I am battling a difficulty — a difficulty in remembering names. I have had this problem for a while now, but, I have held this secret against my heart. It is something, I am ashamed of and I hate to share.
There was a time in life, when, I thrived on the fact that names and telephone numbers sprang to my brain cells in split seconds. I knew the people around me by their names. I could tell their birthdays and could also rattle off their phone numbers and so many other details that many people praised me for my sharp memory.
I cannot remember, when it happened, but suddenly, the brain, that thrived on these very details was failing me and failing me miserably. With the result, the faces with the name association, spiralled down the drain leaving me with a faltering difficulty.
Perhaps, the culprit to be blamed is the present-day technology. Come to think of it — every instrument is like an extension of our brain. The gadget now takes the onus of remembering all the names, telephone numbers and also how a person looks! So, the utilisation of our brain cells is actually minimised.
Grocery list, marking calendars, reminders — all go into a sleek device called the telephone. The phone these days does not just help us with the much required phone call. Yet, I cannot recall when was the last time I actually dialled the numbers on the phone pad. It is usually a click of the button and lo! The familiar voice answers on the other side of the phone.
So, whenever I receive a phone call, thanks to technology, the name of the caller flashes on the screen and it is all good. We chat and then, I hang up. But the trouble is when the unexpected happens. Just the other day, after a similar situation, my husband walked in. ‘Who was it?’ he asked and BHAM! — the name skid down the vortex of memory!
That split second, time stopped and no matter what I did, the name just didn’t pop up. I could recall, the caller’s face, his hair, our meetings during numerous occasions and every possible detail, except, for the life of me, I couldn’t recall his name. Thankfully, I knew how to fix it. I picked up the phone and scrolled down the caller list and picked the familiar name and that, to my relief, cleared all the clouds in my head.
But, I don’t get lucky that often. Just yesterday, when I was in school, I met my son’s best friend’s mother. I knew so many things and we had also spoken on phone very often. The real problem cropped up when she knew my name. As I tried hard to focus on our conversation, I was looking for a miracle to happen and for some familiar voice to call out to her! I managed weakly and avoided the embarrassment.
I wonder if it is hereditary. I remember grandma battling Alzheimer’s for a long time. Towards the end, Grandma forgot our names too but she clearly could tell us many tales about her childhood.
“It’s not Alzheimer”, I reassure myself. I always find my way back home, I remember to turn off the lights and lock the doors. Most importantly, I always remember my son’s homework.
It is just that I cannot remember the name of the person we met at the tennis court last evening. She is the one, who lives down the street and has invited us over for coffee this weekend. She works in the university and her daughter Lisa takes tennis lessons with my son. She is presently writing a book and also doing some research, but if only I could remember her name!
Sudha Subramanian is an independent journalist based in Dubai.