This essay tries to find the virtues of forgetfulness while reminiscing.
THE BLESSING OF FORGETFULNESS
I learnt early on in my life that to be happy is to be forgetful. It is so easy to rake up the past and go at each other’s throats on minor issues that it is a surprise most people are not quarreling with someone or the other at all times.
Let me take you back about thirty-five years. It was something that took place when I was just seven.
During recess (I was in school back then, of course), I was standing nonchalantly (although I doubt I had been introduced to THAT word at 7!) by the side of the door to my classroom, when my friend Yusuf came up to me and indulged in an inane conversation, the details of which I have forgotten (what else?!). I was unaware that two of his co-conspirators had come up behind me and were about to carry out their planned task; this being as follows: while Yusuf inserted his right hand under my legs, the two friends of his held it from behind, and lifted me up bodily.
It was supposed to be a harmless prank, but they could not sustain my weight, and the boys behind released Yusuf’s hand, and dropped me. I fell face forward onto the ground, and the result was a chipped front tooth, a memento that I carry with me even today.
I do not clearly remember whether Yusuf apologised. I still cannot recollect who my other two friends were. I have no memory of whether I was taken to see a dentist or a doctor or any other person. I won’t even try to remember if the tooth hurt me. It is all irrelevant.
What I do remember is that I did not speak to Yusuf for many days thereafter. I sulked, ignored him, avoided him, and did all this despite the fact that I loved and valued his friendship.
In due course of time, of course, I forgot the pain and the incident, and we became close again.
Today, Yusuf is in America, and we keep in touch. When I look at my chipped tooth in the mirror, I smile at our innocence, and at the ingenuity of my friends. There is no ill will or rancour.
There is one thing that one cannot afford to forget: one’s spouse’s birthday.
This incident occurred five or six years ago. My wife and I have been married now for over 12 years. On that fateful birthday of hers, the monsoon was in its full fury, and I woke up to the prospect of going to work on a dull and dreary day.
I had planned the birthday seven days in advance.
The gift and the flowers were to arrive home AFTER I left for work ..a surprise of sorts. However, I had no memory that it was her birthday when I woke up. I proceeded to the toilet, then the bath and then the dining table for breakfast. By nine o’clock, I was getting ready with an umbrella in my hand to step out to go to work.
Even when she asked me if I wasn’t forgetting something, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was she was trying to make me remember!
It suddenly came to my mind at about five p.m. that I had forgotten to wish her on her birthday. By now it was too late to call her and wish her, so I decided to confront her when I reached home.
I found the flowers outside the house in the dustbin; in the kitchen, on the dining-table, lay the unopened gift and a cake box, which too, by the looks of it, lay untouched; in the bedroom, my wife waited, an angry look on her face. If looks could kill.. you know the rest, I suppose!
In time, of course, she forgave my lapse, but suffice to say that the verbal abuse she showered on me after she saw me entering the bedroom with a sheepish smile were a treat to listen for anyone wanting either to improve his colloquial language, or wishing to join the Mafia!
We have all been endowed with the ability to forget the most traumatic events of our past. Thus, whether it is a failure at school, or an injury to our children, or the death of a loved family member, the wounds and trauma heal with time, and we move forward. Had the Almighty God not gifted this felicitous ability to us, we would be brooding about the past all the time, and never really living.
So I end this essay with a smile, and an exhortation to all readers to enjoy life to its fullest. And to forget the past, and to climb a new mountain today. And to succeed in each new endeavor. And to try things without thinking of the result.
©Dr. Taher Kagalwala 2002