In Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest, Miss Prism, governess to young Cecily, remarks, “Memory, my dear Cecily, is the diary that we all carry about with us.” Although writing in a diary has greater advantages than simply helping you remember moments in your life (although, it’s not really Miss Prism’s fault that she didn’t know this. It was the 19th century, after all; articles such as How Journaling Improves Mental Health didn’t really exist), Miss Prism provided us insight into the importance of our memories through this quote. After all, memories are one of the most beautiful gifts our minds offer us- certain experiences that we place in ourselves to be replayed forever. Each of us has these- happy ones, sad ones, funny ones, vague ones involving just a glimpse of a smile or a glimmer of an emotion, incidents that we once remembered but have long been washed away by a wave of new experiences. However, each memory reminds us of a unique experience that took place in our lives. Personally, it is always a pleasure to dive into the ocean of memories in my head. They remind me of good times and of bad times, of experiences that I had forgotten but which came rushing back suddenly, too overwhelming to process all at once. My favourite memories are not of life-changing moments- some are as random as could be; however, in that randomness lies their beauty and power.
One of my favourite memories involves my elder brother and a tight-fitting blue-and-black sequined party dress. My brother was around ten years old at that time. Our winter vacation had just begun and we would leave for our hometown of Varanasi in a week. My parents had bought a beautiful party dress to gift my cousin, who was a year older than me. However, they were very unsure of whether it would fit her. Soon enough, they realized that my brother had the same height and weight as my cousin. Pulling out the dress from their Pantaloons shopping bag, they insisted that he wear the dress so they could see if it was the right size. My brother had never been more mortified, and I had never been more delighted. Thankfully, the dress fit well, and I was able to sneakily take a photograph of him without his knowledge. However, I did not need to, as the image of my brother in that sparkly dress, looking uncomfortable and embarrassed and completely red in the face, will always be in my mind, ready to be recalled whenever I need a good laugh.
Childhood memories add to the pleasure of new experiences in unique ways. Recently, when my brother purposely tried on a sari in a clothing-store as part of an Instagram campaign against enforced gender stereotypes, I recalled this incident and felt even prouder of the change in both of our mindsets: the fact that there is nothing wrong with wearing clothes that are seen by society as belonging to the other gender.
Another of my favourite memories is from the year of new experiences, old friends and an unprecedented amount of craziness: tenth grade. My friend, Joshita, and I were standing near the central staircase of our school building while our morning assembly was going on. The hymn for the day was one she did not know the tune to, which was rather surprising, considering the fact that we both had spent twelve years in this school. As the starting notes of the hymn were the piano, she waited in anticipation for the self-conscious, scattered voices of a few school choir members, expecting most of the other students not to know the hymn either. However, she couldn’t have been more wrong: the strong forceful sound of hundreds of students and teachers singing together surrounded us almost immediately. Seeing her somewhat-incredulous-and-mostly-confused face at the fact that everyone else knew the tune to the song sent me into a fit of uncontrollable laughter that did not stop for the entire duration of the song. I was truly unable to stop laughing, and whenever I did, simply glancing at her face would send me off into fits of mirth again. The beauty of this incident lies in the fact that you had to be there to understand the significance of this memory: the Head Girl (Joshita) and a House Captain (me) laughing away while the rest of the school was solemnly singing a hymn- just two best friends sharing a moment of childishness amidst an atmosphere of responsibility. Honestly, I still don’t know what I found so humorous in the incident, but this wonderfully weird memory always succeeds in bringing a smile to my face.
I simply love getting lost in the familiarity of old memories and the excitement of making new, interesting ones. Playing an impromptu game of ‘Antakshari’ with my family during a power outage, defeating my friend (and unofficial coach) for the first time in a game of table-tennis, having a heart-to-heart talk with my grandmother as she lovingly combed my hair, and my first stage performance are just a few simple but memorable moments I can recall. My favourite memories are mostly inconsequential ones, but they are a part of this list because they remind me of the most important people in my life. After all, “memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, and the things you never want to lose.”
- Aashna Rai