Remember to dread this! By Dr Elsa Lycias Joel Poor memory can be a stumbling block for many – especially students, teachers, parents and lovers. Everyone out there has had their share of adventure with forgetfulness and poor memory, both of which are two different attributes. Remembering a face is good memory, but our inability to recollect the name associated with the face is forgetfulness or a memory lapse. The inability to remember names and numbers has put many of us through a lot of trouble. From scoring low marks to losing acquaintances, the sad tales are many.
My two little girls come to me many a time to ask for uncles’ and aunts’ names. I fail them by my inability to mix and match names. Appa used to put me through litmus test anytime a relative dropped in by asking me if I remembered him or her by name and title thereby annoying me and upsetting them. Addressing a chithi (small amma) as periamma (big amma) is an offence, because by all measures it talks about age. Before I could conclude that appa used me and my forgetfulness as a pawn to settle scores with his sisters and friends; he accused me of not having an interest in people as the reason for me forgetting names so easily. Thus developed the habit of writing diary until I found out that all the four diaries I wrote in a year were read by some sneak in the household. So again, I preferred to handle delicate situations like “Do you remember me?” to making my personal stories public.
Those four diaries never helped either, as I can’t carry them with me all the time for making cross- references. Some of my doctor friends also concluded that a memory lapse do not necessarily mean a case of senility, after I managed to secure a gold medal in my PG programme. My grandparents criticise my forgetfulness without criticising me, couching the rebuke in a very large and very general lament that sounds like, “If only she remembered.” To them I’m the only grandchild who would patiently endure their age-old outdated stories of good old days, stories that leave me wondering if they are real or reel.
When I can’t remember my two wheeler’s or car’s numbers rates, how could a 90-year-old remember the colour of her English teacher’s umbrella? Some grandchildren get lucky and feel young, with forgetful grandparents who remind them to get married every other day. Such was grandma Lisie Gabriel, who always advised her grandson Nava Roy to marry and her granddaughter-in-law always decanted this sob story into my sympathetic ears. So, if forgetfulness occurs with age it definitely gets worse with age.
Once I visited a telephone booth, consciously paid for my call and walked out in pride congratulating myself of my capability to not forget things that really matter. Minutes later I found the telephone booth owner right behind me gasping for breath. Just when he began to say something I said curtly, “I did pay for my call” to which he hesitantly replied “Madam, you have my pen”. With a sheepish smile and an apology I handed it over. From then on, many a time, I leave behind my pens at post offices, banks and booths, as I never have the time to confirm if the pen belongs to me or otherwise.
Still, I’ve not perfected the art of forgetting because I vividly remember the loans I’ve availed. Mysteriously enough, I remember Sergei Ryzhov, one of the Koodankulam power plant designers, my first doll named Zoe, a one-eared grizzly bear with all those stitches on him. I can still visualise the way my cousin picked her tooth with the small cross that dangled from her chain almost 25 years back. Only if she manages to read this, I might get her name right. Most of all, I remember a two-decade-old smile and name of that person with the correct spelling.
For politicians, forgetfulness is an art that can stand them in good stead. They can even forget the name of their constituency. No amount of prayers and penance would bless those in politics with memory because, given the games they play, good memory is a hindrance and an obstacle for twists and turns.
The most affected by forgetfulness are lovers. Many of their woes that come with forgetting the date and time of their first smile, wink and name of the shop from where the first gift was bought – all these resulting in tiffs, leading to splitsville. Forget what forgotten promises can lead them to.
“Not the power to remember but its very opposite, the power to forget is a necessary condition for our existence”. How true! Only if I remember who pushed me down that led me to have my broken central incisor capped, no fortuneteller or astrologer can foretell his or her own fate.
Forgetfulness in the workplace poses a different kind of challenge as it calls for a lot of creativity in fabricating stories, excuses and ruses in a bid to escape dirty looks and earn better words on appraisal letters. At editing desks, forwarding an edited story for final proofreading doesn’t require much of a good memory, but those who are obsessed edit a story over and over to transform it to a headline. Then again, to write a story in relevance to that headline will make a sub-editor look terribly busy, thereby promoting a promotion. Forgetfulness with sports people is a peculiar phenomenon. They forget their real roles and end up believing they are trained to endorse shoes and drinks.
So, the real problem with our forgetfulness is that it will remain unless we manage to address the core issue, which is of course the question: which is right, should are forget or should we not?
The two great moments that resulted due to my forgetfulness were: one, I couldn’t come up the name of the villain in Three Idiots and two, the name of the strap top that made M Bedi famous as a cricket show host. Once upon a time, I was part of a heated discussion post wine and dine . Henceforth friends spared me from discussions, debates and reviews on movies and cricket. Considering various ways to keep away from movies and cricket, including not being coerced into watching them, I could eventually dismiss them all. The intellectual position on the freedom to forget issue as it floats is:
Whatever it is, everyone has the right to forget
Anyone having a forgetful nature is welcome to forget
How do we garner resources to run our grandiose schemes in delicate forgetful situations? The simplest way is to remember more. Again, it is not as easy as it sounds, because it might run counter to our progressively awkward facial expressions like resorting to widen our smiles and eyes giving the other person the benefit of doubt whether he or she is before the right person. But the supreme bliss of forgetfulness matches nothing when people excuse us from overhearing or eavesdropping. The most important sobering thought about the prospective status as a scatterbrain is the seemingly indestructible selective memory of incidents and people.
The flip side
This embarrassing flip side of our personal predicament has an important repercussion – that is, not only will we be considered less trustworthy but also as a potentially lethal creature stricken by a healthy dose of selective memory. Be it a character trait or genetic trait, let’s not be on the lookout for convincing debaters but stop reprimanding our children for being forgetful. Mutant or variant, each of us has the DRD2 gene, the thymine variant that is responsible for forgetfulness or memory lapses, is what psychologists from the University of Bonn have found out. We ought to admit natural selection is the best because life will get lively only when favourable and unfavourable forms coexist.