The human brain is an amazing organ! It is absolutely incredible how our brain will save and recall a memory from the past, even as long ago as from our early childhood! For example, there are some foods I haven’t seen let alone eaten in years and yet just a random aroma will bring back memories and make me crave it, make me home sick and well, make me want to cook!
Tomorrow begins the most celebrated Hindu festival of Diwali. Depending on the lunar calendar, it can span anywhere from 3-6 days but the month leading up to it is agog with activity! Buying new clothes and gifts for family and kids, making or buying snacks that are now available all year round but still retain their significance this time of the year and decorating homes with lanterns, lights and oil lamps. The festive atmosphere is contagious! Being in the US and in a job that picks up speed as the US holiday season creeps up on us, it is near impossible to get time off to go visit home. The last time I was home for Diwali was 12 years ago. So celebrating with family has been relegated to Skype, sharing pictures and videos through Whatsapp, reliving old experiences and creating a version of it here at home in the US.
But, I digress. I was talking about memories. So my cousin’s wife posted a picture of a sweet snack called “shankarpali” (a kite shaped deep fried crispy goodness that disappears faster than it can be made) on our Whatsapp group the other day. This used to be my favorite snack as a child and it’s been years since I’ve tried anything that came close to it here. Just seeing the picture and knowing it was crisping in hot oil 5 minutes ago, was simply too much for me. My brain went into overdrive and I could actually smell the aroma wafting through the house each time these were made. I salivated in silence, contemplating ways to make this at home! While I love shankarpali, it soaks up way too much oil and knowing something is deep fried and deep frying it yourself are 2 completely different experiences. 🙂 So I do the next best thing – I save off the picture to look at and salivate some more AND make my sister-in-law promise to make me some when we get together.
That’s not my singular memory either. Growing up my mom cooked a lot, that was her way of showing love and she has passed that on to me! I have probably said this before but I take the “a way to a person’s heart is through their stomach” saying a little too seriously! 🙂 What this also means is my brain is a repository of sights and smells that pop up when triggered by external stimuli! When I was sick recently and down with a massive head cold, I was missing my mom’s piping hot custard. I wanted some so bad I could taste it and I used that memory to sustain me, given I was too weak to make any. Similarly, every time I see a kid in a pair of red shorts, I’m reminded of my cousin who, at age 4, wore his favorite red trousers for a week straight, only to take them off to shower and then put them back on. Yes, they didn’t look so red by day 7.
I have so many random memories, I have no recollection of otherwise, until something triggers them. Sometimes it’s an active recall, sometimes it’s a feeling of having experienced something like it before but not being able to place it exactly, sometimes like it is a carry over from a past life. Either way, each of them reveal something exciting or something uncomfortable or something completely surprising. Lest I forget them, I think I will savor them by writing in my journal or sharing on my blog. That way, years later when I read everything I’ve written, I can smile about all the silly stuff I did. 🙂