Is it possible to have memories about a place we have never been to?

As I dwell deeper into this question, I know that there are more places that make me feel like this. These memories or in most cases, visual reveries formulate themselves from the existing information I have. This information is either stories I’ve heard from a co-traveller, photos that I have seen online or words of literature I may have read somewhere.

Kerala is one such place. I have heard about its green forests, serene backwaters and contrasting coastline for more than a decade now. And each time, these memories grow sharper. Sometimes, I feel like I am there, whilst I hear a friend’s travel experience in the state. I know I have been there, just through her words. And eventually when I realise that these are just impressions of my mind, I can’t wait to experience Kerala tourism in actuality.

But what happens when those impressions don’t replicate reality?

The green feel of Shantiniketan.
The green feel of Shantiniketan.

In March this year, I travelled to Shantiniketan. After a period of long wait, this destination became a reality. My first thought as I looked for a cycle rickshaw outside Bolpur Railway Station was, ‘This is not how I expected Shantiniketan to be.’

I was overthrown by the chaos, crowd, noise, dust and traffic. After all, wasn’t this the abode of the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore? All those words poetic words in Gitanjali and those describing the Visva-Bharati’s serene yet thriving atmosphere are untrue? These questions seemingly disturbed me until the following day. Away from the madness, no sooner I entered the Visva-Bharati campus, than I knew what it all meant. The vibe was engaging and mystical—just as I expected it to be.

Eventually, I felt like the Shantiniketan in my memory is tactile.

Have you made such memories?

See more photos from my travels on my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram.

Amrita Das

I have been a travel and culture independent journalist. My bylines have appeared in many publications worldwide including National Geographic Traveller India, Lonely Planet Magazine India, The Indian Express and World Travel Magazine. A fellow of Media Ambassadors India-Germany 2019 program by Robert Bosch Stiftung and Centre for Media Competence, University of Tübingen. Currently, I am the photo editor for RoundGlass Sustain, a wildlife and conservation e-publication. I live in India.

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2 thoughts on “Memories of the Unfamiliar Land”

  1. Kerela to me too, has been elusive! That too when it’s just a few hour’s ride/drive away from where I am located as of now. And yes, I too at times, *travel* to such places the way you have mentioned. The one other place I have *travelled to* many a times is Mongolia.

    More to such travels until we land – up there :)


    1. Hahaha, may be actually travel to all our unfamiliar lands, soon. All good things take time no? :)

      P.S: I noticed you’ve made it to Gokarna. A few more kilometres to Kerala :p

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