go. Or worse, he had guessed that I might not follow through, considering the filmic manner in which I had couched my offer.

A realisation strikes me now. What if the man had agreed to sell? Assuming I had re-occupied the house, the initial euphoria of getting back our lost heritage would have worn off after a while. Maybe I’d have a surreal feeling of never having left the house. The ‘yesterday once more’ feeling might have come over me, and it might have been sweet while it lasted.

But things would change in a month. And then with every tick of the clock my soul would get progressively desensitised. The heart-rending but pleasing nostalgia of Nagamalai would have no reason to continue to fill my heart. I’d have gone around the neighbourhood a few times, but the joy of rediscovery of the old haunts would wear off: they had diminishing and marginal utility. And then perhaps I’d wonder if this financial investment was worth it.

I think we tend to confuse places with people. I wanted mom and dad, who are no more. I associated them with the house. But I’d never get them back. So what would the house they lived in offer now in terms of emotional fulfilment?

The same is true when you visit places such as your old school, an office you had worked in, a campus where you had done a course, or places you had been posted to. You’re all dewy-eyed as you enter the building, and then realisation strikes. None of the people who work there know you, and you are on the verge (or slightly past the verge) of making a fool of yourself. You tell some polite but uninterested staff there that you sat at the very chair they are sitting on, or some such thing. You recount some anecdote during your tenure in that office, building it up to epic proportions. Those listening to you nod, seem to understand, but they wait for you to move on so they can get on with their routine. If you are observant you might even notice their looking discreetly — or worse, not so discreetly — at their watches.

If you are of the ‘reserved’ type, you might stroll wordlessly through your earlier work area, beaming at the staff working there. You want to say you’ve been there, done that, and that what you see now is but a copycat version of the standards set by you during your reign. Nothing can be sadder than a scene like this.

Letting go is not easily. We have to fight to release the claw-hold of the past, every single day.

It hurts to let go, but it hurts more to hang on. Our future lies ahead; our past is not our destiny.



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