One of the many reasons why I relate to Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, both despite and because of multiple re-readings, is its emphasis on the subtle workings of memory.
Williams calls it a “memory play.”
In a poetically, almost floridly written first scene, he explains, “Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details; others are exaggerated according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart” and thus chooses to set the play in an interior that is “rather dim and poetic.”
I’ve been contemplating over this paragraph ever since I stumbled upon it two years ago, in my third semester of college.
It tends to assume different meanings as I read it over and over again, expanding almost amoebically in directions that I never thought existed. A significant reason, perhaps, has been my shift to a larger, befuddling city, that I’m still trying to make sense of.
I come from a town that is trying too hard to accommodate the rapid change around it. Dehradun now has a giant international cricket stadium where Afghanistan has played its matches and maybe some day, India will too.
Badly designed flyovers crisscross the town and more surprisingly, there’s a proposal to establish a metro network as a means of public transport. One’s forced to wonder what the purpose of the metro can be in a town where it takes barely 20 minutes to reach its farthest end in the perpetually moving blue vikrams, except when the purpose is to wilfully destroy its ecology and make it a bad, ill-fitting image of that giant clone of the Dickensian Coketown, Delhi.
The roads of the town are now almost always traffic-clogged and the once peaceful lanes of the Rajpur and Dalanwala have been reduced to nothing more than clamour ridden apartment hubs. As a friend observes, “They’re all ‘concrete jungles’ in the making.”
It’s hard to put these facts down on paper, primarily because I’ve always wanted, and at most instances, chosen to think of Dehradun as a place that stands as a complete negation of everything that Delhi is.
Delhi can be too fast, too alien, too unrelenting for eighteen-year-olds who come from small towns to make a big life here, or halt here in anticipation of making a big life elsewhere; never once questioning, forget critiquing, the very basis, the very idea of a big life.
Also read: Why I Don’t Love Delhi
It’s a maze they’re pushed into and are asked to make sense of on their own – a process often referred to as ‘adulting’ by a bunch of self-help experts: writers, digital creators and podcasters.
Dehradun has always, in my memory, presented itself as a place where I, disillusioned and disoriented by all the madness of this city, could go back to – when need be. In memory, I see its skies bluer than they really are, the air always fresh enough to heal my burnt out lungs, the sun always mellow and unusually kind and George Harrison’s Dera-dera-dun – a perpetual, unceasing background score to this scene.
And yet, in reality, is the town really my personal rehab? I’m content to think about it in all the romantic ways that I can and do, but is it really that sweet, kind and forgiving? I don’t know.
I’ve always believed that it is, but it was only very recently that I chose to confront the facts; that it is perhaps not as beautiful anymore, not as untouched by the forces of modernisation as Ruskin Bond has, for so long, chronicled it to be.
More importantly, I think I have lost a sense of tangible, human familiarity with the place. Most people I know have left the town, like me, searching for better and brighter horizons and perhaps all that can be called beautiful; for it remains only in my memory, appearing sweeter on each revisit.
I don’t think I relate to the actual place anymore, I only relate to its version in my memory.
Shriyanshi Badoni is a 20-year-old Literature grad who loves talking about politics, culture, books, music and everything in between.
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty