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When I get time, I listen to music, or read books. If any is left, I blog!

Monday 27 February 2006

Absent Minded Professor!

My grandma was fond of tying knots - neat and tiny ones in a corner of her scarf! As a child, I found it amusing, a bit puzzling too. One day, she agreed to unravel the mystery, if only I promised to learn new things like a big boy. I was all ears, as she started explaining.

'When guests are expected, I would tie in one knot. That reminds me to buy an extra liter of milk,' she said. 'The day I have to pick you up from school instead of your mom, I would put a bigger knot. Big, because I can't afford to forget'. With a smile she continued. 'I tie knots, different in size and number for different things. Now, see how easy it is to remember...'

Decades later, I realized why grandma had the reputation in the family, as one who never forgot!

Inability to remember when needed, is a common occurrence. But it can be avoided. I will show you a way, not just to retain what you learn, but also to recall whenever you want.

This write-up, which I prepared for an online school months back, will appear here in four parts.  And believe me - Never again will you curse that 'innocent' memory of yours!

Now, read on...

You might have heard these statements, uttered one time or the other by every one of us!

  • 'It's as if it happened yesterday. I'll never forget it'.
  • 'Wait. It's at the tip of my tongue. Let me recollect'.
  • 'I know for sure, but I don’t seem to remember'.
The first one tells how vivid the memory of an experience encountered years ago has remained in your mind. In the second, you sense an effort to reach out into the past. The last is however, a case of failure to remember.

Call these patterns of recall as Free, Forced, and Faded respectively. The question that arises is, how do these patterns emerge? Do we have any control over them? Can we change them at will?

The subject of Memory is vast. Scientific attempts to unravel its many mysteries are still continuing, throwing up new and interesting theories. My endeavour is not to teach you, but familiarize you with the core theme of Memory and Memory-building.

Bear in mind these three maxims:-
  • Practice makes you Perfect. It has no known substitute, even in memory-building! 
  • Memory-building tools are at best indicative. They help you devise your own technique to meet specific requirements. 
  • Inability to remember due to physiological factors, calls for expertise of a different kind.
What is Memory?

In simple terms, it is the ability of the mind to remember the past.  We encounter countless bits of information every day, and often retrieve them automatically (Free Recall). When the retrieval occurs after a conscious effort (Forced Recall), we credit it to a sharp memory. Failure to remember in spite of all efforts (Faded Recall) sets us thinking about memory lapses, and ways to eliminate it. 

Why do we need to remember?

Memory is like oxygen to life. Without memory, we possess no identity, no relevance, and no orientation. We will not learn or acquire any skill, information, or knowledge. Faces, places and things seen once, will appear strange. Life will merely be a meaningless aggregate of unfamiliar, unrelated, and unremembered events.

Remembering is a continuous activity with complex dimensions. It starts at the sensory organs, taking in all that we see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. The sensations then move into memory. But, how much of it is retained there, and for how long, are questions still being debated. 

Wednesday 22 February 2006

All The Monkeys Know ...

It was a big house. From where he sat, it seemed even bigger.  To his left was the entrance.  A long passage led to the living room on his right.  In front were the dining area and the bedrooms.

Biju was here just a week ago, for Su aunt's wedding. It was a busy day, running around and playing with friends. Now he felt bored, with no one to talk, nothing to do, and having to spend the whole night alone.

He was having food with dad and mom, when the phone call came. Someone in the family had died. They would have to rush. 'Biju', his dad said, 'you are not coming.  We will drop you at Su aunt's place'. Dad sounded so stern that Biju thought it best not to protest. Soon, he was at Su aunt's place.

A hug from Su aunt, a kiss on the cheek from Lux aunt, and a cold stare from granny greeted Biju.  Lux aunt had her hands around him.  'Biju, what did you have for dinner?  Would you like something to munch?' 

Before he could react, Granny said, 'Biju will sleep here on the sofa. Get him a pillow and sheet'.  'Oh! No mama' Lux aunt pleaded. 'Let him sleep with me'.  'No. Lux', Granny said.  'You have lots to study.  Moreover, he is a big boy now. He isn't frightened to sleep alone'.

Biju sat, swinging his legs, wondering what to do.   He was not sleepy.  Climbing on the sofa, he opened the window.  A whiff of cold breeze rushed in.  'Wow. It's raining'.  The tree in front of the house blocked his view.  He could only see a patch of the road ahead.  The dripping street lamps barely lit up the ground.   Biju stretched, almost half out of the window to gather raindrops.

Then he saw... a shadow beneath the tree.  A streak of lightning lit up the dark sky.  Suddenly, the form emerged from under the tree and started running towards the house.  Biju first saw the hands, pulling the shirt up to cover the head, and then the face.   It was scary.

Trembling, he slid down the sofa and rushed to the bedroom, frantically knocking the door.  'Lux,' Su aunt called out, 'Take this kid away.  He won't sleep; won't let others also sleep'.

The other bedroom door opened.  Biju ran crying into the hands of Lux aunt.  'What happened, Biju?  Got scared or what?  Don't cry.  Lux aunt is with you, no?'

Biju felt safe.  He climbed on to the bed, and stretched out to Lux aunt.  'Ok. Give me a minute.  I'll change and come'.  Biju liked her a lot. She was pretty, always smiling, and nice to him.

'Biju, I am switching off the light'.  Biju turned to look at her.  She was wearing a nightie.  As she lay down, she kissed him, 'Now, be a good boy and go to sleep'.  Biju inched closer.  He could feel the warmth of her body.  She hugged him tight, pressing his face into her bosom.  For a moment, Biju felt breathless.  He pulled back.  The nightie had fallen wide open.  In the dim light he saw her breasts.  Hesitatingly he touched them.  They were big, and soft.  Biju felt a strange sensation.  His eyes slowly slid down, to take in a world he has never seen.  Looking at her, he sang: 'Shame shame puppy shame, all the monkeys know your name...'

Thursday 16 February 2006

Destiny and Gravity

Destiny and Gravity are like the two sides of a coin. Both are dynamic, and exert forces equal and in opposite directions. Caught in the middle are the unsuspecting ones like you and I. The duel finally comes to an end, with Destiny tearing away the soul, and Gravity holding on to the physical body (not knowing what to do with it!)
Any force as long as it is incomprehensible, impresses us. To us, what cannot be seen or sensed is extra-ordinarily powerful. One difference between the two is that Destiny is virgin, while Gravity carries the mark of a human hand! How did that happen?
On a hot and humid afternoon, Newton was sitting under a tree, legs stretched out and dozing. It was his word that an apple fell on his head rudely awakening him to the world of gravity. I suspect it. For one, why should an apple be the only fruit to get credit for a host of confounding theories including the first couple painting the Eden garden red? Why could it not be a coconut or a mango? Maybe, had it been a coconut, Newton would not have even realized what hit him! A mango on the other hand, would have only tickled his taste buds! Whatever be it, I believe, the fruit which landed on Newton’s head with a thud was thrown by an urchin irritated at seeing the elderly guy snoring away to gravity (!) on a sunny day. The tale adds some significance to Newton's theory.
Whenever anyone bows to Gravity and settles down in life, there appears Destiny, the spoilsport without parallel. Mellow hearted amongst us would justify how man proposes and God keeps disposing it off! In the melee, the fallen apple escapes all confusion! As though possessed, it springs back to re-attach itself to the tree! To us God’s most intelligent creation, that is salvation at its best!