Things that we never forget

And why keep going back to them

Decades ago

Recently, I was talking to my mom about how parents nowadays give their young kids (1-2 years old) mobile phones or tablets to keep them occupied, and how that is a disturbing trend. I said I was against giving gadgets to young kids.

“We did something similar. We’d record advertisements on VCR and play them for you. You’d just sit in front of the TV and watch the same ads over and over again!” - Mom

I discovered the reason why I had to start wearing prescription glasses at the age of 5, while in UKG. That was also the first time I got a nickname. Gandhi.

A few years later.

To be honest, I had a habit of taking things to extremes. I was class leader in Class V, and one of the duties assigned to us is to right the names of classmates who engaged in chatter while the teacher was away. With the benefit of hindsight, I see that it’s to ensure the class doesn’t get very noisy and disturb students in neighbouring classrooms. At the age of 10, I was far too serious. I’d write down the name of kids who made the barest of noises. This behaviour of mine continued for a long while. As a kid, I think I was far too judgemental of people. Tattoos were bad, bubble-gum was evil, and WWF cards were blasphemous! The dutiful student I was, these were promptly reported to the Principal who’d gladly seize the thondimuthal1 ( mainour). By the time I reached Class VII, I got a different nickname. Hitler. Far more appropriate, don’t you think? My obsession with truth and rules continued. However in Class VIII, I was given a far benign nickname. Gandhi. 8 years after I was first called Gandhi, I got that name again.

Unforgettable

Which brings me to the title of this post. Aren’t there things that we can never forget in our lives? For some reason or other, even years after the incident, we clearly remember the scene and dialogues as it was yesterday. This happens even if we’ve actually gotten over it. This particular event happened in the Biology Lab in Class VIII. A classmate of mine, probably fed up with my recent antics (including reporting to the Principal that porn videos were being stored on a few systems in the school computer lab), came up to me and said:-

“When Mahatma Gandhi died, people mourned. When you die, people will celebrate.”

To say that it affected me would be an understatement. At 13, I don’t think I ever thought about death or what happens after that. And here’s a classmate of mine coolly telling me that people would celebrate my death. I don’t remember anything that happened before or after this. I don’t remember crying or getting upset over this. However, I do remember going back to this incident several times over the years, and finally to the classmate himself a few years ago. He didn’t remember it, and apologized for his statement.

Why does it come back again and again?

So my question is this. 16 years after the said incident, and almost 8 years after he apologized to me, why did I think of this incident today, as I sat down to write this post? I don’t know the answer. I thought the apology would be the closure. Or my own self-realisation that I was probably an insufferable prick back then to most classmates around me. What should I do to permanently delete this from my memory? Or put it into deep freeze, to never be thawed again?

I don’t know. Do you?


  1. I didn’t know the English word for this. I google-d it, and the English word seems tougher than the Malayalam one. Had never heard or read the word before the release of the Malayalam movie Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum ↩︎

Arun Sudarsan
Arun Sudarsan
Economist and Policy Researcher

Arun is an Economist, passionate about Open Data and its potential to increase state transparency and accountability. Loves teaching. Previously worked at NITI Aayog. To subscribe to this blog’s mailing list, please enter your details here. Check your spam folder if you are missing updates. Thanks for subscribing!

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