Jogging the memory

Memory is plastic. What we remember is not necessarily what happened, and how we remember it changes, depending upon a person’s changing focus of attention.

Of course, memory loss is a normal part of ageing. But it is also inconvenient, and even disabling. It hurts to forget what you used to remember. Many times I have insisted my wife to walk the streets with me, looking for where I parked my scooter during shopping. My mind, like my belly, is shrinking with age and it doesn’t hold as much at once.
I never call my granddaughters by their actual names; I call Sharmin for Shezmin and Shezmin for Sharmin. Like this there are many things which I never articulate properly. My wife says I have become like Paresh Rawal of ‘Awara Pagal Deewana’ – a confused person who doesn’t even remember his own name consistently.

To reassure myself, I recited a chapter from Quran in order, without a pause. My mother paid me four annas (25 paise) those days to learn it when I was hardly eight years, and the verses have stayed in my head for over fifty years. She said it would come in handy to know them by heart, and so it did, though not in the way she had expected.

Now the case is, I put people in my telephone index by their first name if I think I’m going to forget their last (but this only works as long as I can remember the alphabet). Forgetfulness eats away at people’s names starting at the end, so sometimes I find myself clinging to the first letter of the first name like a drowning person would a stick.
Recently, I saw a man at the mall, whose name began, I was sure, with T. Tariq? Taqi? An elderly friend of mine had a line for such a situation. “Hello! I have forgotten your ‘full’ name,” he would say, as if a part of it was known. However, we chatted about paper versus plastic, and as I wheeled my cart away from the checkout stand I heard myself say, “Nice seeing you, Tanveer.” It’s a retrieval problem. Sometimes, if I stop worrying about it, the name walks casually out of the attic of my brain. What’s the big hurry, right?
Sometimes I tell a story more than once, forgetting that I’ve told it before, especially when I’m talking to my children. In such situations, my children start telling each other “Oh! Papa has made a silver jubilee.” I have told them several times, “Stop me if I’ve already told you this,” because I know from listening to my own friends how annoying it is to sit through a story you’ve heard before, pretending to be surprised at the punch lines.
Well, actually, it’s only annoying if you remember the story, and this is one reason why old folks should hang out together. For, when I tell my friend a story for the second time it doesn’t matter, because he’s forgotten it completely.

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