Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The trouble with remembering

That voice. That voice used to be less musical. But it was soft, wasn't it? I think so, but I'm not sure. The thing is, I'm trying to remember and not forget. The subject of this memory is unimportant, but it should be remembered accurately. Now being incorrect won't shake the world, but it will feel like a bit of a lie. But what can you do? These memories can't be trusted. Foul things. Always changing shape and distorting voices and moods, and encouraging you to fill in the blanks, so the spaces in fact are filled by fiction. It's called subversive history.

This is my worry when I remember. I worry that remembering will leave an inaccurate imprint, and this will change even further the next time I recollect it. So I try not to remember, instead using every memory sparingly, so it does not change much over time. This way I can avoid sentiment and that dazzling golden picture frame that forms around memories when we remember them as charming, glowing, wonderful. Left to ourselves and our imaginations, the past eventually becomes a golden age and a wonderful time.

So memory, like I was saying, is a pretty distortive thing. It's too bad people don't leave behind a photo of how they smelled, or the quirks they had, or how little it took to lose their temper; a living, breathing Blogspot or Livejournal that captured their essence for error-free recollection later. Over time their lives will change course like rivers. I already remember being told that a great-grandfather was a carpet dealer who traded in the North-Western Frontier Province and fought back bandits. Now my grandfather, his son, would no doubt be horrified, if he was alive, to know that his father sold rugs. Maybe he would. I don't know. Because it could be an accurate history. And the other recollections of his life could be false. But any one of them could be true or not. We're dealing with memories here, vile things. Some day his role could change completely, and he could even become the bandit who fought carpet dealers in memories a few generations from now.

But the downside to not thinking back is that you forget. Then shame kicks in immediately and changes colours and the feel of skin, sound of voice, expression and, presto, you remember again. Panic and shame fill gaps in memories. But it's only a patchwork quilt of memories, comforting and colourful, but not all there.

Some things are too important to forget or change over time. Or it seems that way. But I suppose that just as people change during life, so they change and grow in different ways after death. They are, come to think of it, forever mixing themselves up like the BFG's dreams in bottles to result in something new, a solution that fits snugly into vital gaps which, to confound matters, also keep changing.


Anonymous said...

your comments on - the Granta Book of India


Anonymous said...

Nice post


Rahul said...

It's interesting. A little unfulfilling at times, but many good pieces. But I'd recommend Pankaj Mishra's 'India in Mind' if you're looking for a collection of writings about India. A number are by non-Indians but it doesn't matter because it's an insightful book overall.

Mangs said...

Never seen this vein before. Nice. Wish it had more of the first paragraph....
Mine was meant to be a memory blog. Capture before fade. In one year the smells and quirks have vanished.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

What's the earliest memory you can recollect? Mine is being lost in a department store and crying for my parents. I think I was about 4.

Jasmine said...

Loved the post. Can't say that I've ever read anything on this particular subject before.

Sakshi said...

Good Post.

Primary Red said...

American Poet Susan Howe writes:

memory was and will be
but mercy flows
mercies to me and mine.

Aren't memories grudges we hold against our past -- for differences versus the present? Perhaps this is why forgiveness is better than memory.