This one comes in response to a large number of reader requests. It is a sample of the kind of essays which used to be graded as ‘excellent’ by our teachers in the olden days (meaning the 1970s).
I have a rotten memory. I forget names, directions, appointments; at times I even forget my own address. It annoys me to see people rattling off the latest stock quotations or twenty telephone numbers from memory.
Poor things! Memory, I always feel, should be treated like a chest full of jewels. To use it as a lumber room for trifles is like getting a combination safe to keep one’s waste paper in it, like buying up only to Buckingham Palace break it up into tenements.
My memory, now, is like a bed of exotic flowers. Every so often, I go weeding it out. Then, when twilight breezes blow over my soul, I can step into the garden and be
iciously lost. del
My memory is my own little story: a diary of my soul. If I look it up, I shall find it full of myself, like a mirror. Triumphs and glories will hail me: ‘This is you!’ Pleasure and laughter will bubble: ‘This is you!’ Defeats and
vements will mourn: ‘This is you!’ Sin and shame will hiss: ‘This is you!’ – and all the nameless little half-sad joys of humdrum life that stand in the background like a chorus will press my hand and say: ‘This is you!’ When I want to look at myself I turn to memory: all I stand for is sure to be written there. berea
I sometimes wonder if others feel like that too. How does the old man feel, looking back on a life that must be (to him) a symbol of all existence as he knew it? What of the squalid sinner, whose cold black memories flow over his soul at night like a dark glacier? And what of little children, whose tiny pasts must seem to them so close to a former oblivion? But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the child’s short life has already filled its precocious memory with remembrances of jam cupboards that are no more? And who knows what comfort memory brings even to lonely, frightened sinners cowering by their night lights?
Memory is a postman to all men, bringing together friends half a world apart; he walks swiftly and takes no fee. What little ties of memory will bind two souls across an ocean; what love and hate will be hurled across continents through the mailbag of memory! The lonely mother hugging her memories of her lost son and the shattered victim losing sleep over memories of his accursed wrongdoer; the sweetly
tful memories of the man whose life was a poem, and the bitter memories of one who comes from the east end of life; one woman’s expectant memories of her lover soon to return and another’s weeping remembrance of one who will return no more. The mailman’s bundle is large and full. Joy, sorrow, hope, fear, love and hate – all these and more are wis ivered to men’s hearts by memory. del
I have a rotten memory, but that won’t get me down. My head is no bin for the pettiest worldly facts. My memory is an album of precious things, sacred and intensely personal, to be shown to the world only when it is my friend.
Having been condemned to mark mountains of trash all my life (of the sort that I put up in the last post), this kind of writing takes my breath away. And it’s not just a matter of masterly grasp of language. The level of GK combined with the richness of imagination (memory as a globe-trotting postman, buying up Buckingham Palace and breaking it up into tenements, cold black memories flowing over the soul like a dark glacier), the degree of individualism that is manifest in every line (without which the most ‘successful’ man is merely a cog in some vast wheel), the depth and variety of human sympathy, the kind of visualization that can only be called poetic, the perfect sense of proportion and balance – I am certain that neither those students who are called ‘talented’ these days nor the typical ‘teacher’ of English can dream of writing something like this (mind you, being ‘good at science’ instead of what are called the ‘arts’ has nothing to do with it: Jagadish Bose, Balaichand Mukhopadhyay aka Banaphool and Conan Doyle were all students of science who could write excellently). Even the ‘best’ essays that are written these days by high-school children cannot hold a candle to this sort of stuff (I do not think any child who has grown up with orkut and Facebook and sms-chat could write something like this, and that is indubitably a loss to civilization, not compensated by LED TV and iPad). If enough readers are interested, I can put up one that I recently graded myself, just for the sake of comparison…