Monday, May 25, 2015

The wonders of (Associative) Memory, Emotional Overwhelm and othertricks of mind:

When I was between 8 and 10 years old, I used to speak Telugu fluently. 

I can't string a basic sentence together properly, if you asked me now.

How we are adept at forgetting things more than remembering!!

I grew up with my parents being able to speak 4-6 languages each, none of which I was taught to speak (or read or write for that matter) except for Tamil and English.

But today, if some one talks in those languages I was exposed to as a child, I can follow the meaning of a conversation or at least work out the context of it.

I would feel as if I was invading the privacy of the people conversing.

On the one side I would be eager to know how much I could understand and on the other, I would want to stop listening.

An Associative Memory is when some semblance to an old (archived?) memory brings forth responses/reflexes that you were not aware that you could/knew.

Two of the aspects of this have always fascinated me more than the others, that arising from music and that arising because of scent or odour.

Note how I said Music specifically and not auditory in general. 

Yes, I know... It does makes more sense when there is an order to the sounds as in the case with music and not just noise or abstract sound to evoke a long dormant memory or reflex.

And music being an easy & well known mnemonic (remember all those school rhymes), should only make it easy for my awestruck brain to make sense, every time it sings along a whole song without missing a beat or word, when that from a dusty memory, plays somewhere even I have no memory of actually listening to it ever.

My family was quite into Music when I was a child.  Our pursuits of music in its various forms have reduced and we almost do nothing but listen and may be share playlists these days. (As I'm sure is the case with most of us with "busy" lives making a living...) 

Today I got reminded of Meera Bhajan songs by LataMangeshkar (apparently recorded in the year 1978, I just came to know) that my mom used to listen to a lot.

And the surprise in store was that I could remember every song (and even the little breathing pause she takes in one of the songs which got recorded mistakenly.... :))

Similarly, this past week I was listening to quite a few of the old Indian Music either from Movies or those sung by the greats from their 'singing for Indian Movies' careers.

And some of these songs I still have not seen videos of, hardly ever heard them on radio or cassettes (given these are easily 40-60 years old) but I could remember (if not sing) every little 'nuance and tricky trek on the notes' along and at the exact places.

Always a pleasant surprise when that happens!

But a scent evoking memories is a different story altogether for me... This is something that I can't explain really well. 

The memories it brings back are sharp but still shadowy...

I wish I knew how to tune in to this and figure out the teasing memory... 

I've sometimes stopped in my tracks, trying to really reach out and snatch at the memory when a scent hits me bringing back half a story.

Sometimes it's like a puzzle, dropping a piece at a time, right on my head so it would jolt me (to being awareof it?) but pieces not always of the same puzzle.  

This is one of the most intriguing experiences.  Makes me curious (obviously), aware (of some foggy memory residing in my head), zoned out (from the present trying to remember the past), sad (when not able to completely recall) and all of this at the same time. 

Not to sound like a creep, I am pretty confident that everyone has these experiences especially if one has moved around a lot or has seen a lot of changes in life.  Some are just more aware of it, some less.

Who knows, may be I am just connecting to my 'present' on a parallel universe... ;)

Now not just memories but there's another activity of the ever busy neurons that intrigue me...

When I feel emotionally overwhelmed while I watch an extraordinary performance of any kind.

Idol and Talent shows are my best and worst entertainment in this sense.

I absolutely don't mind this in the confines of my own house and that of my loved ones, definitely a nuisance when I am out and about.

The best way to become the butt of jokes when among friends... Huff!!!

Well, memories and emotions are/were always my favourite topic of discussion even if it was only in my own head.

May be they are overrated like people say but I am sure I will always stay fascinated by them!!

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