“You can slow time down by travelling. That month from Srinagar to the Taj Mahal is like a year in my life currently. Really, time is a measure of change, in a vacuum time doesn’t exist because nothing’s changing. If you can pack your life full of interesting changes you stretch it out. So if you want to live longer, have a really interesting life.”
I remember visiting the Taj Mahal for the first time, holding my mom’s and my dad’s index fingers with my tiny hands. I was barely two. I don’t remember the people there; I just remember being with my parents, wearing a red puffy jacket and black shades, since my parents used to dress me up like a boy.
But there is one thing I remember very clearly. It was very distinctive, this beautiful white building. It was the prettiest building I had ever seen in my entire life, but then again, I was just two; I had barely seen the world.
Fast-forward to when I was thirteen. I went to see the Taj again. I don’t remember the people (again).
I remember my parents, my sister, and the same beautiful white building, still the prettiest. When I went to see the Taj again a few days ago, six years later, it was still the most beautiful building I had seen in my entire life.
Over the years, most things have changed, people have changed, my sister has changed, my parents have changed, and as a matter of fact, I have changed. I stopped dressing up as a boy. In fact, I embraced my identity.
But there is one thing that didn’t change and that is my feelings towards the Taj. For the entire world, the Taj is a symbol of King Shahjahan’s love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, but for me, the Taj is my happy place. I tend to forget all the unpleasant things in my life when I’m there.
According to history, the Taj Mahal is Mumtaz’s tomb, but for me, it’s the place where I can be my true self and that’s the side of me I’m afraid to show the world. But if you asked the two-year-old me or the thirteen-year-old me, whether I was ready to show the world who I really am, they wouldn’t know, because back then, I was too preoccupied and young to even to think about all this.
We have come a long way since the beginning of mankind and have evolved into smarter beings, but there is one thing that has remained monotonous yet different for everybody: Time. But the measurement of time only began a while before 1500BC. We have come a long way since Lilith left Adam and, consequently, Eve ate the forbidden fruit, but there is still a long way to go.
We all get the same number of hours every day, but if we think about it, time is the most unpredictable and the most predictable thing at the same time. A supernova might be happening trillions of light-years away, and we wouldn't know about it. But then again, I know I’m going to wake up at 8.30 am tomorrow, log in to Google Meet, and then go back to sleep again.
In 2019, Billie Eilish released a chart-topping album titled, ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ And this title poses a genuine question: Where do we go when we fall asleep? Physically, we are where we fell asleep, but mentally we are at a hundred different places, thinking about a hundred different people and by the time we wake up, we forget everything. During the seven to eight hours of sleep, we are entirely different people inside our heads. Even though it sounds fascinating, it is very creepy.
Sleeping is investing in your health because if you don’t sleep at all, your brain cells will get damaged. Sleeping is similar to charging your phone’s battery. At the end of the day, we charge our phones (not all of us), so that we can use them the next day. Similarly, we sleep to charge our brain cells to make use of our brains the following day.
But how is this related to time? To think about it, everything is related to time. The development of our brain, body, personality, and the world.
As our brain develops, we tend to think more and sometimes things tend to go south. For example, we start overthinking everything and that makes the easiest of things seem complicated. If you ask me to solve a calculus problem, it might take me some time, but in the end, I’ll find the solution. However, at the same time, if you ask me to deal with my emotions, I may end up crying.
Coming back to the Taj, when I went there a few days ago, I forgot about all the bad things in my life. The questions are “why?” and “how?” I think that we tend to relate a specific emotion to a particular place. When I was standing in front of the Taj, I thought that I had forgotten about all my issues, but as soon as I was back in my car, I couldn’t avoid thinking about work and assignments. Even though I forgot about my issues for an hour or so, I’m glad I did.
I want you to think about a place you once visited or something you once did with someone close to you. Now think about the same place or that something, but this time you are alone. The person who was there earlier has either left you or died.
As I think about visiting the Taj with someone and then going there again without that person, I can’t help but think about the fact that, despite having made a lot of happy memories, I will end up being sad because that person is not around anymore. It’s not something that applies only to your significant other but also to your family.
If I go to the Taj when I am fifty or maybe anytime after my parents’ demise, I will think about all the time I spent with them at that place and that will make me cry, but it won’t stop me from smiling. I will consider myself lucky to have had a chance to be with my loved ones. It’s not that I don't want people to be a part of my happy memories.
I really do. But at the same time, I’m scared that when they leave, it will break my heart. For a long time, those merry memories will seem like unnecessary and dejected memories.
Then again, I know that when I’m older, I’ll go through our old photos and remember only the good things because our brain tends to remember only the joyful memories and, at that moment, I will realize that I eventually got over the melancholic parts and learned to appreciate and cherish all the time I invested in the people I loved.