Saturday Features

Memory, Mistress of Mistresses

Could it be possible that the most precious of our memories is a lie? And if it is a lie, then is it a creative process, done necessarily to fulfill some existential function in our lives?

- Sandesh Ghimire
Do you remember the cool ‘back-benchers’ who had the guts to flirt with girls and openly make fun of the teachers? Well, I do because I was one of them. Or was I really?
Reflecting back on precious memories is a natural preoccupation of many idlers like me. Recently, on a breezy evening, on my walk back home from work, I remembered my childhood days, the way waves are recalled to crash on the sea-shore: It occurred to me that no matter how young or old I was, I have always dwelt on memories. 
These days I often wish to relive my “days of innocence,” where I enjoyed when the sun dappled the hills and the Valley. The slightest glance filled me with feelings, and the slightest sound, whatever it may have been, seemed to speak to me. At the time, I felt that all things WERE worthwhile. So I have wanted to go back to this era of my life. Yet, sometimes it feels that the recollection of “days of innocence” is somewhat disingenuous. Or at  least, a more mystified version of the past, because what I remember is not something that I would want to acknowledge even to myself: Of  being twelve or thirteen and  spoiling my pants on my way back from school and  forced to confess it to my mother. Perhaps there is an alternate way to perceive “days of innocence.” But what is the measure for knowing if one memory is “truer” than the other?
These days I dream of what has passed away, but in the days of the past, I dwelled in memories of what was yet to be. Because the question, what do you want to be in the future, was asked so often, I would create a memory of a time that had yet to be.  Maybe there is a different word to describe the act of wishful thinking in regards to the future. But, I still call it memory because I thought of the future with a sense of nostalgia that is associated mostly with the past. 
The beauty of nostalgia is I get to escape the present, which, as it turns out, is not as star-studded as it appears to be. It is very routine and mundane and a bit more pedestrian than what had been imagined—Is this why we dream, or are we visited by memories in the most dullest hours of our life? 
Could it be possible that the most precious of our memories is a lie? And if it is a lie, then is it a creative process, done necessarily to fulfill some existential function in our lives? For me, those memories—the ones that sustain our lives—seem to have been created overtime, when I have  repeatedly engaged in the act of sharing what I considered to be a poignant incident of my life.  
All my life, I have been a student scared of authority, but that does not serve a drunken conversation. So, in line with the other interlocutors, I made up an incident where I was punished for stealing exam paper—a factual history of my life would perhaps  reveal that that is an act of dissent which I would  never pursue. Since then I had shared that incident with most of the people I have had a conversation with. And, had I not been bored or drunk enough to write about it, I would have continued to share it, rendering it a ‘real’ memory. Stealing those exam papers happened so long ago, even my school mates would come to believe it if I posted it on social media. Which I did, and smirked to myself after my little social experiment became successful.
Sharing a “fake” memory—it helped me create a self-identity that I am comfortable with.  Certainly for me and perhaps for you as well, memories may not be a remembrance of the occurrence of a factual event. It might only be a dwelling of mostly non-existent experiences and entities. 
 The way I truly am, is maybe not the way I want to see myself—or, that I am incapable of seeing myself in my truest form. But if we begin to search for our real self, one that lies beyond the facade of our memories, what would we find? Maybe our ‘original’ self is hidden beneath the stories that we tell ourselves, and the world.  If we were to discover who we truly are, would we be able to even recognise it? 
 
Ghimire tweets at @nepalichimney
Published: 2018-03-31 08:11:26