Monday, February 16, 2015

The Edge of Tomorrow: the persistence of memory

I have been wanting to write this for a while. (And it's one of those things which I remember.) It's about good memory and not-so-good memory. I have been wanting to write this for a while. (And it's one of those things which I remember.) It's about good memory and not-so-good memory. 

I have a terrible one. I don't remember names, faces, birthdays. I forget the names of colleagues I've been working with for ages. I forget names of books I've enjoyed reading, I remember tunes, not lyrics: in one word- terrible. And numbers are my greatest weakness - turnover of companies, phone numbers, how much I spent on things, et al. I've been told that I only forget things which I don't care much about. But how can one explain my forgetting the name of what's-his-name in that terrific novel, you know the father who is raising two sensitive kids and defending a black man for murder, when I've read that novel at least three times? 

And the worst is - I forget incidents, and things said. And, boy, is it one big disadvantage in heated arguments, when the other party even remembers what I was wearing when I  called them something objectionable, ten years back in a heated moment. 

And then you have the others. People I'm intensely jealous of. My dad - remembers everything, starting from what he learnt in nursery. He is my encyclopedia for all questions of space, geology, engineering, mathematics, history, mythology, and such like. My second reference-book is Avi. He who reads widely and remembers deeply. He is marvellous to talk to, because like all good debaters, he can debate both sides with equal felicity. Then there is a colleague who remembers even the time (to the second) when he'd met me for a meeting on geo-thermal technology with five other people and the exact positions where we had sat around on a round table. And then there is one who remembers the color of my socks when I had first interviewed her (why was she looking there?). That interview was, by the way, ten years back. 

Then, I suspect, there are those who remember things which didn't happen. Which now comes in great use when they know they are having a discussion with someone amiably unhinged like me. Sharks, such guys. 

Now what triggered this write? This thrilling Tom Cruise film The Edge of Tomorrow, where the man, a reluctant soldier, is pushed into battle, dies and then gets alive again, and then dies again, and up again, and so on and so forth, but with full memory of the previous times. So he learns from mistakes, re-strategises, and then pretty much saves the world. The important thing here was the accumulation of memory - and the chance he gets to live the same moments again and again, until he gets it right. What a privilege. 

And then I thought of all the accumulation of memory we do. And though I know our heads are capable of infinite capacities to hold things, I wondered about the need of it. Of course it would help if we could relive our lives and amend things which we did wrong, but does it help to remember some of the things which we end up doing?

That sarcastic remark made in a verbal duel years back. The hurt one felt when someone loved does something insensitive. How someone ignored you in a party. How you were not in a list of invitees. Who forgot your birthday. A mistake made. Words exchanged. Someone who took advantage of you. Whatever. And then you have the same person in front of you. Different. Changed. Because that's what humans do. Every moment. They learn. They change. I confess, some don't. But here's the thing - if we look at a person and only have the memory of what he once did to you, where would the space to move forward anew be? 

And that's where people with great memories are cursed. They are cursed with the persistence of memory. Things they can't forget, however much they might want to. Ancient feelings they can't let go off. Old hurts which keep renewing themselves like new everlasting springs. 

I forget. And I think I'm blessed for it. I will have nuts to improve my memory, and chawanprash so I don't go totally dotty. And I am not a Mahatma, so I also remember plenty. But I love it when I don't remember old pains, old fights, old words of anger, old aberrations of loved ones. I will lose all arguments gladly, I will lose my promotion because I forgot last year's profit figure. But I think I will be a lighter person for it.

So my friend, you out there. When I meet you, behind my (genuine) welcoming smile, I might be trying hard to remember your name. Please don't feel bad. Please. Because I will also not remember the time you called me a dolt on one of my posts on my timeline. 


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