SHILLONG : between tribal urbanity and festering nostalgia » RAIOT
An aspect that I have come to associate with Shillong is nostalgia; a longing for a city that once was. This relates to the colonial past, when the city was less populated, greener and cleaner, but also to a more recent postcolonial past. Among middle-aged people – those I mainly socialise with – this longing is mainly for the city of their youth; a city prior to violence and protests, a peaceful and friendly place where you go to meet a friend or watch a movie late in the evening without fear. But as many of my interlocutors lament, this ended in the 1980s with increasing ethnic conflicts, curfews, rallies and underground activities. The past – the 1960s and 70s – appears as a time of innocence, freedom and possibilities in a world that was opening up. While I suppose it is a universal feature to cling to memories of the formative period of one’s youth, Shillongites seem especially besieged by a nostalgic mood, a collective commemoration of the past. That life for many in the city has improved materially doesn’t seem to alter such cravings for the city that once was.
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