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I have a pet theory on memory: there is some space for storable memory and some for the volatile in our brains. Like in a computer, when you switch off, the volatile one frees itself. This switch-off can be because of many reasons, but sleep isn’t a big one (I recall whole lines and tunes of songs in my dream that I simply can’t remember when awake). The storable memory is more or less occupied by what we see and hear through our lives, especially our childhood. As we grow up, hopefully learning new things, this storage fills itself and much of what we might want to remember, we forget. Which brings me to what started this topic on a late night: cricket.

When I think back, I almost know every unnecessary detail of India’s matches before 2003. Some of these, I can recite the highlights commentary perhaps. But a lot of cricket after 2003 is missing from my memory. Even the big, big 2004 win in Pakistan is a blur. Sehwag got 5 chances before he reached a hundred at Multan before he went on to score 309. Sachin prodded and laboured in his 190s before Dravid had enough and declared. Dravid himself scored 270 (not as captain though) in the decider. Yuvraj scored a super 100 in Lahore. Then what else? I hardly remember, even though I saw each and every session of that series while at work.

It can’t be too much cricket because I have a clear memory of lot of other sports before 2003. I did argue recently with a tennis-expert that Sampras lost to Hewitt in one US Open final. I also recall that Rubens Barrichello won his first race for Ferrari in Hockenheim on a wet day when half the track was dry and the other half wet. Some idiot came onto the track with a banner as well.

It also isn’t true that the ability to store things into the semi-permanent part of memory is less as you grow. It is just that you don’t store well enough. There was a Test series between India and Pakistan in 2007, a series which ended in really bad light in Bangalore with Anil Kumble bowling medium pace (and taking a 5-er). But that is all I remember of it even though I was there in the ground that day. It must have been such a boring match that only what was necessary was stored. Or to put it in another way, what wants to be stored stores itself.

In the 90s and early 2000s, cricket was larger than life and everything was important, even Navjot Sidhu’s interview with Harsha Bhogle long before the Sikh became a commentator. In the same series of interviews, Vinod Kambli confessed to buying a belt for $500, a far different confession to these times.  Today, I am more than willing to wait for a proper contest. It also doesn’t matter who’s playing. Its more fun watching Brendon Taylor hitting a six off the last ball to beat Bangladesh than Dhoni collect singles in some obscure ODI.

A very strange thing also happens with the stored part of memory. Say I remember a weird detail from another age. If I am reminded of it in some vivid manner (a tv recast perhaps), I tend to lose it completely from my mind after a while. It could be that when it is refreshed, it is given a kind of more “accessible” space in the mind leaving it vulnerable to being dragged out by a new piece of information. This could be the reason people hate going back to an old house they lived in. The new image just kills your ability to ruminate on your nostalgia.

Keeping diaries, taking videos, shooting photos are all excellent for connecting broken lines between dots, but when the lines are intact, these tools render them less powerful, they defeat the purpose of what you wanted to, and have, remembered.

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