Where is my memory located?


There was a time, many aeons ago, when lyrics of my favourite songs roamed freely in my memory, ready to flow into song whenever I wanted.  There were ready records of phone numbers of friends and family that I could rattle off at will. Birthdays and anniversaries were etched in my grey matter, giving me the joy of wishing dear ones on their special days.

Cut to now. There is a song that has been eluding me from this morning. It sits at the edge of my memory and teases me. I know that I can pick up my phone and look for it on the internet, but just for once I want to recollect and download it from that once sharp memory. As I walk briskly, I furrow my brows, as if that act will somehow help me remember. I give up after a while.

Courtesy – http://www.pexels.com

Has my memory been transferred to my phone? It is a shocking possibility. My phone holds my calendar, appointments, birthdays and anniversaries lists, mobile numbers, landline numbers, sticky notes, songs, voice recordings, news, weather reports, kids’ schedules, shoppings lists, book lists and many other things. Is there anything that I really need to remember on my own? Will I eventually lose my ability to remember even simple things without my phone? Seems quite plausible.

No wonder people clutch their phones as if their very existence depends on it. Wherever one goes, people are tapping into their alternative phone memories for simple, everyday tasks.

Such problems did not exist a few decades ago – a time when my mom could easily quote recipes and lists, where my dad never forgot where he kept anything, where my gran could recollect and narrate hundreds of stories from Indian mythology to keep us engaged.

Somewhere between then and now, our phones have hijacked our memories. And, sigh! The song is still teasing me from the edges of my memory.

A Night on the ‘Mottai Maadi’ (Terrace)


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Recently, I visited the city of Chennai (formerly Madras), after nearly a decade. This city holds very fond memories for me and as the cab drove into the city from the airport I was amazed at how the city had changed and grown.

It was late in the evening when we drove towards the suburbs and here again, I was surprised to see that there were very few independent houses left, most of the landscape consisted only of apartment blocks.

Chennai houses are famous for their terraces or ‘mottai maadis‘ , which are used for drying vegetables for pickling, for sun-drying ‘vadams‘ (cousins of pappadums), for airing mattresses, for family gatherings during functions, and many more things.

But, for me,  the most pleasurable memory of these terraces  was when the entire family would go up to the terrace for nights-out under the stars.  Summers in the city were stifling, and temperatures could soar to above 40 degrees celsius.  Those were the days when we could not afford air-conditioners.

Preparations for such night-outs started just after sundown. A couple of us would go up to the terrace with a broom,  buckets & plastic mugs. We would first sweep the terrace & clear all the dry leaves that had fallen in. Most terraces had a tap connected to the overhead water tank. From this tap we would fill our buckets, and then with the mugs,  splash water all over the terrace. When the first mugs of water fell on the terrace, that distinct and aromatic smell of ‘parched-earth- guzzling-water’, would float our way. A few sniffs, and we would splash a few more rounds of water on the terrace. In about 30 minutes the terrace was dry and cool, the water having carried away the day’s heat.

After a relaxed dinner, the family would make its way up with straw mats, pillows and bed sheets. With a lot of giggling and fun,  the mats were rolled and beds readied. Stainless steel jugs of water and tumblers were kept in a corner.

The family would lie down and feel the gentle evening breeze from the Bay of Bengal whispering through each terrace, through the coconut trees & the neem trees that most houses had. The sounds of the city at night reached our ears – the distant sound of the electric train, the dull roar of traffic on the highway, music blaring from some temple in the neighbourhood, a crow that cawed when it was disturbed in its slumber….

And as the stars twinkled away, my Dad would sing his favourite sixties songs from old Bollywood movies, and we would all join him, our voices echoing through the night.

With the stars as night lamps and the cool lullaby of the breeze, one by one we would all drop off …..   the sounds of the city gently fading away.