I have always wondered about the associate nature of our memory. It is fascinating to see how our memories are interlinked with various aspects, and a single key can open a huge number of interlinked doors into our past. Many a times it makes me feel, if we were this organized in our thoughts human mind would have discovered wonders.
Just the other day, I was listening to songs from the movie Rangeela. I was pleasantly surprised how I could remember lines to a song which I haven’t heard in ages, and on the same day struggle to remember name of fairly popular Ranbir Kapoor. Our memory is just not fair. It can play games with us, pleasantly surprising at times, and terribly disappointing at others. As I was singing along to the song from Rangeela, my mind was racing into the past, it took me back to my high school days. I was now remembering impromptu singing games we used to have on Saturdays at the end of which students used to be given merit certificates, and how my fellow students used to come up with absurd words to fill the holes in the lyrics to the song they were attempting to sing. I remembered my classmates, and how naïve we were when it comes to boy girl relationships. I remembered this one girl who somehow felt courageous enough to ask me if I could partner her in school antakshari. How big it was for a nerd bookworm like me to be asked for such a thing. I still wonder, how she spotted the love of songs in me. Anyways, she reminded me of my crush in high school, petty fights with my friends. It reminded me of the insecurities I had in high school, how the fact that I was coming from a less income, majorly kannada speaking household troubled me competing with a majority of upper class, fluent in English peer group. I remember the teachers whose classes I used to love, and how some of them unknowingly were partial towards me. As the song changed on my music streaming app, I just came back to where it all began, the next song from the movie Rangeela.
I guess, I have made my point. How a single trigger took me into a swirl of memories. I have always wondered what triggers these memories, and what is the interlink between each of them.
I believe that the trigger to most of our memories is fired from one of our senses.
There are times when I have been able to smell my way into memories. Somehow there are distinct smells which we associate to certain things, and they just sweep you off into those memories. I remember this distinct smell from my days alone in the united states. It had been a wonderful getaway into a single life, where the life both shattered and nourished my dreams of possible opportunities of living alone in a developed country with a more liberal society than ours. The smell which transforms me into many escapades I had as a single 22 year old, feels like a distant memory now, but I am amazed how smells from empty cardboard boxes can take me back into those days.
There are days when my mom prepares rasam exactly like my paternal grandmother, though very rare. When I am eating my meal, and my taste buds strike a match, my mind invariably races past into the most affectionate period of my childhood with my paternal grandmother. The days, which remind me, what being cared for really felt like. The days when I used to wake up in the morning and sneak into my grandmothers bed for a second nap. The days I could walk into the home and I could smell whats for lunch, and the pleasant surprise on my grandmother’s face looking at a 5/6 year old doing that. I miss the taste of her food. I miss her. I am so thankful for moments like these when something I eat can make people who are no longer with us, to come back to our lives.
Visuals are probably the most powerful triggers into our memories. You look at something, it many a times reminds us something in our past, setting our memories reeling in super sonic speeds to various periods of our past. We see a photo, and immediately our mind is racing into the time the photo was taken, people who we were with or the place we were in. It opens a bundle of memories about various things associated with that photo. Many a times I look at what my son does, and I am transported into beautiful memories of him being a baby, his cry face especially reminds of all the times when he was a tiny doll for us to play with. Visuals are very powerful when it comes to exploring our memory to give us more visuals from the past which have been close to our heart.
Amongst all the things which remind us of our past, one amazing trigger is “feelings”. There have been umpteen weekends where on a Sunday evening when I know the weekend is just few hours and the mad rush will begin starting Monday, in midst of a helpless sad feeling, it reminds me of times in my past where I have been helpless and sad, times I have been wanting to curl up into a cocoon and time just freezes. How many times have I watched a movie, and have been so involved with the emotion being presented, that I have gone to my past and found memories of similar emotion that I have felt. Emotions are such abstract things, and yet they can trigger our minds to remember things which are so well associated to that emotion in our mind.
The nerd in me always wonders, what data structure our mind must be using to be able to fetch the values from the triggers, and also iterate to so many related memories from our past by linking across via keys of various types.
The poet in me, is in awe of a wonderful time machine, our mind offers for us to go into past within minutes and feel a reality which once was, with people who once were, and at places we have been.
This day years ago