When your Memory lets you down……

I’m told we spend 33% of our life time on sleep. To that I would like to add that we spend another 10% on searching for spectacles, Cell phones, keys or trying to recollect some name etc. The other day, I spent nearly 15 minutes to find out where I misplaced my specs only to find it is nicely kept hidden from my view on my cot underneath a neatly folded bed sheet. I could clearly recall keeping it safely on the cot. But little did I realize that I folded my bed sheet and threw it precisely where my specs lay. What a precise throw it was! If only I played cricket, I would have run out several batsmen with a throw like that.

I find solace in the fact that I’m not alone in this. The problem of recollecting name of a familiar face or of recollecting a well-known phone number seems to exist among people of my age group. The badly needed info is for ever on the tip of the tongue as though glued to it with an all-powerful adhesive! The problem with memory is that we sometimes remember things that never occurred. Mark Twain puts it humorously thus: “When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now, and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened”. One hopes one doesn’t reach that state! (If this quotation is not Mark Twain’s you can blame it on my memory lapse!)

My sister who is passionate about Carnatic music has the same problem. We often discuss concerts on phone. In the midst of a serious discussion, at times, her thought process gets affected just because she cannot recall the name of a particular Raga which she is quite familiar with. If it happens to be an important raga of the concert, she would really get upset with her failing memory. I’m in no great position to help her because my capacity to recall ragas is no better. This is not surprising considering that there are 72 main Ragas and hundreds of derivatives. I have experienced this problem during some music concerts, especially with ”Raga maligai” where the musician would render a dozen ragas in quick succession. Before I could figure out the name of one Raga, he would move to another and yet another and so on. I would, for ever, try to catch up with the musician. This is sometimes frustrating because we might  miss the beauty of the Raga Maligai itself while struggling to recall the Raga. Often, the problem is not of identifying a Raga but one of recall. Some musicians, helpfully, announce the Raga names, even as they sing, to end suspense among the audience. I have now decided to sit back and enjoy the music without bothering to identify the Raga. I totally agree with Shakespeare who exclaimed: “what’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

I can never forget my ”mama thatha”(my father’s maternal uncle) fumbling with names in cricket in his late sixties. I was a child then and he was a great cricket enthusiast. We owe our knowledge and interest in cricket to him. We learnt from him all the nuances of the game like leg spin, off-spin, swing bowling, field positions, batting techniques etc. However, he always used to get confused between Bapu Nadkarni and Manjrekar. (Old-timers like me would be familiar with these legendery names). While recalling some great matches of 1960s, he would confidently say: The way Nadkarni batted was unbelievable or you should have seen Manjrekar bowling those wonderful maiden overs non-stop etc. We used to have fun correcting him.(For those of you who may not know these players of 1960s, Nadkarni was a great bowler while Manjrekar was a great batsman!)

A friend of mine tells me that learning Sanskrit grammar (Panini’s grammar) is a great help in improving one’s memory. I’m seriously considering taking such a course since it will come in handy in my study of Vedanta as well.

By the way, human memory is a serious subject of scientific research all over the world. Memory evolved over a few million years as a necessity for fitness and survival of the caveman. Our ancestors needed to remember their predators and their locations well in order to survive. Therefore, even now our memory rarely fails when it comes to remembering anything which affects our survival. Obviously, misplacing one’s specs or forgetting the name of a Raga do not fall in that category!





Published in: on December 10, 2016 at 5:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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