coromandal


memory is a form of reparation
July 30, 2017, 7:42 pm
Filed under: chronotopes, departure lounge | Tags: ,

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Are we inauthentic when we adjust our body language, tone, etc. when with different people? Or is it a survival tactic?

I moved from S India to Canada in 1979 and my new N American school chums didn’t have the emotional maturity to talk about my other life in Asia. Their words came out racist, xenophobic, jeering and smug. So, I became inauthentic and buried my past for survival.

But the memory, though smothered under the inauthentic survival strategy, persisted. Eventually as we all grew up, I found new ways of talking about my secret life in India with new friends who were older and more mature. There has been a reconciliation between the buried memory and my real time relationships.

Memory is a form of reparation. In my case a way of skirting the nativism and parochialism of American life and inhabiting – virtually and unrequitedly – the places of my childhood.

Here Colm Tóibín describes how memory makes amends:

 

Those of us who move from the provinces pay a toll at the city’s gate, a toll that is doubled in the years that follow as we try to find a balance between what was so briskly discarded and what was so carefully, hesitantly, slyly put in its place. More than thirty years ago, when I was in Egypt, I met a cultivated English couple who invited me to stay in their house in London on my way back to Ireland. They could not have been more charming.

The only problem was that they had an Irish maid who, as soon as I arrived as their guest, began to talk to me in the unvarnished accent of home, as though she had known me all of her life. Since she was from a town near mine, we spoke of people we knew in common or knew by name or reputation. It was all very relaxed and friendly.

Later, after supper, my two English friends asked me if I minded them raising a subject that troubled them. Did I know, they asked, that my accent and tone, indeed my entire body language, had changed when I met their maid? I was almost a different person. Was I aware that I had, in turn, changed back to the person they had met in Egypt once I was alone with them again?

I asked them, did they not also speak in different ways to different people? No, they insisted, they did not. Never! They seemed horrified at the thought. They looked at me as if I was the soul of inauthenticity. And then I realized that those of us who move from the periphery to the center turn our dial to different wavelengths depending on where we are and who else is in the room. In this world, memory becomes a form of reparation, a way of reconnecting the self to a more simple time, a way of hearing an old tune before it became textured with orchestration.

The Class Renegade, Colm Tóibín

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