To Hold on to | SPJIMR

To Hold on to

Sarabjeet D Natesan

Author: Sarabjeet D Natesan

Date: Fri, 2017-07-14 15:07

The more we collect, in mind and in matter, the more disorder we create; and more stories and more memories too. Collecting things happens over a lifetime of living but letting go is very tough. Growing old also adds an extra coat of sentimentality to life, routine becomes precious and special becomes a treasure. And we can’t let go. In a life that is leaving us behind very quickly, making us irrelevant, we linger and ask everyone to understand the importance of things that were once important to us.  Families coming to terms with the loss of love also must deal with huge amounts of material possessions collected over many years, insensitive to throw and incapable of being held. Precious thoughts and relationships made and nurtured slip away, generations vanish, pictures fade and suddenly nothing remains. This thought poignantly hit me when I cleaned my parents’ house; everything that my mother had collected and cared for now lay in boxes, unused and unwanted. How much could I take with me, and where will I put it? Throwing them out meant tossing a lifetime of remembrances away and I was not brave enough to do so. Yet, I did it and still feel bad for some of the things I threw out that day.

That one act of emotional cathartic purging made me relentless in discarding things in my life. It was as if I was taking no hostages, leaving no identity behind. I made boxes, things were sorted, and things were thrown out or things were given away.  I stored nothing. I methodically threw out things that had not been used in the last three months. I became notorious, my family started hiding things, my husband would return home to see the watchman wearing his clothes, my kids found their toys missing, their comics collection given away, their favorite t-shirts turned into dusters. Everybody became wary of me and the worry was what next? If something was genuinely misplaced or at the cleaners, it was assumed that I had given it away!

But life teaches you nothing!

As a part of a quick exit plan, I had come to Mumbai with one suitcase and one small brown cardboard box containing one frying pan, one pan for making tea, one ladle, two plates, two cups, two spoons, two forks, two knives, two stainless steel tumblers (as used in south of India) and one empty jam bottle to stack the cutlery in, two sheets and one pillow. I also carried only salt and pepper and some tea and some sugar. I figured to myself, if I need to leave, there is nothing that will bind me here. I had no plans of buying anything, I was sure of that. I had taken a few trips to Mumbai before and I knew where to get tea and a simple breakfast. However much I love to cook, I had no intention of setting up a kitchen here. I had already told the person who cooked for us in Chennai to pack and freeze small portions of food for me on a day to day basis. I had planned to go home every weekend, take back empty containers and bring back new ones, full of food! But then life sneakily unfolded without taking my permission or without even bothering to inform me.

To help me to settle in, my husband insisted on accompanying me to Mumbai and our one and only trip to the market yielded an induction stove, four cut glasses, foot mats, a sieve, a peeler, a colander, a set of small jars to hold spices, a bottle of cooking oil, a water can, a broomstick, two buckets, a mirror and of course spices to fill the containers. And a six-pack and a bottle of wine. I suspect the last two were to help him more than me. No amount of reasoning, anger, tantrums deterred him. I told him that I plan to leave this place in a few weeks and then all this will go waste. By then he had become friendly with the guard downstairs and told me to leave it all with him and return.

The first week alone in a lake facing apartment was fine, the wine helped. I managed by making tea and maybe an egg and bought lunch and somehow carried it to dinner too. It was hot but leaving the balcony doors open and leaving all the fans on in the apartment helped create a good air flow. My morbid fear of ghosts also meant that I left the lights on in the night too. All of them! I also consciously did not get any more ‘stuff’ and used the cardboard box to fashion a table for my books and a solitary lamp. Very clean, and very minimalistic!

Into my second week, the friendly guard from the apartment building called me at work to inform me that there was a package waiting for me. Since I had not ordered anything, I told him it could not be for me. He insisted, and as I had nothing much to do, I went to check and found a television set, a refrigerator, an air-conditioner, a hairdryer, a clothes iron, yet another induction stove, a rice cooker and an umbrella waiting for me. I was livid as hell and told the delivery man to take it all back, but he dumped it there and drove off. And to add insult to a great deal of injury, my husband refused to answer his phone at this crucial moment, perhaps anticipating my cloud burst like reaction. My stress in the coming week only reached sky high proportions as I refused to unpack and stared at all these things with a very jaundiced eye. But then, the summers became scorching, my lunch to dinner plans started rotting, the lakeside balcony turned horribly hot, I wanted some sound in the apartment beside mine and the rains came and I had to get all gadgets installed one by one and the umbrella proved to be very useful! I was soon informed that all this had to be done as my family consisting of three girls and one husband were planning a holiday to Mumbai. My first piece of instruction to them was to carry plates, cups, glasses, and spoons with them and be ready to take them back with as well. With the summer holidays, my now grown up kids brought tons and tons of young junk and added further to it by going shopping almost every day. They also refused to take back the plates and the other things they had brought with them because there was no place left in their bags with all the shopping they had done. My pristine clean and minimalist apartment resembled a changing room of a mall and a back kitchen of a takeout restaurant and everything that I had controlled in my life, got tossed out!

My kids went back and when it came to cleaning up after them, I became too emotional, things which I would have tossed out earlier without a thought, became memories for me to hold on to. Since then, they have taken many vacations here, many visits, each which leaves its celebrations behind. Each recollection is more precious and more looked after.

My trunk of clutter has grown so has my fondness of keeping useless things; a ball of yarn, buttons, origami, origami paper, art supplies, books, grainy photographs taken at the Gateway of India, fashionable shopping bags, mountains of clothes, tons of shoes, makeup, headphones, pen drives, food delivery menus, half empty shampoo and conditioner bottles, extra pillows, bed sheets, and many other knick knacks.  The clutter has been cleaned, sorted and put away, but not thrown out; the regular has become precious and the precious has become prized and my exit plan has been altered. The friendly guard has been replaced and I don’t know if the new person will value my memories!

And life teaches you nothing!




Extremely well written. Its time for a regular blog, as mentioned earlier.

Thanks, that's what good friends are for !

Deep and meaningful. Directly touches hearts.

Thank you !

There is an impressive subtlety in both, emotions and humor . I guess the write is aware and seeing life mature in a very conscious manner, perhaps time at hand affords such insight. It is truly a joy to read such simple language yet laden with deep emotions. My compliments to the author who is conducting her life so elegantly.

‘Collect experiences, not things’. Easier said than done and somewhat of a similar dilemma in your article. The many stages and milestones that we go through in our early years and then in our twenties, thirties and beyond can be seemingly complex. Our experiences and handling of situations at different life stages shape us into problem solvers the way it suits us. Some of us do this with ease, with panache and do not really introspect when we are younger. As we collect more experiences, and hopefully become wiser over the years, we would like to believe that we can or would have dealt with those same situations better. Our interaction with people too changes with time. We seek to be closer with family and have a limited but a closer friends’ circle as we get older. And then there are those life altering situations. A situation like what you have mentioned- the loss of a loved one, imbues within us a coping mechanism that we never knew existed. It is unique to each of us as to how to tide through tough times and has to be dealt with alone. Life altering situations however need not always be pathos evoking. They can be positive too and challenging; an opportunity which is exciting, unexpected and unpredictable. Relocation to a new country on a new assignment for instance. It might be prudent to handle positive or negative situations with patience and perseverance and grow into it or grow out of it. Whatever works! Give it time, give it your best and don’t be too hard on yourself. If you have to mope, mope till you get over it. If you have to explore something new, take your time but do it. ‘Time heals everything’. Again, easier said than done.

A wonderful read exploring the struggle between preserving memories and the effort to lead a clutter free life. As human beings we tend to find it difficult to let go of things. We would rather continue to live the lives we are comfortable with. The future is unpredictable and we find comfort in our set ways and routines. It probably is this need for security and sense of familiarity that we tend to cling to memories and material possessions with any association in a hope to reclaim and relive a part of our old lives. An old photograph, toy, a piece of clothing from our childhood bring back a rush of memories and nostalgia, a feeling unlike any other. Preserving objects due to their association with those we love may provide us a sense of enduring connection with them but it also gets us into a cycle of gathering more than we can manage over the years. I personally find it difficult to let go of things that have any association with a special person, memory, phase of life or a memorable incident and continue to stack up and hoard everything from clothes to books, magazines and mementos from travel. It is also at odds with my desire to lead a clutter free and minimalistic lifestyle. While being completely devoid of emotion and to have no attachments at all will make us less human, I believe it is important to be a little more objective in our quest to find a fine balance between the two.

A good blog by Ms. Sarabjeet Natesan, and one through her piece could truly ‘walk along’ the series of emotions and thoughts she transited through. From the maverick obsession to do away with things that were not used for over 3 months; to over time “the regular becoming precious and the precious becoming prized”. Life from a particular perspective; is either ‘making memories’ or ‘reminiscing memories’ with the contrasting melancholy recollections and regrets. Memories by many are stored in the form of things one has used in the past or ones that have been used by loved ones. Things that we hold on to and then cherish, each having their own fond memories. Testimony to such memorabilia are things we notice around a person’s workspace, perhaps gifts for a particular occasion or achievement, which are often kept for years and decades and sometimes throughout one’s career. Homes are of course cached with even more such memorabilia and often rightly so – memories living through each of such fondly held-on-to items. Then, there is the classic means to holding on to memories in the form of photographs and videos. Something that the digital age captures rampantly, even so often frivolously with abandon – thanks to modern age hardware with new versions of gizmos and gadgets on one hand; and the fast ever so easily available, increasing capability to store copious amounts of data. Quickly within the decade moving from megabytes to terabytes and the rampant and increasingly lower cost of data transfer with JIO’s disruption strategy, which turned out to be a game changer which has forced long standing players like Vodaphone and Airtel to out of compulsion offer such data access at a fraction of the costs at which they were charging earlier the populace. This quantum leap of humanity to capture, transfer and store data, has given rise to a new form of malady. That of storing too much and not needing to ever let go or delete what was useful earlier and useless now. Be that all the files in one’s computer that were so critical during a particular week or month, multiple versions of the same excel or powerpoint presentation carefully stored before an important review. Once the purpose of such files is over, they continue to stay on for no reason other than lethary to take the time to go through it and delete unwanted stuff and the all-knowing privilege, that life will go on smoothly if not attended to. On the other hand, the age of photos and videos “unlimited storage” is one more such scenario; where amusingly myriad photos and videos after being taken may not experience the honour, of being seen more than once after reviewing the immediate capture. Often, mindless and frequent capture of selfies for every different background several times a day, every day continue. Something that was seen as being vain, is now the order of the day. Having covered notes on physical memorabilia and digital memories; one of the best and most cherished, often nostalgic and inexpressible are the memories stored in our hearts and in our minds. With the Almighty’s gift to be able to access memories from one’s mind – drawn from events of the previous day, to others from a time long past by of one’s childhood and everything in between. Such are cherished memories, are then often narrated ever so fondly from one person to another, one generation to the next or to the one succeeding it; sometimes by the one who went through that experience, sometimes over generations, decades and even centuries - through word or letter.

A well-written blog. It reminded me of my mother’s struggle to throw away things that has no monetary value but high emotional value to her like our childhood toys, her marriage prop etc. She really cherished the nostalgia associated with those things, eventually infusing similar habit in us. Now, I really like keeping mundane items like old pair of socks or restaurant bills. The pleasure one can have after going through a restaurant bill some 2 years after is quite exciting; the nostalgia of that particular dinner event with your family or loved ones is amazing. The blog quite effortlessly pierces through our emotions making us think about how precious things can be and what kind of happiness they delivers. It is quite common nowadays to take pictures of every life event and store it for further remembrances but the joy that we can have by keeping these simple things physically is unmatchable. It actually triggers the emotional waves in the brain, taking us back to the memories associated with it. All of us face difficulty in moving from a place where we are settled from a long time and while moving we tend to keep some objects to cherish the memories of that place. Often we find teenagers keeping gifts from their loved ones for a long time and then disposing those things after separation to erase of the memories of him/her. It shows the power that a particular object has as it is quite difficult to forget that particular person with that object still there. I believe it is equally important to get rid of the things that are no longer useful, because after sometime, it becomes quite difficult to throw away things, which bears no value in our life still we keep it just for the sake of it. Finally, the author has elegantly placed her views and expressed a subject most of us are going through in our life.

Thank you for such a heartfelt article on one of the most common emotional dilemmas that people face. Letting go has never been easier for anybody. Be it friends, family members, parents or even the things you had in your childhood. Those things are not just inanimate, motionless objects. They always have a deeper meaning. They are gateways to our most precious memories. If this isn’t true then why is it that when we sit to clean our rooms, our moms screaming at the back to throw away the things that are not needed anymore, we have one look at piles of books and other stuff we used to have in our childhood and then just sit there for hours, taking everything one by one and reminiscing on the memories that particular thing contains? Sometimes we read those scrap books, which were filled during the last days of our school and when we are done with our journey down the memory lane, it’s almost late evening! Memories are all that we have, always. Obviously, it is difficult to even think of letting them go. It’s like we are throwing away a part of our yesteryears. Yes, letting go is difficult. Difficult but extremely important if we want to move forward in our lives. Memories should bring smiles to our faces, not hold us back from moving forward. And, if a memory or thing is doing just that, then it is time to let go of that thing. May be that’s the reason these days I have started spending more on experiences than on materialistic things. I understand I cannot totally get rid of them but tries to keep it low. Experiences are treasures which you carry in your mind and heart without paying a baggage fee, they are part of us even if we lose everything and stand alone.

This is an amazing article and I think almost everyone will relate to it. It shows how the writer, at first, didn't hold onto the things of her mother although she did realise that those things had emotions attached to them but then when she moved to Mumbai how she got attached to certain things her husband children bought. It's natural though, to get attached to something on an emotional level because we create our life around such things. And what happens with me most is that if I get attached to something I hold on to it forever. Like I had this friend who was very dear to me when I was a child. We used to send lame jokes to one another on WhatsApp when he left me to be his dad on the other side of the world. Not just joke, we would tell our daily proceedings to each other because we were like family. And now that we have moved on with our lives, we don't talk to each other that often (but we're still friends). We have grown apart in the sense that we're still friends but don't text each other daily. So, this was a surprise to me when I found that I didn't want to lose all the conversation I had with him even after years. Those chats give me flashbacks of how lame we were and how that time of my life helped me cope up with my problems. Now that I have a sort of life, I look back those moments and it gives me the strength to fight another war. I have emotions attached to those chats because my mind used to be at ease when I used to talk to him. I would never want to lose those chats even though "I should" because people think those are lame but I don't think they won't understand what joy those chats give me even now. And I'm glad I'm holding onto that.

As Keats said, “Thing of a beauty is a joy forever”. The blog has rekindled the dilemma which we humans face when making a connection in this strange world. We fail to differentiate between things and people at some point in time. We connect our loved ones with the things they loved. Be it a small barely existing thing like a handkerchief or the room they once occupied. And the thought of parting from these precious items induces a pang of guilt as if we are giving up on that particular memory or that person. Harder it may seem and harder it gets as the time passes by. Instead of dreading the ever increasing pile of collectibles, one should cherish the memories all those items shared with one. These things of beauty may bring back a lot good memories but do we really need them to remember our family? The love, warmth, and bond work in the same way and perhaps are stronger. So, the thing to celebrate is not the materialistic being but the moment it relates to. Beauty lies in complexity of things but nowadays there is an unspoken pressure of creating and capturing or documenting moments to remember. The blog somewhere also made me relook and rethink my connection with things that I call ‘precious’ or the people with whom I hold or should hold every moment precious. In this time and age, when the actual human interaction (especially amongst family members and loved ones) is on an all-time decline and technology has replaced the triggers for all kinds of memories I felt the need to fiercely protect and hold on to my clutter of things. It will be a constant struggle to have honest conversations with self and invest time in the real kind of interaction and collect materials and not just social media posts to revisit the actual moments and memories.

I completely agree with your views on emotional connection with things and would like to share my views on the same. Very soon I will be moving to Netherlands for further studies and I am worried what will happen to my things when I am away from my home. As a matter of fact there were number of times I have tried to sort out the so called junk, and in all efforts, I failed to differentiate between useful and useless junk. Be it Physics book used in ninth standard or pen stand which I made in fourth standard, all seems close to my heart. The badminton racket, on which my sister had her eyes on and I will shout at her if she even touches it, will be hers now. Will all the shoes in the rack wait till my next visit to India? Or all of them will be given away by my mother? Should I discard the things just because they are old or because I have not used them for quite a while? Is it fair? By this logic should I discard people from my life just because they are old or because I have not talked to them for a few days? No. Never. So why we have to discard these little things which have more emotional feelings attached to us? Life is not at all fair. It puts you in dilemma always, at least in case of non-living things, that you don’t want to disown. Now I am in dilemma WHAT TO LEAVE and WHAT TO TAKE.

Often life throws this question on us “Whether to hold on to or let it go”. This may sound easy, but it takes a lot of courage to let it go specifically when that “it” is a dear memory. We have a habit of keeping things as remembrance of an event. Perhaps that’s why cameras were developed. It helps to lock our special moment as a picture which stays with us forever. However, it’s not just pictures its everything around us which is somehow related to that event, act as an impression of our memory. We tend to clench on to anything or everything which can make us relive that dear memory. Sometimes, amidst this rejoice of memory, we lose track of reality and get stuck with the past. We try to hold on to things and eventually they stop us from moving forward. So, then how should one decide that it’s the time to let go of the memory and it’s the time to embrace the present. As per my opinion we can never let go of any memory, it may become sub-conscious but it always stays with us. Therefore, the fight to hold on to or to let go vanishes the moment we realize that it will always be with us but to let it affect us or not is something we need to decide consciously. As Sarbjeet Ma’am tried to get rid of her memory by letting go of her stuff yet the emotions in her words itself depicts that she still holds all those memory to her heart. We can get rid of things but not memory. Memories are undetachable, things are just to relate. So, when people say get rid of all the things of a person we are trying to forget, they are just trying to remove the superficial causes. The real culprit “memory” will still be present. So, is this means there is no way out, fortunately there is and that is “time & acceptance”. For a bad memory, the healer is the time, with the passing time we come in to acceptance of the wrong that has happened. Our mind instead of lingering to what has happened starts to move towards what can now be done. This is how a bad incident changes in to a great lesson which shows the memory just transforms, it doesn’t vanishes. For a good memory, our mind keeps making us remember those beautiful events to inspire us to move forward and make more of such memories. However, if a person becomes too absorbed and abrupt this natural process he/she can get trapped in to the vicious circle of memory bound. Therefore, acceptance is very important in one’s life. It helps to keep the loving memories a live and aware of the bad ones. It shows the way ahead. It’s surprising to realize that many a times, our actions are being guided by a sub-conscious undetachable memory, because the mind and the heart want to feel the joy all over again.

‘And life teaches you nothing!’ – This line spoke volumes throughout the post. Sarabjeet Ma’am, it was a pure delight reading your write-up and I wonder if you have a blog of your own? The way you blended facts, myths, emotions, wit and humour in this piece is pure brilliance. I could relate to several parts of the story you narrated to the experiences that my mother and I have had. You have put across the concept how through simple things in life, like holding on to a box actually in a way implies how we humans tend to holding on to people and memories who have left us or have faded away with time. I recall my childhood, when much like your children, I dreaded my mother for she was notorious in throwing or giving away things. There was this one incident which I remember vividly when she had given away our (my brother and I) favourite war machine – a metal Tank to the dhobi’s child. The sight of the kid throwing around the Tank in the corridor broke our hearts. That evening was the saddest evening of our childhood life! Little did we know, there were many more to follow. Losing the Tank was one thing, but losing every other toy or dress/frock felt like we were getting stripped off of our childhood. My red frock, designed as the one that Kajol wore in DDLJ, was turned into rag. The scrabble tiles and tile holder were thrown away while the board remained neatly packed in the cupboard. To add to that, our Tinkle and stamp collection turned to shreds right after the summer vacations were over. It seemed very illogical to have our things thrown/given away and we, just like your family members, tried hard to hide things away from mother. I, wary of becoming a notorious ‘Thrower’, tried your way of escaping it - minimalistic approach towards setting up my room. I have some traits of my mother of course, genes couldn’t be beaten, but I do try to not overload my room with things which I don’t direly need. However, I have, in the course of time, differed from how my mother is. I have kept a now blotched saree that my grandmother used to wear when she would visit us. She had kept it with us and after her demise I made sure that I don’t lose it. I look at that saree and I get reminded of how independent and strong a woman she was, my grandmother. I don’t think I will ever wear that blotched saree. But I do believe that there should be something physical that helps you connect to your core, your roots. Moving on, by throwing or giving away things attached to memories, is very important to move ahead in life, to heal from disasters and live with peace at heart. Holding on to memories in things is what will always remind you of the person that you are and the people who have touched your lives.

The article reminds me of one of my favourite songs- Let her go, by Passenger. It makes me contemplate about the contrast we experience in holding on to things, people, dreams and memories. The author talks about the fast pace of life and says- “In a life that is leaving us behind very quickly, making us irrelevant, we linger and ask everyone to understand the importance of things that were once important to us.” It is in this fast pace of life we often fail to acknowledge simple moments in the present and hold on to memories and things carrying reminiscent of the past. Realising that holding on to memories can have an adverse effect on us and we decide that it is best in our interest to let go of things and value them at economic value rather than emotional value just like the author did when she gave away things which have not been used in a while. My concern was why do we hold on to memories but let go our dreams. “Staring at the bottom of your glass, hoping one day you'll make a dream last, but dreams come slow and they go so fast” – are the lyrics of the song mentioned above which emphasis on holding on to dreams. Although most people work hard to achieve their dreams, more often than not the little dreams- be it visiting a particular place, learning to play an instrument, learning a new language, going for adventure sports, writing a book and the like get lost in the day to day hustle bustle. Holding on to dreams does not come innately just like holding on to memories and we might end up letting go of our dreams. It also happens that we are so busy to catch up with the fast pace of life that we do not hold on to people. Everyone would have had at least one friend we wish we didn’t lose touch with, at least one incident when we wished to be besides someone but couldn’t because of professional commitments or at least once when we fail to spend time with people who matter. These make our relationships slip away gradually and we only realise it when we “let someone go” out of our life. We let emotions take a back seat and get technology to aid us but technology is also partly responsible for the widening gaps in relationships although it brings the world and our loved ones’ closer. Using technology as a proxy for personalised presence has become the norm, but no gift, no connect by Skype or Facetime can replace the personal effort of being with loved ones. The ad by Amazon recently on #DeliverTheLove only reinforces that idea. To me it means not letting go of opportunities to create memories. “Well, you only need the light when it's burning low, only miss the sun when it starts to snow”, so hold on to people and dreams before its time to let it all go away.

Thank you Ms. Sarabjeet Natesan for sharing this inspiring experience. I really admire your bold step of taking up minimalist living in a new city. I think we can all relate to your story in so many ways. Moving to a hostel is a very similar experience we all went through recently. This was my first time moving out of home and like any other parents, mine not only over-packed my luggage with food, appliances and clothes, they also booked tickets for themselves and my sister to help me get settled here properly. Hence, the first week of my hostel life was nowhere like the fresh start and a new beginning like I had planned it to be. On top of being overloaded with academic work in the first week, I was all over the place trying to unpack, find a space for things and buying new things as my lovely mother had over-anticipated everything that I would need in a hostel. Little did she know that I would be bringing a suitcase full of things back home with me on the very first visit. Now my hostel room was de-cluttered but my home and my room back home was overloaded with my things. I came back home after a long day and a delayed flight. We, as Indians, have the habit of hoarding things. That teddy bear from 3rd class is still used as a showpiece by the bed. My wall-hanging (craft project from school) is still on my door. My pictures with college friends are still stuck on the pin-board. I was back in the room where I have lived all my childhood. And the things in that room made it my home. In that moment I realized how much more comfortable and welcoming my cluttered room was than my de-cluttered hostel room. Living minimalist is a concept hyped all across the world and no doubt there are many advantages to it. Like Ms. Sarabjeet Natesan aptly stated, you have the power or leaving the place anytime you want. You shop less and save money on useless things. You have a cleaner and a more open living space. However, it is the things and the clutter that make you feel a sense of belonging. Without a clutter of things carrying memories, a home is just a house. One might not carry everything around with them, but a few things that ground you to your past happy memories are definitely needed.

Thankyou ma’am for writing on this emotional and relatable article. Objects leave behind a world to which we can easily be transported by just looking at them. We connect to some things so much that when someone tries to take them away from us, we retaliate as if they were trying to take that memory away itself. A memory doesn’t just remain a memory then, the object associated with it becomes just as valuable to us as the memory itself. When my mother walks in to my room, she finds the items that I hold on to junk and wishes to throw them away. She sneaks into my room, eager to clean it and is always welcomed by me, refusing to let her close to my precious memorabilia. Scattered across my room, my memories in the form of things, including old calendars, jeans that don’t fit anymore, old board games, video games which I know I will never play again, CDs full of songs which can now easily be found online, pens which are out of ink, and most importantly my prized GI Joe and toy cars collection from when I was 10. It is easy to hold on to the past, because it is comfortable and familiar. It makes us feel less vulnerable and more protected. But it’s important for us to step out of our comfort zone to grow and learn. It’s not easy, but being vulnerable makes us stronger and helps us experience things in a new way. I’m not arguing that we give up our memorabilia entirely, but we need to know where memories end and the present begins. A reluctance to let go of things can also mean reluctance to let go of the past. Since memorabilia is so powerful that it can take us back, holding on to items, say, of a former girlfriend, would mean painful reminders of the past everyday. In this case, getting rid of things associated with her will mean readiness for a new relationship. Therefore, while memories need to be kept close and treasured, we shouldn’t lose track of the present memories we are making. We need to give way to new memories. On the flip side, the fast changing world and growing technology is providing a whole new dimension to this puzzle of storing or trashing objects related to memories. With technology changing so fast, the life cycles of TVs, refrigerators, phones, etc are reducing by the day and hence minimalizing the attachment one has with these consumer durable goods. Similarly, cloud storage has completely disrupted the concept of storing photo albums. More and more people are converting their old photos to digital copies and saving them on the cloud. There are many more examples that showcase how the new age world is facilitating us to store and share our memories in a smart way.

Thank-you ma’am for sharing such a personal experience with us. The article has been brilliantly written. I think in some way or the other we can all relate to this article. We’re all trying to be independently strong individuals, to move on and accept the changed environment. However, the memories that we hold on to so dearly try to pull us back every time. I still remember the time I took a solo-trip to Mumbai; I still have kept a number of things like tickets, photographs, and restaurant bills to hold on that moment and feeling and every time I think about throwing it off as it’s just adding to the trash, I somehow end up convincing myself that these are the memories of some of the best days of my life and I need to store it. On a larger scale, if we look at it I think this is the attitude that prevents us to grow. The attachment with things prevents us from moving to a different environment or adapting to different ways of doing things. Looking at the example of Infosys, NRN Murthy, even after he stepped back from the active running of the company couldn't let go and raised a hue and cry about the executive pay packages and drew comparisons to his own. This led the CEO, Vishal Sikka, to step down and created troubles in the functioning of the company. At the end of the day, I think it all boils down to not being attached to things, to be able to love and yet, let go. When you hold on to things, you aren’t able to test your limits, you aren’t able to explore yourself and know what you’re capable of. Also, only when you let go of stuff from the past are you able to create a space for new ones. I do acknowledge the fact that at times, just going back to those memories and cherishing them is a source of happiness and provides us with the strength to deal with life, but they also make us weak in the sense that it then becomes difficult for us to accept change and take up better opportunities in life. This doesn’t mean that nothing should be important to us; going to an extreme of anything is bad. It just implies that you need to know “when to let go”. As soon as you think it anything has started to affect your personal growth or development or is making you weak emotionally, that should be your cue.

I thank Dr. Sarabjeet Natesan for such an emotionally appealing write up. It beautifully puts forth some of the tough things about staying away from family & certain silly things we do to keep them close to us. I can easily relate to this write up since I have stayed away from home since I turned 16. My initial hostel days were depressing & I missed everything about my house- even the taste of the water from our well. Gradually I got accustomed to the hostel and friends, but still I kept missing home. Once when my parents came to visit me, I asked them to bring my pillow. This made a world of difference; suddenly I did not feel so far from home. One of the biggest challenges I had to face in 2017, was getting married and joining a b-school two months after the marriage. Although we have known each other for 9 years now, staying away from each other after marriage was bound to be tough. She went to Hyderabad a week before my scheduled departure to Mumbai. When she insisted on packing for me, little did I realize that she would sneak out one of my favorite shirts and take it to Hyderabad as a souvenir. I recognized this ‘theft’ only after she came on skype donning this blue colored shirt that was drooping over her shoulders. Apparently, she was ashamed to ask such silly things. People attach their emotions to certain things; some even go to the extent of relating their success with certain things. Everybody has always had a lucky bat , a lucky boot or lucky pen at some point of their lives. This tendency is more so when one gets separated from their family. Quoting from Professor’s blog “the regular has become precious and the precious has become prized”. Things that might be discarded as of no value can potentially become a window to nostalgic memories and belongingness. Resuming from where I left with my story, I showed my wife a piece of paper and asked her to read it. This was something she had written for me 4 years ago and I have always carried it around in my wallet since then. The shirt is her link to me and the letter is my link to her. It is natural human tendency to want to be with people they love and people do unexplainable things for love. Often, in times of distress these things can be a source of inspiration & hope. As the title suggests, the human tendency to hold on to far away love or memories of a departed loved one manifests into associating them with their personal belongings & adds value to otherwise invaluable things. It is not silly, but the very soul of human behavior without which we will be nothing but living robots.

I’m indeed touched after reading the poignant article, written so beautifully. Thank you so much ma’am for writing this, it gave me a much needed wake-up call and forced me to stop and reflect which we as MBA students require but don’t generally get time for. My coming to Mumbai for the first time out of my hometown after leaving my home, my parents and my younger brother was the reason I could relate to the blog so much. I was always under the impression that I have to be away from my family only for these two years while I’m pursuing my MBA. I always imagine myself going back to Delhi, to my parents and continuing my life exactly from where I left it. However, post reading the blog I realised that perhaps I was living in a fantasy world. We don’t have the luxury to choose what happens even tomorrow, let alone two years down the line. We try hard to believe and make others believe what we want. In the blog also, things like cutlery and other furniture, weren’t taken to Mumbai maybe because the inherent desire to return back was so ardent. However, gradually you had to settle in and that was where it struck me that we don’t have the luxury to steer our lives towards the way we want and sometimes we just move the way life takes us. An important learning from here is to enjoy wherever life takes you. The piece where you’ve mentioned cleaning up your mother’s cutlery reminded me of a similar incident when my grandma’s belongings were sealed in a big box after she left us. I wanted to take those things and preserve them forever. Her small gold ‘disco’ chain, a name given by me and my grandmother when I was a kid, was something I could never forget. After reading the blog, my mind was inundated with memories of the past and I began to question life. Our lives are so busy that we don’t realise the pace with which we move ahead and leave things behind. The deep words of Mr. William Henry Davies from the poem ‘Leisure’ can never leave my mind- “What is this life full of care, we’ve no time to stand and stare” Only when we look back, we realise that the things have changed so much. People, things, situations which once used to matter, do not now. Things which we thought we cannot live without aren’t even something we miss now. On the contrary sometimes objects become cues to our past. Things with absolutely no value become priceless just because of the memories associated. Another important question which cropped up in my mind post reading the blog was: Is it good to get attached to things and associate them with people or should we follow the approach of detaching ourselves from things so that we aren’t reminded of the people we associate these things? Is it all about moving ahead in life?

So relatable and so remarkable. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, which have left me contemplating about my relations from past, present and even future. I am no stranger to the ardent process of packing and unpacking bags for all kinds of trips, short or long. Moving from Delhi to Jaipur, Jaipur to Udaipur and eventually to Mumbai has left me experienced in wrapping things up not only in a physical sense but also in terms of emotions. Promises of keeping in touch, having reunions, and celebrating the big days together are as reliable as the promise I make to myself to save more money next month. During college, the eager teenager in me just wanted to go home every other weekend and never delayed packing. Give me 10 minutes and I was ready with my bag full of dirty clothes. Although, a duffel bag was always folded and placed to bring back loads of food. The trip ended as Monday approached and I got used to living of those bags. I didn't unpack for weeks. it was a denial to accept I had moved away from Home. My habit turned into a belief that a long holiday was always just around the corner. After 5 years now I have learned though. I now take my time to pack, knowing I have to return back in 2 days and will only carry what is needed. I now unpack on the same day, it helps me settle in. No denying of the truth. The side effect of this is the feeling of rashness quite similar to what you described in your initial paragraphs. I settle in so quickly that i forget what I have left behind. Minimum calls, no texts and no worrying about dear ones. I move on from a location, from the feeling of my previous residence. Alas, similar to your case, this does not last. The newness gets over and once I get into a routine I notice what's lacking. The nostalgia is overwhelming and I run back with all my vigour to my safe state. Conversations with family and friends which last entire nights, browsing phone for old pics and returning a long owed favour are just some ways in which I force myself to relive the past. We are learning here to manage our time between activities of the present and activities of the future. The professional life has no space for devoting time to the past. This leads to virtual relationships and hollow ties. We tend to assign colleagues as our friends and the manager as our elder brother. Even on breaks, one treads with caution, whether to commit again to family or just avoid the whole thing altogether as it is meant to doom. These thoughts are rarely on my mind, but the words of this post transported me into a place where I could think of little else. I settle myself now focusing on people who do manage going places and still having presence back home. My father remains the torchbearer for me in this lineup. A friend, an uncle and my brother all serve as people to be inspired from. Indeed, life doesn’t teach us anything. Thank you again for the lovely post.

Reading through, past “And life teaches you nothing” was opening the sluice gates to a flood of flashes of my toy car in the loft, half torn glove in the scooter garage, pale pencil colour sketches of what I still call and believe to be a bird, my first guitar………. Then poops the beaming angel face of mom, who treasured it all through me, growing from toothless crib-set bundle to a bearded self-involved six footer, involved and wearing the involved appearance of pursuing studies. Reading this article, I wonder if she still holds to worthless handmade nappies for the generation next. I never have done this till now. After every class the books and note books disappeared, some flew as catapult airplanes out of my window in celebration, and some went to a junior student at school, after mom would snatch them out from me. I never had use of a torn glove, but that, its exhibition always brought replacements. All sketches on walls or paper were drawn and forgotten. Recollection of having done them resurrects inspecting mom’s worthless treasure. Had she not, I possibly would have lost their impressions memoir. She does as she loves me, her treasure trove, I honour it. What about him, ah yes Dad, who, if her’s were less, ploughed in a trunk full of books and notes with the arrival of offer letter to me from SPJIMR. The ones he made at business school. Wonder if he did it for his reference, or he now that he has no use of it he insists on inheritance. Cunning, his point of boast to me, “Son this is how you do it”. Surprise to me is, he also holds on to. While he has held on to his scribbles for me to see, and inherit, I do not know what else is in his furrow. May be his last golf club set, or the waterman. Good he does not have a Rolex, so it doesn’t bring in great expectations. I have never held on to, I don’t know why. While love prevailed, love letters never. Short texts, long conversations and posts confine to volatile electronic memory. Library, a tranquil hideout, boroughs in phone. I wonder, what will be the form of worthless treasures of tomorrow, solid state, enough to kindle the aftertaste of a syrupy Popsicle. Or will they be bland waiting for push of button to travel anywhere anytime, beyond the lids of the rusty big black steel box.

This was indeed a beautifully presented piece of writing and one worth reading. This one dilemma, of holding on or letting go, is something that almost everyone has faced once in their lives. Whether it be things, memories, or people it becomes difficult to let them go if you have an emotional connect. And I’m going through something similar. This is the first time that I’m staying away from my home, my family. And this dilemma of letting go was faced by both me and my family. Being the youngest one in the house I have always been the most pampered one not just by my parents but also my big brother, actually more so by him than them. So coming to a new city, all alone, I had this fear of leaving everything and everyone behind, all my things, my room, my friends, my family, and most importantly my dog. Whether it be my oldest watch which my brother gifted me and doesn’t even work today or that one sweater which my mother knitted for me which I will never need in Mumbai’s weather, I wanted to pack everything and bring it with me. These were the little things that are of no use to me today but still have a great importance in my life. Even back at home, when at times I used to come across this box filled with all such things, there was always a smile on my face, and I feel that this smile is worth keeping these things, rather memories, with me and not discarding them away. Now on my family’s part, it was quite difficult on their part as well to let me go. Like any parent, they were sending their little one out there all alone and there was again this fear of letting go. Letting go anything is tough only because of the memories that are attached with them. And these memories are always because of the times that you’ve shared with people that matter to you. So essentially at the end of the day, you’re just trying to hold on to those people who you love and care. And letting go people is the most difficult thing to do. This blog took me back and reminded me of all the people in my life that I’ve come across and cared for. All the friends that I’ve made and all the memories that I’ve shared with them. And if asked today, that will I be able to let go them? The answer is no. Not just because I’ve shared good times and memories with them, but also because that’s what has made me who I am today.

It was indeed heart thumping lines about how one has to clean parent’s home after they have parted us. It is even more touching to see that our parents have cherished those petty things of our childhood (which of course we feel useless) so judiciously and as preciously as if they have lives in them! Sometimes I find that my mother still has that nursery exam sheets of mine… I wonder that apple is shabbily coloured with green colour on it and my mother when reads it has peach colour on her cheeks smiling as if it was no less than a MF Hussain art! I think it is love that makes us feel complete. We are here only materialistically, creating lavish memories. We have choices of holding or discarding the materialistic world! We enter into a mesmerizing arena where we ourselves do not know what memories we create while we talk, while we laugh, while we scold, while we cajole, while we teach, while we preach and while we think! I appreciate the thoughts like Sarabjeet to hang on with materialistic pleasures to keep ourselves free from the worldly bondages; to keep one free from any clings or burdens to carry on further. But I feel the social aspect of our being on this planet will not allow us to let that happen. We can limit our requirements but we cannot limit our emotions. We are taught to speak freely but we teach ourselves to love wholeheartedly! We create and connect emotions with the materialistic world. It is not the t-shirt of Sarabjeet’s kids that was missing when she used it as a duster, it is that moment that they had invested in buying it. It was not the mini mall items that Sarabjeet loved… it was the time invested, the thoughts invested by her kids in that small materialistic thing that she loved. I think we are in love with most precious thing one can gift us and that is his/her time! On introspect I find we are more cluttered in our thoughts than our homes. Rather than cleaning the homes which vanishes the memories of the precious time gifted to us, we should Ctrl + Del the memories of the bad times gifted to us by others. I am not against cleaning our homes. On a lighter note, I am a 5S auditor wherein cleaning is certainly promoted by me. But do we really clean our thoughts! Which are corrupt, which are evil and nascent, which have jealousy, which are mundane, which have ruthless, which have hatred in it and which has no life in it. I think if we purify and cleanse our conscience and trash those negative emotions that we are holding from years; we shall be able to create a more memorable, diviner and enchanting lives for our next generation. I think such a life has lot to teach not only ourselves but the entire fraternity! In love with life.

So you finally got introduced to the concept known as BEING HUMAN. Yes it is a human tendency to make collection of valuable things. Your blog reminded me one of my air journey where I was too committed to take less luggage so that I can save time in check-in luggage procedures at airport. As I started my packing every family member was having a contribution to my journey. Mother was having MUST HAVES so my wife also insisted to carry REQUIRED items. I landed up with hand baggage of 9 KGs. So check in was again required. We are social animals and we should be proud of people who really make us realize, on time to time that you are being taken care of, you are missed and on top of that you are not realizing the value of stuff when crisis will come!! It may not come but what if it will! Less luggage always guarantee a hassle less journey. But if you face extreme weather you really need that umbrella which you refuse to take while packing isn’t it! When I am alone I go through my all old stuff. It reminds me old memories. I keep those things because they are reminds me of particular place, how I bought them, why I choose that stuff and most importantly my sub conscious mind didn’t allow me to throw it away being emotionally attached to them. Lucky ones get that sort of family who stick to you by every means. I am Hindu and on Diwali it’s a custom to clean the clutter of house on a day prior to Diwali. This custom gives a strong message i.e. cleaning of clutter is essential before celebration. I have big notebook of my memories. I have given it name JOURNEY CALLED LIFE. Wherever I go I took 2-3 pics and a small article or something special to keep in my book. Whenever I feel down or low I look back and by turning the pages it reminds me of my whole journey in a shot. I have done so much of shopping for my family and of course for me. But every time when I remind myself about over flow of wardrobes, a part of me refuse to take that input. Maybe yes this thought is creating lot of clutter but sometime I feel like uncle Scrooge ( Disney cartoon) when I turn to my wardrobe and feel like a king. YES I have every possible fashion garment and I am blissful to able to make my life comfortable to such extend. I feel good when I shop for my family members. So in my view keeping less material will serve purpose for those who are on shorter journey and ready for shop when in need or cut down on few essential desires. I am here to enjoy my journey till I reach my destination. Yes I keep getting rid of clutter time to time and make sure my near and dear ones are not hurt.

“To Hold On To” a thoughtfully written article by Prof. Sarabjeet Natesan wherein the author has walked us through the memory lane. As rightly mentioned, as years pass by, memories are collected and things associated with those memories become an integral part of our life. We fear that letting go off old things might make us forget the valuable memories associated with it. This article reminds me of my very own case wherein knowingly/unknowingly I have started collecting the things which are associated with the memories I deem as precious. Like the birthday greetings which my cousins sent since childhood, my first leather cricket bat bought by my Dad when I was in 4th grade, shirt which I wore to meet my wife (girlfriend then) for the first time etc. Even though my wife threatens me to throw away old things and to use my memorable shirt to clean the house, I have been successful to safeguard these things against all odds. My Mom keeps complaining about all the old things that I have gathered but I make her realize that even she has gathered things like my childhood clothes which she is reluctant to part away. No matter who it is, everybody cherish the memory and material things act as a life line to these memories. Life has become very busy due to the competitive world and hectic life style wherein we have to keep running each and every day. These memories might not be occurring to me regularly. However, whenever I encounter the things associated with these memories, I just sit back and cherish those moments. This gives a sense of happiness and joy. At the end it is these memories that makes Life and without it life would be like a robot. No matter how hard we try to let go off things and find a thousand reasons for the same but there would be a million reasons against it.

A poignant, nostalgic read! Thank you Dr. Natesan for this reflective piece that strikes a chord with many of us who have dealt with the dichotomy of making memories and reliving them. I have always remembered something that I read as a teenager: “If only age could, if only youth knew…” I didn’t know what it meant then; later as I started gathering moss over the years, I found myself smiling at the ceiling while these words brushed my brain once in a while. From the rebel 20s to the more grounded 30s, of all things that life teaches you, reflection is surely one of the most treasured. And the more you reflect, memories crawl their way into small boxes in your mind as well as your home, creating more baggage than ever before. Unlike when you could flaunt your brashness as a teenager, unaware of the times when holding on to memories would start becoming more important than making memories. I belong to a family who never had a home of their own. In my three and a half decades of existence, I have stayed in close to twenty six habitats, spread across four cities, and lived in all sorts of establishments that are popular in middle class India: a rented place with family, paying guest accommodation, hostels, shared apartment with colleagues, etc. My dad was a bohemian trapped in a make-belief businessman, and he never cared to collect things or money or anything in his material life. He was a political ideologist turned to a hedonist, and all his life, he cherished experiences and squandered money to do whatever he felt would suit his idea of happiness. In that entire process, every habitat has been my home and have never been specially attached to any place in particular. The difficult part is, I have had to uproot myself once every couple of years to move on in search of a new home. All those memories trapped within the layers of time, have created their own mesh of love, longing and a relentless ennui borne out of the constant kinesis that life is. And we are always navigating between what to own and what to disown, to bring order to our otherwise erratic lives. Easier said than done, they say. And now with a ten month old kid, my place looks like a toy store if not the back kitchen of a takeout restaurant!

A poignant, nostalgic read! Thank you Dr. Natesan for this reflective piece that strikes a chord with many of us who have dealt with the dichotomy of making memories and reliving them. I have always remembered something that I read as a teenager: “If only age could, if only youth knew…” I didn’t know what it meant then; later as I started gathering moss over the years, I found myself smiling at the ceiling while these words brushed my brain once in a while. From the rebel 20s to the more grounded 30s, of all things that life teaches you, reflection is surely one of the most treasured. And the more you reflect, memories crawl their way into small boxes in your mind as well as your home, creating more baggage than ever before. Unlike when you could flaunt your brashness as a teenager, unaware of the times when holding on to memories would start becoming more important than making memories. I belong to a family who never had a home of their own. In my three and a half decades of existence, I have stayed in close to twenty six habitats, spread across four cities, and lived in all sorts of establishments that are popular in middle class India: a rented place with family, paying guest accommodation, hostels, shared apartment with colleagues, etc. My dad was a bohemian trapped in a make-belief businessman, and he never cared to collect things or money or anything in his material life. He was a political ideologist turned to a hedonist, and all his life, he cherished experiences and squandered money to do whatever he felt would suit his idea of happiness. In that entire process, every habitat has been my home and have never been specially attached to any place in particular. The difficult part is, I have had to uproot myself once every couple of years to move on in search of a new home. All those memories trapped within the layers of time, have created their own mesh of love, longing and a relentless ennui borne out of the constant kinesis that life is. And we are always navigating between what to own and what to disown, to bring order to our otherwise erratic lives. Easier said than done, they say. And now with a ten month old kid, my place looks like a toy store if not the back kitchen of a takeout restaurant!

“I figured to myself, if I need to leave, there is nothing that will bind me here”. Sarabjeet ma'am, ‘To hold on to’ was a delightful read! The phenomenon of “the regular has become precious and the precious become prized” has become traditional to everyone around us. With each word, you’ve charmingly evoked something for all of us to relate to. I can confidently agree that most of us, at some point, have meticulously collected things as though they’re lego blocks, to build a home for the past to dwell in securely. As a child, I cached a shoe box sealed with memories of mid-class conversation chits, parts of a favorite broken toy, the first letter, tokens of appreciation, fragments from a favorite-city syndrome, and wacky photographs unfit for photo frames. It’s a component glued to my tossed over conscience, and I’d personally carry it everywhere I go. It gives me a boost of confidence as if if I were a book, the box would empower me to read all the pages at once. Maybe it’s the age gap speaking, most of us are yet to persuade ourselves to believe that we don’t need a clutter to convince us that we’ve swam across it. The bigger, the better! In the digital age, our phones unapologetically capture the moments and secures within itself the laughs, surprises, victory, playful embarrassments and sometimes, tears. They then become photographs and later dramatically slides itself into The Box. It becomes habitual, because we’re painfully aware that moments are transient, but memories are forever. Are they? My grandmother, once after being taken over by amnesia, looked at her daughter’s stethoscope and for the first time, her face had no glow of pride. She still spoke of things but this time, objects lay around her like gubbins whose story she refused to listen. Then, at that moment, I realized that objects are savory only when you let it breathe under a blanket of memories. But it’s a fact that maturity knocks on your door when gracefully age, as you learn how to outshine the art of letting go. Uncluttering gives you a feeling of authority over the palette of reminders that life offers. You begin to remember less and you start to cherish more, because what’s left is truly what matters. You feel untethered from the burden of a frail vulnerability.

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