Do you remember that?

Of scents and memories

Been working on a term paper for a while now. One of the subtopics discussed is the concept of memory. How diasporic writers tend to use fragmented memory, which isn’t static, while reminiscing about their homelands. Interesting concept. Made me think.

There are countless narratives, articles, and studies supporting the line of thought that says memory isn’t a constant. It shifts, evolves, and many times completely eliminates parts of your past. Instances of some people repressing chunks of their lives while others building entirely imaginary new pasts has been a known phenomena. All done by the brain for the benefit of the body it occupies. Simply put, according to this line of philosophy/science, memory in its entirety can’t be trusted.

This brings me to my point. How much of your nostalgia is your own genuine experience, and how much of it is painted falsely? I’d like to think the major portion is genuine. Skepticism, in this regard, will shatter a lot of comfort zones which we retreat to. From where loved memories emerge.

So how much do you infact remember of your past?

I, for one, have few but extremely vivid memories of the place I tend to link my nostalgia with. It all belongs to a different city than where I am now. The city where I was born and spent my earlier years in(till I turned 6). And now whenever I look back on it, all my memories are rose-tinted.

I remember our home, and each of our birthdays (3 of us sisters till then, the youngest brother was far from existence at that time). I remember the precise layout of our home and where everything was. Even something as mundane as the medicine cabinet. Our bedroom has a special memory attached to it. There was a huge window (according to my 6 year old eyes)up on one wall. Full moon nights were sometimes spent staring out from it at the sky. I can visualize it so clearly as I write even now. The air around, clean and intertwined with a scent ( Clean air,I’m pretty sure every Delhiite will deem as precious nostalgia given the toxic mess we breathe).

I remember the bed I fell from, making me the proud owner of stitches on the right side of my forehead. I also remember the sofa I fell from, getting me stitches on the left side to match the old ones. Yes, I was a klutzy kid and still possess that talent. There was a huge playground (again, huge, because as a kid what isn’t?) right in front of my home, beyond which stood my school.

Now here is the funny part. I can’t recall any faces. None at all. Not my friends, my teachers, the neighbors, or anyone. There is just this one particular best friend I had whose face I can remember and that is purely because she happens to be in some of the old photographs of mine. The other faces I just can’t recall.

All of this, while I can neatly draw the layout of my house, the park, the society, the school, the shopping centre, and even the charming salon my mother used to visit(those people had cute kiddie magazines for tagalong kids like me!). Little details which are of no apparent use. While the people, actual human beings are just faceless occupants of space.

Now comes the part about the scent I am fixated on. There would be days when I used to accompany my parents for their nightwalks. What I remember with striking preciseness is the scent mingled in the air. Night blooming jasmine. That’s why I still stop and soak in its fragrance whenever I pass its tree. These flowers also used to cover both sides of the road while we went for night drives, which usually ended with icecreams for all. So you see, how these flowers and that scent is such an integral part of me growing up, of me being happy.

Maybe that’s what we miss the most about being children. Being carefree and happy.

The reason why the concept of distorted memory which rewrites itself is not welcome to me and bumps me quite a bit is because I don’t want all this to be non-genuine, the work of an over imaginative mind. That place, that scent and that time is as priceless as anything. For me, that’s where love stems from. And to hell with scientific and philosophical jargon, I’ll keep these memories intact and trusted. Afterall, that place, is me.

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