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Temporary amnesia

By Nickunj Malik - May 30,2018 - Last updated at May 30,2018

There are quite a few folks I have come across, who regularly suffer from sporadic bouts of forgetfulness. No, not the ones who put down things in one spot and within moments, cannot recall where they had placed it — that section is too large to be discussed. Here I am referring to those of us who, when faced with a stressful situation in a public place, lose their cool and start shouting: “Do you know who I am?”

The first time I heard this loud exclamation, my heart went out to the shouter. I was quite young at the time and took everything at face value, you see. I could not quite understand why the passengers standing behind this person, who was holding up the line at the check-in counter in the airport, were not sympathetic towards him. I mean, here was a gentleman who had apparently lost his memory and was not even ashamed to admit it. Granted he was bellowing in a shrill voice — in a very shrill and angry voice actually — but that was because of sheer panic, right? Imagine not knowing who you were! Envisage a situation where you got temporary amnesia and could not remember your own self. What can be more terrifying than that? I felt very sorry for the man, I must confess, and wondered at the callousness of my cotravellers, who seemed to be irritated by the scene that he was creating.

It was only when he asked the same question for the third time that a shifty chap travelling with him, revealed the questioner’s identity. But instead of replying to him, the guy informed the check-in clerk that the amnesic was a renowned politician who was also the president and CEO of several companies. This information was followed by an underlying pause, where certain privileges like free upgrades and special treatment, were telepathically implied. 

I was too far down the queue to find out if those benefits were indeed granted. But when I got over my disillusionment I discovered that people from my home country India, frequently used that particular phrase in order to emphasise their importance. In the eyes of others, that is. 

Afterwards I witnessed belligerent men and women in all kinds of places; restaurants, casinos, five star hotels, cricket stadiums, concert halls, religious temples and so on, make the same allegation. But they always operated in pairs and it was almost like a Mutt and Jeff show where one feigned disbelief at not being recognised, and the other consequently supplied the relevant introduction. It was supposed to impress the listener and function like “Open Sesame”, so to speak.

It worked in some instances but when every second person came up with a similar assertion, the service industry got wise. In New Delhi, for example, the staff was trained in such a manner that no amount of presenting yourself with exaggerated designations cut any ice with them. They were frostily polite but stood their ground. 

Outside a nightclub in a posh suburb of the capital recently, we saw some commotion.

“Do you know who I am?” an angry voice yelled. 

“Any doctors here?” asked a burly bouncer.

“Somebody has fainted,” I predicted.

“Go and help,” I nudged my physician brother-in-law.

“I am off duty,” he mumbled. 

“Where is the patient?” he requested reluctantly.

“That lady who is screaming,” said the bouncer. 

“She has forgotten who she is,” he continued sotto voce. 

“Aha! Delhi amnesia,” my brother-in-law diagnosed.

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Comments

The privileges of democracy- and of being more equal than the others. Should be subjected to a Bollywoodian whack on the head, the treatment of amnesia so favoured in Hindi flicks of the seventies that one started expecting all psychiatrists to also be master hammersmiths.

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