‘Mr. George! How are you doing today? Don’t tell me you don’t know me.’
Have you ever met someone like George who is so confused about his past?
I have met so many Alzheimer’s patients over these years, but no one like George.
The human brain is a mystery. Don’t you think so?
I wonder how he shows up precisely at quarter past eleven every day. He always forgets the reason for his arrival, though.
He swivels in the chair like a child. He pulls out the same photograph from his Jacket-typical of him. Like I told, he’s been doing the same thing, asking the same questions for three months. I bet, he’ll ask who’s the girl smiling in that photograph. (Three months ago from his attic he found out an old photograph from an old camera. Since then he’s been coming to me complaining about how he remembers that the girl in the photograph is important to him but knows nothing about her).
Today, I might possibly answer his questions. Please, you really must keep the secret. Today I am going to do a secret clinical trial. I’ve been planning it since he came to my office three months ago. I can trust him for sure. It’s not a dangerous trial but you know, if Peter finds out that I am doing a trial on his dad, he will sue me. His dad is safe; he’ll never say a word about this, simply because George won’t remember anything. Technically speaking, his visual impulses are not connecting to the hippocampus or he’s not able to retrieve the stored images from the olfactory lobe. You know, the olfactory lobe acts like a hard drive, which stores all long-term memories; you must have learned it in your high school. Unfortunately, we don’t know much, everyone is struggling so hard to unravel the mystery of the brain. Why still a mystery? Because no one has monitored a human brain intimately when a person is alive. (Indeed, MRI, CT scan, PET will do it from the outside not intimately from inside)
Anyway, I would do it today; I am going to inject a nanorobot into his central nervous system, hopefully, along with the sensory impulse, the nano will quickly travel first to the cortex, and from there to the olfactory lobe. From there, from the hard drive of the human brain, it would send back an electrical signal out of his brain. Do you see a monitor on my desk? It will receive those signals. We would be able to see Mr George’s memories as if watching a movie-It would be a nanoscopic enlarged 3D view-so you would be able to see it clearly as if you are watching a movie.
Don’t come too close, don’t squint for so long, no use keenly focusing, you won’t be able to see the nano inside this syringe. For your eyes, it is too tiny.
When I injected the nano, you should have seen his wrinkled face, his thick brows flinched and his deep brown eyes enlarged. You missed the fun of a grotesque face. Now I guess he wouldn’t remember anything, not even the pain.
Why is the monitor still dark and blank? Don’t worry, sensory impulses travel much faster, even faster than the light, if nano is travelling faster than light, the camera attached to it is useless, that’s why the darkness. Cross your fingers, you’ll soon see another person’s memory on this screen, probably, the first to do so in the human history.
Look, there goes the nano, like a car going through a tunnel. Do you see on the sidewall many squares, it looks like computer monitors, isn’t it? Or you can say like an exhibition hall, his memories like photographs are spread across the side walls. Look around we’ve to search for the girl’s face.
I haven’t thought this through; there would be embarrassing memories, there would be secrets that he obscured from everyone. Turn your face away; I’ll tell you when I find the girl.
I slow the nano down, which is slowly travelling through the tunnel, searching for the girl. I keep my mind’s eye keenly up on the screen.
Where is George? Oh! he’s still in the corner of the room, fiddling with the photograph. I am sure, he is not aware of nano’s intrusion.
What did you say? Do I feel regrets for breaking the latches of his privacy? Honestly a bit, I would say. But apparently, Nanos would help him to end his suffering. I should rather feel more excited about this.
Look! What I’ve found, a wrinkle-less face in a mirror. I slow the nano and zoom in closer to the man’s reflection. Do you think that was the face of younger George? He seems like a hippie- long dreadlocks and unshaved face-he’s clearly one. On the mirror, behind the Hippie can you see a calendar of 1960? It’s not the year that amuses me but on the calendar, I could easily read മാതൃഭൂമ ി. I am sure you won’t be able to read it because it’s written in my mother tongue Malayalam. Yes, I am from Kerala (an Indian state) I guess before I was born, George had seen my mom’s birthplace.
Wow! I find her, it’s the same girl. I am sure it’s the same girl on the photograph. ‘Hey, George can you pass me that photograph?’
See, I told you it’s the same. It’s not a portrait like in the photograph, but a full-sized lively girl. What is she wearing? A sari! Is she an Indian? She smiles at the cameraman, Probably, to young George.
I steer the nano closer to the girl’s image, let’s try to penetrate through her. Yes, as I guessed the screen is not solid, easily nano pass through her image onto a chamber. Seems like a chamber of love, I’ve to say a romantic chamber of love. I see his visual memory, countless of them, images of her shy face, images of her boldface, her lips moving closer, perhaps to kiss George.
I do not recommend going through all these memories it would evoke a sense of affection towards her, your heart will turn tender. Eventually, you’ll fall in love with her for sure. Now I understand why George care so much about the photograph.
Do you see two images at the end of the chamber? I think it is clearly distinct from all the other images.
Look thoroughly at the first picture; I know it’s hard to guess her emotion from her lips. You can say it’s like our Mona Lisa’s lips, enigmatic lips. Do you think she is smiling? Focus for a while, you can see her lips twitching. Now I think, you are so confused like me. If you need to sweep away the state of confusion, you must look into her eyes.
When you look deeper into her glossy eyes, you can see beads of tears on the corner, and then her eyes plead for something. What is she pleading for?
Don’t look at the last picture, a Green Lake. Let me warn you there is a haze of melancholy in it. But if you insist you can. Look carefully, do you see the girl drowns in a green lake…why she… is she dead? Or is it the imagination of George-Our imagination also stores images in the same place. I hope she is not…….
If he loved her so much, why’d he imagined her drowning?
Was he heartbroken because of… some unknown reason?
Quickly let me tell you my experience. Three years ago on Valentine’s Day, my girlfriend gifted me a broken heart and went with another guy. I found it difficult to move on, then. So I tried many things to reduce the intensity of trauma like turning her face in my mind black and white or drowning her face in the ocean. You can also try it if you stumble upon a traumatic past; it helped so much to move on. I doubt George also might have tried something like that.
Where is George? Oh! He’s still in the corner of the room fiddling with the photograph.
When I turn, he suddenly looks at me with his deep, brown eyes. He won’t be able to confirm, it’s my guess that she is not passed away.
I feel nostalgic seeing many other images in the chambers-rivers and lakes and greenery- I’ve no doubt it is Alappy, I feel so proud as if in a time machine I’ve gone back into my mom’s birthplace, I miss this place. I haven’t visited Kerala for over ten years.
I veer the nano to the tunnel where his short-term memories are stored, I see spider web-like crack on the monitors-his memories is shattered. No, luckily, there is someone, an old woman. I don’t think that is his wife, I saw her two days ago, she is a Hispanic blonde but this woman’s hair is grey.
‘George did you meet someone lately’ His expression naïve as always, and then he cried. I dialled Peter, I know him, a former cardiac surgeon, who now works here as the head of cardiovascular research team.
Did your dad meet someone lately? Do you know a grey-haired woman? I hear him say ‘NO’.
Still, I am optimistic; Peter must have missed it, for sure. If he didn’t meet there is no scientifically proven explanation for the grey-haired woman’s presence in his, short-term memory.
Anyway, let’s keep the science apart, I wanted to know more about the girl I saw in the love chamber of his memory-the girl in the photograph.
I am lucky-Peter agreed to send his Dad with me. Yes, I decided to take George along with me. My contacts in Kerala searched three months to track down the exact locations in the Images. No, I didn’t tell them about the girl. I don’t want to involve anyone. If the girl, now probably aged women recognizes George, I like to see his reaction. Nevertheless, over these three months obsessively going through all the images of the girl in his memory, I grew fond of her. Now my urge to meet her is quite uncontrollable.
Inside the plane, suddenly a bag drops from the top, I feel it rappel down my legs, the strap snuggles my hand. The wait of it hunches me down a bit.
When the hostess helps me to put it back, George whispers, ‘Bro, ask her if she is the girl in the photograph. She looks so beautiful’. I gesture him to shut up.
But it’s too late, the girl heard it, ‘oh thank you so much handsome. I’ve no idea which photo you are talking about, though?’
George shows her the photo ‘hmm. You are funny. Do I look like her? she’s gorgeous’
‘Thank you, she’s my girlfriend. I am going to meet her now’
When she’s about to leave, George again this time louder ‘I know it’s you. You are gorgeous.’
She throws an air-kiss at him.
He proudly turns towards me- seems like he’s enjoying each moment of this trip. What baffles me is the unpredictability of his memory. He knows that he once loved the girl in the photograph but doesn’t remember what happened to her, in medical term an advanced form of Retrograde Amnesia.
I took my phone, no network, I change the time zone from PST to GMT, showing 11’o clock in India, nine more hours to reach Cochin. I tap on the photos. I feel proud when swiping through someone’s memories in my phone. I swipe one by one. Wait! I stop at the grey-haired woman’s photograph. Then quickly I swipe back to the young girl. Do you think they look similar? Perhaps not. For three months, I had been obsessively examining these photos; maybe like George, I am comparing the girl in the photograph with everyone. I wonder how the young girl looks like now-sixty years must have gone by-I don’t know there is a slight chance that she has passed away. Come on, be an optimist.
There isn’t much time to spare in Cochin. We should better hire a car. To be honest I am curious to see the girl. But how do we find her? Whom should we meet to find her?
I find driving a challenge here learned and practised driving wheel on left the sudden change of the sides confuses me, I’ve to cover 250 km with 40km/h speed limit, and moreover I’ve to bear the unbearable sound of traffic.
When we reach almost 240 km in a stretch, the car stops before a lake. How do we pass this?
When I ask a man nearby, he says to wait for some time, something called Jangar will arrive soon to pick you, he says. What is that Jangar or did he mean Jaguar? How does a Jaguar help to cross the lake?
Oh, man! George is out. Where’s he going? He’s going all out into that restaurant-thatched with dry coconut leaves- Anyway I am famished, let’s have something. On the way, I take a photo of the restaurant with the green lake in the background, a spectacular view.
Come here! I find a clean table. Do you see that? George is shaking hands with the hotel manager and he says something to him. The manager nods and then in a shrieking voice, he said ‘munne appam and egg curry’. What is that?
The bearer comes with a round pancake-like thing and egg curry. Oh! I remember the taste of this.
I ask him ‘You still remember this? Have you been to this place before?’ But, he keeps his eyes on the plate, tears away the round Appam and dips it in the curry.
After done with the Indian delicacy I asked the manager, ‘How long this hotel has been doing business here.’
The manager said he recently took over from his father. His father told him a hippie helped him to set up business sixty years ago.
Yes indeed! You heard it correct! A hippie. Was that hippie our George?
‘Is it possible to meet your father?’ I ask the manager hoping that he is still alive.
‘Oh he is home….its behind….come with me’ he stammered.
His father is a thin, meatless skin and skull lying on a tiny sick bed. I showed him the picture of the girl smiling in the photograph, but the man looks at it and grins back.
‘He doesn’t even recognize me, let me look at the photo’ the manager says.
He carefully examines the photograph.
‘Yes…This Divya, I am sure Divya, I see many times her… go to school…she comes every evening here and…. have tea…here’
‘Come again. You said she goes to a school. How old is she?
‘I don’t know…hmm.. 21 maybe’
I look at George’s wrinkled face, no it’s not possible now a 21-year-old Divya had been his girlfriend more than fifty years ago- impossible-Possibly her mother, no that is also not possible either. Her grandmother! There is a slight chance, sometime granddaughter’s show similarities of their grandparents.
‘Do you know that Divya has a grandmother of Age probably 85 or so?’ I ask.
‘hmmm… no…not sure. But I know where they live…..It’s nearby… 5 km after crossing the lake…. let’s go I’ll come with you.’
‘Hey, Jangar arrived’ the manager shouted.
It turns out jangar is not Jaguar. But a 25 feet long ferry which can accommodate people and small vehicles. The ferry is mooring.
I park my car in between two other cars on the deck.
‘I guess that’s the house, you’ve to cross that bridge to reach their house’ the manager said and left.
George already crossed the thin wooden bridge crossing on the way to the house and waits for me on the other side; there is no railing to hold on. If my mind drifts in the middle, I would trip down into the water below. Let me tell you if I fall down all the seriousness of my journey flow along with the green water stream, it would be hilarious to go to her home drenched and talk about her old lover’s memory so I carefully balance when I am crossing the bridge.
I knocked thrice on the door and waited curiously. I see no sign of eagerness in George’s face; he always lives in the present. Whatever happens on the next second is not his concern.
You know I am nervous. What will I tell her? How she’s going to react when she sees George. What if she……
The door cracks open, a girl appears on the threshold.
On the first glance itself, I recognise her, enigmatic lips. She must be Divya. Now I know why the manager confused the girl in the photograph with Divya. She looks exactly like the girl in the photograph.
She stares at me uncertainly, then she turns to George, her lips loosen, her eyes enlarged in shock, for a while she frozen like a statue. Then she asked, “you are George, right?”
When I asked her how she knows him? She welcomes us inside the house and points her finger to a four feet square portrait painting. It’s a portrait of a man in his twenties. I know him……..
She interrupted and insisted not to withdraw my eyes from the painting. ‘Take a deep breath, relax your mind and don’t listen to your inner voice follow my voice instead. Look into his eyes, look deeper into the deep brown eyes, then move your eyes slowly to his thick left brow, don’t stop moving to the next brow. Then to the contour of his face.’ I did what she said; I went into a place where no time and space exist. I experience all the colours in my mind fading, I feel falling into black hole darkness for a while. Then I see the magic happens in the painting, the man’s skin wrinkles gradually I recognize George’s old face slowly appearing on the painting. A great painting, indeed, wonderfully portrayed the motion of emotions, George’s different stages of life reflected in the painting.
‘Who drew this?’ I ask her albeit knowing the answer.
She says it’s her grandmother drawn this painting.
‘Whenever I think about my granny, I’ve only one image in my mind, her sitting before this painting. Every evening after six o’clock she would withdraw from the world and sit before this painting. This painting was an obsession to her; not a single day she missed to retouch it.
She didn’t say who’s she portraying not even to my granddad. A month ago, she told me she is done with George’s painting. She only gave me the name of the man. Then she didn’t talk anything. She falls down to the ground’.
I ask her ‘do you have a photo of your grandmother?’
‘Why photo she’s in the next room, alive but her whole body paralyzed.’
I thrust my body into the dark room; the amber light of a candle separates her face from the darkness of the room. When the grey hair unveiled her face, I recognise the person lying before-I stand still for many milliseconds- you know who is the woman who painted Georges picture? You won’t believe, it is the same grey-haired I’d retrieved from the Georges short-term memory three months ago. She stares blankly at the ceiling. How did this happen, I didn’t expect this.
A switch clicked. Room brighten with fluorescent light. I can see Divya asking to the blank eyes of grey haired women. ‘See Granny the man in your painting is here to see you. Can you see George?’
I heard George’s whisper on my ears ‘Who is that old woman?’
How the grey-haired sneaked onto his short-term memory? She was there and yet George is not recognizing her. Beyond our comprehensible memory, is there another dimension without time and space? Does Alzheimer’s is the entry gate into that dimension? Did they meet in that dimension? Are they still meeting in a different dimension?
I’ve to send another nano and find out whether those images are still there on his brain. I wish nano’s could record the voices and emotion so I would get a better picture of this mystery.
Anyway, before leaving, George asked the phone number of Divya. He’s thinking Divya is the girl in the photograph. I don’t blame him she looks exactly like the girl on the photograph. The funny thing is George doesn’t have a mobile or know how to use one so I saved her number on my phone. Which, I will never give it to him. Opps… I forget to ask the name of the grey haired women. Never mind, got a good reason to call Divya.