There are any number of embarrassing situations that you let yourself into, but none is more acute than the one when you yap endless with a person at a party or a social gathering, and then wonder, after he leaves, as to who he is and what his name is. In most cases, it will be your father-in-law.
Failing to remember your spouse’s dad is nothing to be ashamed of, actually it is something that should be actively recommended to all, but the fact of the matter is you memory puts you in a spot many times, especially as you grow older when the need to recollect a lot of things is higher. This is to say: Your memory fails you when you need the most. There is a corollary to this: Your memory unfailingly remembers things that you can do without. What more, it pops them out, like a vehemently unwanted visitor, at the most inopportune of moments.
You will be in the ATM with an urgent need for cash as you have an autorickshaw running and waiting, and you are on the way to the railway station to catch a train. And precisely at that sweaty point, your mind will decide that it’s time to go blank. Somehow, the key number that will unlock your account and let the money drip through will fail to show up on your mind screen.
You might have used the ATM hundreds of time, but that is hardly any consolation. In those tension-suffused seconds the mind will scan the memory files whether the Identification Number is 2360 or 3650. And voila, at that precise and crucial point, it will strike your splendid memory that 236 indeed is the figure that is Sunil Gavaskar’s highest score in Test match cricket. And immediately it will also strike you that Sir Garfield Sobers had made 365, which for long was the highest individual test score. And for a few more happy minutes, your mind will belch out strange sequence of numbers that you will doubtless associate with many batsmen who retired many summers ago. The ATM card, the waiting autorick-shaw and the train to catch will cease to exist in the universe that you will be at that moment. By the time you come back to reality, it wouldn’t matter, as the unthinking machine would have swallowed the card and the train to catch would have started to chug.It’s not this alone.
You cannot quote a few lines without ungainly faltering from, say, Bharathiar, whom you learned by-heart for years together. But for reasons that could be explained only as cosmic conspiracy, even every inflection of the Vadi En Kappa Kizhange song resonates in your mind even today, and the last time you heard that rascally number was when you were in college, some two decades back. Likewise, ‘Where’s The Party Tonight’ tune will unspool in your mind several years later from now when you should actually be quoting verbatim lines from this column.
Your mind may also take pride in remembering useless trivia like Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipu kakapikim-aungahoron ukupokaiwenuakit atahu in New Zealand has the longest name for a place, and Los Angeles’s full name is ‘El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reinade los Angeles de Porciuncula’ and can be abbreviated to 3.63% of its size, L.A. But on occasions, especially when you are being wheeled into the operation theatre, you can’t recall your blood group.
Don’t ask me. I am worse. Many times over I go to a restaurant and come back happy after a hearty meal when the whole family is waiting for the sumptuous takeaway that I originally set out for. In such circumstances, the exchanges at home can be very illuminating for those with a patient ear to my house door or the drawing room wall. Wife: Where is it?
Me: Where is what?
Wife: The thing you had gone out to buy.
Me: What did I go out to buy?
Wife: The thing I told you to?
Me: What did you tell me?
Wife (with irritation, a default setting in her): What is the point in telling you again
when you are anyway not going to remember it at all?
Me (smiling sheepishly, the default setting in me): Well, if you are not at all going to tell me what I anyway did not remember then how in heavens will I remember it at all when I am supposed to remember it all over again some time later.
I know you can’t make head or tail out of the previous sentence. Neither can my wife. Eventually she will be tied down by the oodles of verbal noodles that I tend to spin that she would forget that it was precisely for the noodles that she had sent me for.
But it is repeatedly failing memory that has kept many in business. Politicians for one cannot survive if every one of us recalls every word that they have uttered from time to time.
Films too have been great beneficiaries of this great vanishing trick of the mind. Ghajini, the Hindi version, has no business to run in Tamilnadu as it is a sincere remake of superhit Tamil movie of the same name. So this immediately begs the question: Who is more afflicted by memory loss, the hero in the film or the viewers who cannot recall what they had seen before?
But I am not actually complaining about memory loss. Weren’t for it, you would have spotted that a bulk of this week’s column has been regurgitated word-to-word from one written a couple of years back.
For typical reasons the headline of that piece eludes me now. Does any one of you remember that?