Sunday, February 08, 2004

There’s something about Memory…

A couple of days ago at work, I stopped to read a new notice in the glass-enclosed bulletin board. And then something rather peculiar below that notice caught my eye.

It was a pair of spectacles hanging on a pin!

What was a pair of spectacles doing on a notice board?!! And while we’re asking questions - why did they look exactly like the glasses I’d been frantically hunting for in the last few days?!!

The admin head looked at me sternly when I asked for the keys to the glass enclosure. “Where did you leave them?”, she asked.

“I have no idea”, I replied with wide-eyed honesty. "I could’ve sworn they were on my desk."

But for all my wide-eyed honesty, I don’t for a moment credit my personal effects with itinerant tendencies. Far from it. In fact, lost-and-found is a leitmotif in my life.

Now, some might mistakenly call this quirk of misplacing things a habit. I demur. It’s a fine art, honed by years of meticulous practise! Glasses, watches, bags, pens, folders, books, jewellery, keys… have all assisted in upholding this art. And if losing things calls for a certain skill, finding them fortuitously requires an even more critical talent.

I once had a rather bulky planner which never fit into my bag. So I carried it in my hand, reminding myself to ‘be careful’. It escaped my careful grasp not once or twice, but an unparalleled seven times! And seven times it was returned to me!!! By friends, colleagues, strangers… Twice, I travelled to the nether regions of Bombay to retrieve it from cab driver’s shanty dwellings.

The eighth time I successfully lost it!

I’ve analysed this trait extensively and have come to the conclusion - I don’t really forget, I only remember a wee bit late.

There was this time, when I sat up for days making personalised Christmas cards for friends. I was about to buy stamps when I decided to visit my aunt in Sion. I alighted from the auto and precisely 9 seconds later, I remembered the cards in the back of the vehicle. For the next hour, I ran half-tearful all around the Sion junction. It wasn’t one of those fortunate days. Still, for a few weeks I kindled the hope that the driver might post my cards.

“Your head’s not on your shoulders”, is my parents’ explanation of the missing link. There’s an unwritten policy at home to never shut the door when I leave. Because I inevitably turn up a few minutes later for my cell phone or glasses or wallet and on one occasion, for my shoes. My brother jocularly computes my ‘latency time’ – the time taken to remember what I’ve forgotten! Recent calculations have shown a marked improvement, but I know better than to trust that.

But seriously, my memory is far from egregious. For instance, I have an almost prodigious recall for names, birthdays and phone numbers. And as an effective counterpoint, I’ve developed an ease for multi-tasking. And there are some areas where I’m so fanatically methodical and organised, that I can find precisely what I’m looking for in the dark.

In a way, this quirk has also served as invaluable spiritual practice. Detachment from the material world comes more easily to me now. And after every episode, I console myself by quoting ‘What does it profit a person to gain the world but suffer the loss of his soul?'

Coming back to the glasses, I walked away from the admin head’s table telling myself sternly, keep your head on your shoulders and your glasses on your nose. I remembered the injunction all day, especially when I left the office. And then recalled leaving them in the washroom. Thankfully, I retrieved them before they reached the glass enclosure.

Practise, they say, makes perfect.


Amit Durgapal said...

I admire your sense of acceptance that has helped you live through the 'seeming forgetfulness', and seek spiritual benefit out of it. It is said a good memory is one which is made to forget the trivial. Be careful. This indifference, if unenlightened, verges on loneliness when you try reconciling your attitudes.

You are an accomplished blogger!

Sudeep Koshy said...

I am mighty impressed with your blogging skills - even better than your journey narratives! You can slide down a natural incline of trivial experience, with patched pants and still make a story out of it, that makes the hole in your pants seem like bullet holes in the second world war. I'm sure the blogging community misses your web log. Keep logging... :-)