Down Memory Lane
I always knew my memory wasn’t what you could call sharp. Nay, mine has always been as blunt as they come. In all my life, I have never ever boasted about an infallible memory. At least, I don’t remember having boasted thus.
But even I am appalled as to how low it has gotten.
Last week, I met a ghost from my past (which is a neat way of saying I met a friend after a really long time, the ‘ghost’ being merely an element of the popular phrase). The spook in question was a fine chap by the name of Gregory. Greg and I have been pals since we were so high, having met in the 2nd standard.
Him having migrated to the culture capital of Maharashtra, Pune, quite a few years back, our communications had become strained of late, and it was with genuine pleasure that I started a wholesome conversation, directing the “How are you?”, “What have you been doing?”, and even the ever popular “What are your plans for the future?” type of questions like a seasoned pro.
But if you’ve been in situations like this, you would understand that conversations have the habit of drifting off into the past. If Asterix and Obelix had been separated for five years, and then met up for a chat, it is a safe bet that they would start reminiscing about the ‘good old days’. Normally, I would be okay with that, but somehow, I found to my dismay that I only had vague recollections of some of the stuff he was talking about. And it wasn’t routine or mundane events, forgetting which may be excused easily.
Granted all this happened waaay back, but that’s hardly an excuse to forget that we used to sharpen knives and go deep into ‘forbidden’ areas in search of our footballs, cutting out paths through the dense ‘jungle’ as we went along. Of course I remembered the incidents as he narrated them, remembering cutting up plants twice our height, while constantly monitoring for snakes and other accessories typical to any foliage of that intensity.
When he mused over how we built rotor based mini-boats out of matchboxes which we would sink in buckets, and how, in 3rd standard, we drew out a ‘plan’ for a ‘futuristic’ van, and had actually planned to send it over to Mitsubishi, it took time to remember any of it. Apparently, we had quite an adventurous childhood, and I was none the wiser.
Of course I didn’t betray this lack of clarity. As he went on relating one incident after another, I did my part of nodding my head, saying “uh, huh”, “Ah yes, those were the days!”, etc, and laughing at the appropriate gaps. And once even at an inappropriate one.
Imagine if Obelix starts talking about thumping Romans and hunting wild boars, and Asterix has only faint recollections of it, I’d bet that Asterix would resort to head-nodding, cue-based laughing, and similar improvisational tactics too. We know Obelix can be touchy.
Greg may not as be touchy, but the head-nodding tactic seemed chose juste here. Seeing little or no side effect to the approach, I continued the head nodding, impervious any strain to the neck. But when he related the helicopter wreck incident, I couldn’t stand it any longer.
We had both lived in Willington Island, somewhat near an airfield, flying helicopters and jet blasts being more common than the cold. We used to stare at the choppers go pretty close to the ground, and had developed a ‘what’s-the-big deal’ish attitude towards the flying contraption. One fine day, a helicopter crashed, and we came to know where the wreckage was going to be dumped. Greg and I decided to go take a look. Actually, Greg had decided to take more than a look. After school, Greg emptied his schoolbag, and we went to the wreckage, plan being to purloin the tire. Today, of course, we know that a helicopter’s tires are too big to be carried about in a 10 year old’s schoolbag. But unlike most of you, we learned it the hard way, the hard way being staring and gulping at the wreck, drinking in the enormity of the situation.
We didn’t get the tire. But it was an interesting experience. A VERY interesting experience. Which is why I am piqued at not having remembered it earlier. It could have been the cornerstone of a lot of my conversations. Face to face with a helicopter wreck, trying to salvage parts. Which conversation couldn’t use that piece?
Somebody: “I’m feeling bored. What can we do?”
Me: “Boy, I remember when I felt bored back when I was a kid. Believe it or not, I…”
Somebody else: “India lost again!! What a disaster!”
Me: “Perhaps. But not quite as disastrous as a helicopter crash, you would agree. I remember back when I was in…”
Yet somebody else: “Did you finish your project work?”
Me: “Man, these project works are the pits. No time to do anything else, like the good old days. I remember back when I was…”
A different somebody: “My brother had an accident last week.”
Me: “That’s too bad. Speaking of accidents, have you ever seen a crashed helicopter? Well…”
Another somebody: “Hey, tomorrow is my birthday.”
Me: “I remember a birthday I had when I was living in Willington Island. Well, technically, it wasn’t anyone’s birthday as such. Anyway…”
Instant conversation piece. Anytime, anyplace. And I missed out on that. I have to improve my memory. Got to get my act together… And I have a plan. I’ll take out a notebook, write down everything I think about, look back at the notebook later on, and see how much I can remember.
The trouble is… I have a vague recollection that I have already tried this method several times, and lost the notebooks… but then again, can I trust my recollection?