Sunday, 29 June 2014

Once you’re dead, no one else will remember your memories.

Saigon circa 1963
Once you’re dead, no one else will remember your memories.  It is such a true statement and yet we never truly understand its the poignant meaning. We feel we have shared many of them with our dean ones, often our children and friends. Then there are diaries, pictures - even old yellowed ones - and letters for those of us born before the age of the Internet. Today we may write some of our memories in the form of blogs - I have done so - and feel we have left an imprint of ourselves and maybe we have, but what a selective and paltry image of the millions of memories we have, memories that come rushing when one reads a quote like the one in true Proustian style. How can you leave a true impression of your memories with the paltry amount of tools you have - words for one -, when memories are made of a heady cocktail or images, words, smells, sensations, feelings, emotions and so much more.

The picture on the left says nothing per se. Were youth find lying on the street you would at best say it is a girl and it must be old because of the texture and colour of the paper it is printed on. If you find it amongst my things and look hard enough - provided you know me - you may say it is Anou when she must have been young. The rest of the picture is neutral: it could have been taken anywhere in the world. When I look at it I know where it was taken: Saigon - now Ho Chi Minh Ville, in 1963, on the terrace of our home which was one of 7 villas that housed the International Commission for Supervision and Control of the UN of which my father was Chairman. But when I see this picture a flood of long forgotten memories come to mind. In a land where security was tight and you were not allowed to go out as you wished, this terrace was my sanctuary, my alone space. I remember my little red  scooter that I use to drive round and round the terrace for hours and end. What no one knows is the daydreaming that happened as I whirled like a dervish. I too on many imaginary avatars, depending on the book I was reading or the fantasy of the moment. I could be a Navajo girl, an air hostess, an astronaut, a desert princess, one of the Famous five, just anything anything   an 11 year old can imagine herself to be. As I turned endlessly I lived these stories as if they were real. Only only children create their own imaginary world. I somehow still do. Could not face the world without it.

Ankara circa 68
Such memories die with you as you do not have the time, the need, the desire or even the inclination to look back at your life unless it is necessary or serendipitous as was the case today. Had I not read the quote then dived into my photo trunk to look for 'anonymous' shots. But then how often does serendipity comes into play. This picture was taken in Ankara in the winter of 1968 in the garden in front of hour house. Again the background is unspecific and only our clothes and the snow could point you towards a cold place but it could be anywhere in the world. But to me it again brings back memories a 16 year old rebel would have. How I crossed this very garden every night, rain or snow, after my parents had retired to go to dancing with my friends at club 66. Gosh I had forgotten about this too. It is also in this every spot that I got 'caught' one night and the result was not my being grounded, but given the house key officially. The funny part is that after that, going out was not fun anymore. It was the forbidden fruit that tasted sweet. And before I forget, the cap I am wearing was my Papa's Chinese fur cap which was a boon when temperatures dipped to minus 35C.

So our memories die with us, unless you are famous and have written an autobiography or been written about. But there too you reveal only what you chose to and not every tiny memory that is the sum of who you are. I guess a part of us only remains. We take the rest with us when we breathe our last.

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