Memories, the intangible and yet visceral phenomenon that steers our life. From the moment we first awaken to our very last breath, we continue making and recalling memories. It is the one thing that all of mankind can afford. Rich or poor, man or woman, happy or sad, we all remember. Looking back at my life, I have had many experiences. Experiences that have ingrained themselves into the shallow depths of my mind. These memories carry with them a myriad of emotions. Some are happy and some are sad. Some are pure and some are besought with sin. I got thinking about this today, about my life and where it has brought me. What are the memories that define me? I brood over my life like gazing at an unopened pack of cards, each card holding possibilities and chances. In getting started, surely the most important memory is your very first one, Your first awakening into this world.
It’s hard to remember your very first memory. Is it the stench of the world as you awaken in a new a foreign world? Is it the sights of doctors and nurses peering over your naked scrawny body? Is it being first placed into the arms of your mother, a being foreign to you but still innately part of you? Sadly, the answer, not surprisingly is quite different. I wish I could remember the moment I was born. I wish I could remember the sights and the sounds of the kaleidoscope of life. I wish I could feel the difference between the coldness of the world compared to the warmth of my mother’s womb. I wish, but remember I certainly do not. Maybe there are people out there who can. If people can remember their past lifetimes, then their birth in this lifetime should not be difficult. The mind is an entity that transcends time and space and its capabilities are beyond our imagination. Or so I would like to believe.
Like the thousands of children born everyday, I too was born. Not that I remember that. My first memory happens much later. I don’t quite remember my age when this happened. Not because it was so long ago, but because I don’t think I knew the concept of age back then. I was just a little baby, a tiny creature too inconsequential for the world to take any notice and yet, a warrior and a king in my own head. Wait a minute? You might say. You knew what being a king was about? Well, yes. I did not know the meaning of the word but I am pretty sure every child understands the concept. That’s why they shed tears. That’s why they throw tantrums. That’s why they do something endearing. It is our first lesson in using people and emotions that play to our advantage.
‘Ah! They laugh when I do something cute or console me when I cry, how can I use this to my advantage?’
Do the kids know language in their heads? I certainly did. Its not any language you or I can understand today. But all kids have a language that they make up. In essence we are a lot like animals. We are all pets that are being trained, as we grow older. If I purr, cry and wail, nice motherly lady will come and comfort me. If I smile and laugh at their faces, they will pick me up and tickle me, maybe even make me fly in the air. That’s another early memory that I recollect. People picking me up, tossing me in the air and grabbing me before I fall and smash my tiny little head. If you have never tried doing this with a child, I would highly recommend it. As a baby I used to love this. I would walk over to all the grown ups who inhabited my world and signal them to toss me like a pancake. Yes, I knew what a pancake was. And toss they certainly did. It was the best pacifier ever. No matter how bad I was crying or how long I was wailing, pick me up and toss me in the air and I was a happy child. I loved the rush of air and the thrill of the free fall. The excitement of flight and rush of adrenaline was unparalleled. I was a bird. I was someone who could fly. I was free.
Still, this happened way too many times for me to remember if this was my first memory. Could have been, but I don’t know for sure. The memory that I do know and do remember as my very first awakening into this world is my legendary battle with my parent’s bed. As a toddler, I remember facing this giant adversary, this seemingly massive behemoth that I could never conquer. The bed to me was not an inanimate object. It was alive and breathing. It was my Everest. My very first memory or my awakening into this world was trying to climb this seemingly massive mound, which was my parent’s bed.
I guess my parents would leave me to play by their bedside and I would try to crawl up. Thinking back, I guess I do remember how old I was, Old enough to crawl. I remember a beige bed sheet and I remember its softness. But the thing that I remember the most is how tall it really was. I would struggle. I would try pulling myself, propelling my feet upward, jumping and many other acrobatic maneuvers that the Ringling brothers would be proud of. I would do this seemingly for hours until I got hungry and started crying or my father saw me and with great amusement pick me up and place me on top of the bed. I won! I thought to myself. I have captured the giant! I thought to myself. But even then, I knew what it meant to lie to yourself. My victory, although savored was incomplete. I had to do it without any help. Days went by and I continued my epic struggle to conquer my adversary. I kept falling or I kept being given a lift by my parents, but that did not change my resolve. I was going to do it. This one time I came really close. I figured that somehow my feet were stronger than my arms. I could use my leg to hoist myself up to the top. I put my right leg up and latched on for dear life. For a whole 2 minutes my entire body was off the ground. Pinned to the side of the bed, I willed my body upward. I prayed, without knowing what that was. I wished and struggled. Alas, I felt the grip slowly loosen. First my hands gave out and then my feet followed. Swiftly I came tumbling down. The ground slammed against my timid body. I cried in pain and frustration. Mostly thought, it was a foreboding of defeat. I did not want the bed to win. I did not want to give up. And so, even after my accident, I kept going on. It was my first lesson in life, to keep going on despite failure.
Human beings by nature are a very resilient and restless species. We are taught by nature, never to give up or accept things as they are and always strive for something better. The early man probably felt cold, he did not accept that and wore different clothes until he got to that magical fur that made him comfortable. He tried and tried, surpassing endless failure to discover fire. If he had given up, our species would have not progressed to this day. Millions of years on, we garner the rewards of our ancestor’s courage and resilience. Every one else has a story of their own I am sure. I had my bed; someone else probably has a memory of his or her cot. How he or she plotted to get out of what can only be described as an open top cage forms an eternal memory for many. At the crux of it was life teaching us the basic tenets we needed to survive. Even today, we use those basic lessons learnt. We work at jobs we don’t like with the hope that it would ultimately lead us to something better. We prepare food, which may not taste the best, but is enough for us to get by and eventually get us that perfect meal. We struggle through school and endless lectures in order to succeed at the bigger picture. Countless instances in life stand testimony to the lessons learnt in our infancy. It did for me atleast. I learnt that despite all the obstacles thrown at me, I would try and try hard at every task. It’s been my mantra in life. I will attempt everything at least once. I owe whatever I accomplished in life to those days and nights spent climbing that bed. Coming back to that, did I ever accomplish that feat?
Of course I did. But it did not happen instantly as I had hoped. As a child, your attention span wanders. And so did mine. I admit to being lured by the promises of brightly colored toys and the allure of automobiles. But once in a while I would come back and try to beat my adversary. One day after a game of racing cars, I tried to climb the bed. I approached it with the same sense as before, a slight trepidation and the knowledge that I was going to fail. But still I tried. I came close, stretched my arms as high as possible and grasped the top of the bed. To my surprise, the top of the bed was not as high as I remembered it. It seemed quite short. A little shocked I lunged upward and found myself climbing the bed with great ease. I was under whelmed. I did not get that feeling of success. Perplexed, I sat there trying to figure out why it was so easy. Was success never going to be rewarding. Were all battles going to be so easy? I finally figured it out. My first memory, my awakening into this world was the bed. But the progression of me climbing it was not as linear as I thought. It happened in flashes. By the time that I had conquered my adversary, I had grown up by at least a couple of years.
Memories are such. When they are being shaped, they seem to last forever. But when you look back at it, lifetimes, pass in just a moments few. This memory was my salutation into this world. It announced that the world was not an effortless job. It was going to be a challenge. It was going to be a struggle to overcome a lot of odds. But at the end of the day, you will taste success. Whether that means climbing a seemingly inconsequential bed, or achieving any goal that you may have set for yourself. The meandering path that life takes us on, has countless such memories strewn along. Each one beckons me to sleep in its warmth and reminds me of victories and defeats. It lulls me to sleep and yet in a sense I am now awake.