Monday, 24 June 2013


Forgetting isn't enough. You can paddle away from the memories and think they are gone. But they will keep floating back, again and again and again  They circle you, like sharks. Until, unless, something, someone? Can do more than just cover the wound. ” 
― Sara Zarr, Story of a Girl

In our day to day lives, one keeps complaining about forgetfulness. Whenever I think of Iris Murdoch or John Nash, I can't help but feel scared of losing my ability to remember and retain things altogether one day. And yet, when one tries to forget something and stash it away for all years to come, one realizes how powerful our memories are and the influence they wield on us. Often, our personalities, our character, our emotions and our abilities are shaped by the circumstances of  our past and the lives we have led.

As a quizzer in my early days of school and university, I always took pride in my eidetic memory. I could clearly remember my interactions with people, the place in the background, the clothes that somebody had worn, the events of the day and just about everything. Its been as if a particular moment gets frozen in my mind for all times to come.

Yet, as years have passed, I often find that my mind is also a huge obstacle in several ways. Events which should have long being forgotten, words which should  have not been spoken and things which should not have happened continue to resound in my mind as if it was only yesterday.  Sometimes, the burden of these memories becomes too much to bear and I can not help feeling overwhelmed.

Occasionally,these memories prevent me from making a fresh start when the situation warrants or make it impossibly difficult to do so. Often, the memories of the times we cherished the most are always the most difficult to deal with and make us long for things which can not be.

At times, I fear returning to old places. The reality of current times and the changed circumstances might ruin a perfect place etched forever in my memory. I treasure the smells of a place and the familiar sights and will never be able to accept any changes therein. The fresh smell of paint after Diwali each year, the lush smells of vegetation in JNU during the monsoons, the cold musty feeling of Academy rooms, the slow arrival of winters in Delhi, the aroma of my mother's food, the crisp feel of a new notebook, the familiar roadside bazaars of small UP towns.. Sometimes, life seems to be nothing more than a string of these memories.

Nobody can rob us of our memories and no amount of money can lighten their burden either. As life chugs along each day, newer memories accumulate, yet the old ones at best soften but do not fade. While we set our goals and go about our business to accomplish them, we need to spare a thought to build/do something memorable too. Because long after our lives come to an end, these memories remain and we are known by the kind of memories associated with us.

I share a beautiful passage to conclude:
memories were tricky things…they weren’t stable. they changed with perception over time. …they shifted, and [she] understood how the passage of time affected them. the hard working striver might recall his childhood as one filled with misery and hardship marred by the cat calls and mae calling of playground bullies, but later, have a much more forgiving understanding of past injustices. the handmade clothes he had been forced to wear, became a testament to his mother’s love. each patch and stitch a sign of her diligence, instead of a brand of poverty. he would remember father staying up late to help him with his homework – the old old man’s patience and dedication, instead of the sharpness of his temper when he returned home – late- from the factory. it went the other way as well.

[she] had scanned thousands of memories of spurned women, whose handsome lovers turned ugly and rude. roman noses, perhaps too pointed. eyes growing small and mean. while the oridnary looking boys who had become their husbands, grew in attractiveness as the years passed, so that when asked if it was love at first site, the women cheerfully answered yes. memories were moving pictures in which meaning was constantly in flux. they were stories people told themselves.” 

― Melissa de la Cruz, The Van Alen Legacy

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