I am seriously thinking of changing the name of L&M to R-C., not retirement community, but Reference to Context. Whenever I start telling him something, I have to first preface it all with a short reference to context about the person/place/thing. Sometimes this becomes so complicated that by the time I have brought him up to the subject, I have forgotten what I want to say! For instance, if I wanted to tell him about the awesome bike trip of Deepak and I begin my tale, he would look blankly at me. Shrugging, I would say, ‘Deepak, who worked in Air India, remember?’ The cloud would still be there and so I would take a deeeeeep breath and add, ‘Deepak who worked in Air India and now rides a Bullet, remember?’ Light would finally dawn on his face and he would say, ‘So tell me, what happened?’
You guessed it. It would be my turn to look blank, because the thread of my thoughts had broken somewhere between Air India and bike rides!
Sharing this old post about his habit of forgetting names and mixing them up to come up with some hilarious and some embarrassing situations — today when the L&M celebrates his birthday and continues being as terrible at remembering names as he had been….well….always 🙂
No wonder Shakespeare asked, ‘What’s in a name?’ He had not met the L&M you see!
Who doesn’t forget names and faces? We all have had momentary amnesia and sometimes mix-up names too. But the L&M is in a league of his own – rather, he is a league in himself.
He has a phenomenal memory for places – he would remember the landmarks, the trees, even the colour of the gate of the particular house. But ask him the name of the street or even locality, and he would be hopelessly lost. Actually I prefer his being lost to his coming up with ‘equivalents’ when trying to recall a particular name.
He uses a very complicated method of phonetics, word association and experiences and no, he doesn’t remember the name, but still manages to come up with a wrong one or no name at all. I must confess though that he is a storehouse of knowledge and many a time it is akin to being in the hot seat of KBC when he is trying to remember a name, so many tidbits of information will he share!
Sample this as he tries to remember the town he had visited on his trip to Ajmer:
“You know the city near Ajmer where annual cattle fairs are held and is chock-ful of temples? It has the only Brahma temple….”
If you have not come up with the name of the city (Pushkar) after so much info, it is your fault for being ignorant, not his for forgetting the name!
Let me illustrate the association factor:
We had recently shifted to Delhi and were looking up schools for the brats. The L&M told me about two schools which were adjacent to each other in West Delhi and which looked pretty promising. We decided that we should ask a couple of friends or acquaintances about them before deciding. The problem was that since I had not seen them, I didn’t know their names and the L&M as usual remembered only the location and other details. We of course could have gone to the location but were far from the place at that moment.
Suddenly the L&M spotted a West Delhi acquaintance, across the road. He jumped out of the auto rickshaw and crossed over to accost the unsuspecting victim. An animated conversation ensued, with much wild gesticulating. Even from the distance I could see that the L&M had fallen prey to one of his memory lapses. I jumped out to rescue the poor target.
“The school is right near the signal of the power station chowk. There is another school next to it,” he was saying when I neared the pair.
“Don’t you remember the name of the other school?” asked the friend piteously.
“Oh yes! It is the Mudra Rakshas High school!” the L&M told the nonplussed man with a beaming smile to have ‘remembered’ the name at last.
“Mudra-Rakshas? You must be mistaken, sir. I have lived in that area for years and haven’t heard of any such school.”
“Hmmmph,” snorted the L&M clearly unimpressed by the man’s ignorance.
Stung by the tone, the man tried to remember which Rakshas’ face he had seen that morning when he woke up, to be in such a predicament! Then his face cleared.
“There is a Maharaja Agrasen High School near the signal you are talking about,” he said a little doubtfully since there was no connection whatsoever between the two names!
“Ah, yes! That’s it!” laughed the L&M triumphantly; as if he had said the name right all along and it had been the other fellow who had misunderstood it!!
Now tell me what connection there is between Agrasen and Mudrarakshas? Had Vishkha Datta known that some man with a penchant for mixing up names would do this to his historical Sanskrit play, I am sure he would never have written it!
But wait. I am being unfair to the L&M. Look at his knowledge and the complicated associations his mind had come up with: the school was named after a Maharaja. And kings have ministers, don’t they? Well, Rakshasa was a minister too and so had some connection to Maharaja, right? If the ignorant friend of his had no clue of history or literature, it wasn’t the fault of the L&M, was it?
And then the names of films. He couldn’t remember them to save his life.
Once he called up the older boy at college: “Have you seen Challan?” he asked.
Now, the poor boy, who had just got his bike after much pleading, begging and wheedling, bristled, “Of course not! I hardly ride it outside the campus!” You need to read Driving us crazy if you don’t know this story.
“No, no. I am asking about the film Challan in which Amir Khan leads a group of villagers in a cricket match,” explained the L&M patiently.
“Appa, that’s not Challan, for heaven’s sake! It is Lagaan,” burst out the boy. (Yes, I could hear his voice from the other end of the phone even across the room!)
“Oh, but what difference does it make? They both mean the same thing, don’t they?” said L&M nonchalantly as if it was the perfectly natural thing in the world to mix up the words.
On another occasion, he was to take the younger brat to see a Govinda film. “I have booked tickets for the evening show of Ganga Nahata Hai.”
“Arre yaar, you told me you wanted to see this movie, remember?” he said helpfully albeit a little impatiently.
After much head scratching we found out that he meant the film Jis Desh mein Ganga rehta hai!
Except for the name Ganga, and hai, no other word had anything to do with the name of the film! In his mind the association must probably have been that Ganga meant a bath!! So it was Ganga nahata hai! Who are we, the lesser mortals to argue with the logic of L&M?
Then the other day I asked him to get my eye drops. “Shall I write the name down?” I asked.
“I will remember, don’t worry,” he said in a huff. I hastily crossed my fingers and toes.
My neighbour’s daughter who was in the medical shop at that time the L&M went there, narrated this conversation later:
L&M : Give me Bigjam.
Shopkeeper (sarcastically): Sir, you have to go to the textile showroom for suit-pieces.” (Digjam suiting)
L&M (with exaggerated politeness): I know this is not a suit shop. I asked for Bigjam eye drops, the one used for glaucoma, if you please!”
The salesman called his pharmacist, who, having never heard the name, flicked through his database to find out if they had the said eye drops. When he couldn’t find it there, he opened the materia medica but came up with naught. He quickly noted the name down, flushing to be caught out without some new medication in his inventory.
The L&M then surreptitiously texted me to get the name.
“How long do I have to wait for the Combigan eye drops?” he asked with righteous indignation without batting an eyelid after he got my reply. The salesmen who had just straightened up from all the labour of searching for Bigjam protested that that was not the name he had said not a minute ago!
“Theek hai, theek hai, sunne mein galti ho jati hai (it’s ok, sometimes one mishears the words),” the L&M dismissed his protestations magnanimously, making a hasty exit with the medicine.
Note the association: both combigan and bigjam have M, G, I and B and the second syllables are phonetically similar!
The girl couldn’t stop laughing her guts out as she narrated the episode. I knew that this was going to become the colony lore within the hour. J
A colleague of his once told us about an important meeting with the MD of their client company. The discussion was a little heated and the L&M was arguing his case passionately: “Look, Mr. Babloopadhyay, we will try to fulfill all the conditions, provided…” The person so addressed turned a deep shade of red; the L&M pressed on, “Mr.Babloopa…..” He looked in alarm at the man turning purple by now. L&M was concerned. Was he so upset with the pricing that he was having a heart attack?
But it was the L&M who almost cried out in pain as his colleague kicked his shin.
What would you have done had your boss addresses an important client as Babloopadhyay instead of Bandopadhyay? The same colleague recounted that at another meeting the L&M addressed a Mr.Rastogi as Mr.Matargasti!! (A very natural mix-up probably because both names had the sound ‘st’ in them!)
I never found out if the deals were closed on those two occasions! All I knew is that the colleague demanded and got a transfer to another department under another boss with a better memory for names!
Mr. Shakespeare , you have your answer now, don’t you?
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