Saturday, August 18, 2007

Trying to Forget

I open my Hotmail after a very long time. The whole interface has changed. Because I'm always signed in to Messenger, and because at some point in time I have asked the computer to remember my email, the screen shows my name and email all written in. Below that is the equivalent of 'sign in as a different user' but I'm not paying attention.

I'm not paying attention because of what I see below the dialog box that is waiting for my password to be typed in. It says, 'Forget me'.

I feel strangely forlorn. There is nothing I would like better than to ask the computer and several people I can think of, to 'forget me'.

Two days ago, to shake my son out of an uncharacteristically sad mood, I fished out photographs from just before the time he was born, to about when he was five. This was when I more or less stopped taking photographs of him obssessively.

I had my reasons, I suppose, for wanting to remember each moment. There was a time when I needed to convert each experience into memory as soon as it happened, to mediate it with something esle so that it became manageable.

But as he became visibly lighter hearted, I sank into...what can I call it? Not depression, not nostalgia - oh god, not nostalgia. Something darker. Looking at those photographs, seeing myself as I was seven years ago, just before I was setting off to hospital, only sometimes with some trace on my face of what was to come after; or where I'm bathing my son, or holding him as he chomps on the chin of a soft toy he's been given, I can't bear to see them again.

I'm watching myself. This I realise. I'm not really looking at my son, because there he is in the photographs, and here he is now, and whatever it is he is thinking cannot be as important as the memories that are being made right now.

But me - when I look at these photographs, I'm searching my face for signs of foreknowledge, for signs that I knew how things would bring me to where I am now. All I could find - what did I expect? - was ignorance. Complete and serene ignorance.

This is what I hate about looking at this period of my life. I hate having to look at that face from all those years ago, apparently happy. But I know differently. I know that such apparent peace is deceptive. I know what I was thinking; I remember what happened just before. Sometimes the the memory of what happened minutes after or days after a particular photograph makes me squirm. Nearly everything in those albums makes me want the earth to swallow me up.

Why did I record all of this so assiduously? I want to tear all these photographs up, like I do my letters. (In all, I have about ten letters that people have written me. Nobody is going to get famous because of the letters I've preserved).

Later that evening, I'm walking down a road I haven't been on for more than twenty years. I used to jump over a wall and go to a friend's place at the corner of that road, to play. I didn't know then that some day I would know someone else who would live in that house.

The house is different both on the inside and out, but it is the road that bothers me. It is narrower than I remember it but this no longer surprises me because everyone knows places are larger in our memories. It is dusk and the the sky is just dark enough to make the parijat glow. I look at each house carefully to see what I remember. I remember nothing except a few names of girls. What grabs hold of me here is more than the sum of my memories.

Coming as it does so soon after the photographs, I feel this more keenly. The evening presses down on me and I want to disappear or be anywhere but here.

There should be a way to discard the past so comprehensively that it can never confront you again or take you by surprise. There should be a way to walk down a road you've been on many times and see only the one that is there now. There should be a way to look at old photographs and know that you have been forgotten.


km said...

That is so heavy and so very beautifully written.

Falstaff said...

See, this is exactly why I switched to gmail.

Seriously though, that was lovely.

ajay noronha said...

god, that was so beautifully written. gonna get you on to the film i am working on....

Space Bar said...

km: thanks!

falstaff: oh i have gmail too. that's the trouble; i have so many emails and passwords to remember that forgetting is not an option. sigh.

ajay! what fun to see you here! would love to. can i act? and thanks.

the mad momma said...

no no... no dala.. do this again another day and i am sure you wont want the past to be so completely removed... its probably just one of those days. what would we be without our pasts and memories? and you lovely pics. and oh that reminds me. you owe me pics of my first pregnancy :)

dipali said...

Beautiful and utterly heartbreaking.

Sharanya said...

Not much I can add to what's already been said. Beautiful.

kuffir said...

very depressing. unless you're trying to 'mediate' this post 'with something else'.