What was that?

Memory is a funny thing. What the mind wants to retain (like formulae and dates), the subconscious mind rejects. The latter has a mind of its own (pun intended) and retains what it wants. I am accused of having ‘selective memory’ by you know who. But it is not me but my subconscious mind that does the selection.

The husband remembers details about his childhood and the events of his Service life remarkably well. . I do not dispute the veracity of those memories. But, he forgets that the same may be true of me too. Whenever my readers compliment me on my capacity to remember the early (and recent) details of my life, he pooh-poohs it saying that it is all made up and that actually I suffer from faulty memory  (Do I see any green eye glinting ?!) I do agree that, with age, a little bit of absentmindedness might have crept in. But then, it happens to everyone.

So, in order to aid my memory in mundane things, I make it a point to jot down things or make a list of them. There was a time when I used to pack my husband’s suitcase going strictly by the standard list including blades, story books, whenever he had to go on temporary duty to nearby Air force units. But, the disadvantage of this list making is, I do not remember a single thing outside it, once I make the list.

Military training commends doing things by habit. That way, nothing is missed due to chance. But, the philosopher in whose school I used to serve; used to tell us, “Don’t become a creature of habit. By following a habit blindly, you will descend into the morass of mental stagnation. If you have done a thing from right, try to do it from the left next time. This keeps the mind conscious and alert.” But then who remembers what one did the previous time – right or left!

Once I tried to do the “Mnemonics” way. Psychology says, “Association is the peg on which memory is hung.” While doing the B.Ed. course, I had to remember the duties of a head master. What comes naturally later in service becomes a chore for a student when it is part of a syllabus. I think they were Planning, Guidance, Training and Research/Redress. I served under a lecherous headmaster, a M.A., B.Ed, while doing my practice teaching. So, I thought I would remember the duties as Post Graduate Trained Rascal for my examination. But when I was actually confronted with the question in the examination hall, I just could not remember what P, G, T and R stood for. The words, ‘post…..’ and the leering face of the headmaster kept coming in front of me!

But then, memories can be of short or long duration. Once I was asked to substitute for a 10th Standard teacher. As I walked in, I could see the uppity look on students’ faces, probably thinking, “What can this 8th standard teacher teach us”. I asked all the 30 students to give their name one by one. After they were done, I repeated all the names in the same order. They were amazed. My prestige shot up by notches. Afterward, it was easy to teach them. But, if only they had asked me outside later, I wouldn’t have been able to repeat my feat!


40 responses »

  1. Irene says:

    How on earth did you manage that!

  2. Indrani Talukdar says:

    Oh my god! This had me in splits. What a wondeerful account of memory and its slippages. Good going Vimla!

  3. vimala ramu says:

    You cannot ask the zebra to change its stripes!

  4. Dear Vimala,

    Whichever category your write-up may be placed, you eventually come up with your exclusively witty style of writing.

    Nice one!

  5. vimala ramu says:

    Yes, looks like older generation scores over the present one as far as memory is concerned. Even my husband has a problem with remembering names. I am there, his walking teleprompter !!!

  6. deepika says:

    A good one on memory. Anyone can be absentminded anytime and anywhere. My fathers elder brother(my tau ji) had a terrific memory even at the age of 80. My father also boasts of good memory.
    Unfortunately my husband always remain worried as he has problem in remembering names.

  7. vimala madon says:

    Remembering 30 names at one go is not memory, it is genius. Can you still do that, remembering so many things so quickly? I observe that the tendency to absent-mindedness is hitting people at an earlier age than ever before. Maybe because we are doing so many more things at the same time. So often I find myself walking purposefully into a room and stop short as soon as I enter it, because I’ve forgotten what I had come here for.

    • vimala ramu says:

      As I said, temporary lapses are as common as temporary recalls. We always used to have what were known as ‘memory tests’ as part of our school competitions and games where you would be shown a glimpse of 20-25 items and asked to recall them later. Wonder if the present generation whose memory is all stored electronically remembers it !

  8. Madam,

    Sometimes, it is a blessing in disguise. One can always go to the neighbour’s house, sit down on their sofa, and loudly ask the cook,”Where is my tiffin?” – For all we know, we might get some nice tiffin! by default! – if, the houseowner/landlord or master/mistress of the house find out and ask as to how come we are here asking for tiffin, we can ALWAYS blame old age, saying we forgot we entered the wrong house!

    Just Joking! 🙂

    Madam, at your age, forgetfulness is very common, and one should not unduly worry about it – That you are able to write so well at this age, is itself a compliment, and a blessing.

    • vimala ramu says:

      Thank you, Mr.Narayan. Thank God it hasn’t come to that level at. There was a story in no. 8 Wing ,Air force. I believe a highly absent minded Wing Commander went into a very similar looking house and opened his belt and was peeling off the tunic when he noticed things were different. He remarked,”The curtains look different, the carpet looks different, the decor also is changed etc ” when the lady of the house walked in. The Wing Cdr said,”hey, you look different too !”
      Well, as for breakfast is concerned, I know I am a better cook, ha, ha!

      • vimala ramu says:

        correction in the end of first line. It should read ‘yet’ and not ‘at’.Old age, Memory loss….. !!!!

  9. vimala ramu says:

    Try telling that to Ramu!

  10. nuggehallipankaja says:

    The very fact that you can write on different subjects
    belies your propaganda (Of memory loss). Atleat you have remembered to inform me about your blogs and congrtulated me on my humorous article in SundayHerald ! How come?

  11. Seetharam says:

    Hey Vimala, you are a genius ! How about conducting a short crash course for me ? I spend 90% of my time searching for things which I had two minutes ago !!

  12. varuniiml says:

    Whenever I found anything tough to remember for my exams, I came to realize that “fear of getting caught while copying” actually works for me in a positive way. So I used to make chits of all the important things I couldn’t recall, and keep them with me (a risky move). The move worked, and the fear in me made me recall all those stuff when I needed to 😀

    But recalling 30 names? No way !!!

    • vimala ramu says:

      Remembering 30 names was no big feat as half of them were girls and rest of course boys,which reduces the probability of going wrong. Their position in the class, any peculiarity in their features etc went a long way in aiding my ‘temporary’ memory.

  13. nadi says:

    this 8th std. teacher teaches us so much. Thank you, Vimala

  14. Beyniaz says:

    Lovely blog, Vimala.

  15. Brilliant ! I wish I could do what you were able to ! I see something in the newspaper or listen on the radio and immediately rush to my PC to post it on my Facebook page, but I find it well nigh impossible to remember( what raga and the starting words of the Keerthana I had just heard or the URL relating to an interesting site !). At my age now I wont dare to learn the word-association scheme you adopted. Its good exercise for me to rush bak and forth to my desk and PC too. Thank you for the re-post of the URL, so I guess there was indeed a glitch with it ?


    • vimala ramu says:

      Yes, the glitch certainly there. You must have seen my apology at the beginning of my re-post. The mistake was all mine. Even if I misplace a small hyphen in the link, the computer won’t accept it. I must learn where to copy and paste it. Hope you are enjoying the ‘alvars’.

  16. Tanuja Chatterjee says:

    Hi Vimaladi!

    I love to read your work. They enhance my self esteem as a woman. That unheard cacophony of my heart sees the light of the day through you. You inspire me to be at the vanguard. In this patriarchal traditional society, I wonder when the metamorphosis in men will dawn on! When will that be!

    • vimala ramu says:

      Thank you, Tanuja. I don’t think I deserve all that praise heaped on me. If my writing can bring a smile on your face, that’s all I ask for.

  17. vimala ramu says:

    Thank you Shernaz. Don’t go round calling all the Post graduates as rascals, though some of them are!

  18. Shernaz says:

    PGTR is simply great! I know I will remember the full form of the abbreviation as given by you and use it too! We come across PGTRs all the time. Great write up and if you could remember 30 names even short term that’s a wonderful memory!! Kudos Vimala!

  19. Sneha.S.K. says:

    Ha Ha Ha Ha ! Gosh, Vimala… I salute you for coming up with such innovative ideas.
    And knowing you as a person, I think you have one of the best minds. You have a powerful memory, too.
    Mr.Ramu should read this comment 🙂

  20. Sonal Shree says:

    How could you repeat the 30 names in order? Brilliant. I can’t imagine ever being able to do it.
    I will share my experience. I was always pathetic at rote learning so when recalling exact ‘terms’ and ‘points’ in the pattern given by the teacher, I fared badly.

    So I resorted to mnemonics for handling exams. My technique was to form a sentence with the first letters of the ‘points’ and then recall them into writing full answer. In Economics paper in std. 10th, I could easily recall those letters but forgot the full form!

    Can really empathize with you. 🙂

    • vimala ramu says:

      Your first letter association reminds me of a Kannada joke. Someone named their son Ma-da-na(cupid). His neighbour commented that it was an uncommon name to remember. Our Madana’s father said,”Remember MAKARADWAJA, DAYANANDA AND NACHIKETA. The first letters make up the name Madana. So easy ?”

  21. Kanthi Narayanan says:

    Another fantastic blog Vimm. Yes everyone can relate to the Memory issue ! The gradual lack of it hits different people at different ages. It is very common for the one afflicted to call others not there yet, as “Selective Memory Holders” ! PGTR had me in stitches !!!!!!

  22. vimala ramu says:

    Thank you Geetha, I knew this was one topic every one could relate to!!!

  23. Geetashree Chatterjee says:

    Heee….heee…heee Vimala! Absentmindedness is a prerogative of old age. I have to deal with it everyday. My mother is an octogenarian. While she remembers the names of all the soaps she has to watch and at what time, she sometimes conveniently forgets recipes and other mundane things which she most probably must have been doing for more than forty years. In one of the training sessions, we were told to unlearn first what we have already learnt, in order to learn afresh. As a start, we had to fold our right arm over the left one as opposed to the usual tendency of putting the left over the right. It was really the most awkward and uncomfortable thing to do! Never tried that again in my life and therefore could never learn anything afresh. So whatever’s there is the residuals of a rusty memory bank. Haa…haaa….haaa! Enjoyed reading your take on this one!Especially the PGTR!!!Kudos!!

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