The Magic of Memory

Distance lends enchantment to the view

Putting on our Rose Colored Glasses

There’s something about the human psyche that, I believe, allows us to always see and remember the good. Can you imagine a world in which our memories and recollections were strongest for pain and horror? Luckily, our brains are wired to forget the blemishes, hurts, and ugliness we encounter in the world around us; we smooth out the rough edges in our memories.

That’s not to say we wipe that information from our memory entirely. Of course, we need to learn and adapt as humans so we can’t ever entirely forget the things that caused those problems and pain. For example, I can easily bring up the images of abject poverty, garbage, and squalor from parts of India that we have visited; but when I’m asked about traveling in India the first things that come to mind are the vibrant and vivid sensory details, the absolute kindness of its people, and the beauty of the country.

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When I tell stories of racing through unimaginably crowded city streets in a tuk-tuk, weaving in and around buses crammed with people hanging out the windows and on the roof; trucks overloaded so high that the stacks of cargo overhang the front windshield; donkeys, cows, elephants, camels, cats, dogs; children and adults on bikes, mopeds, scooters, motorcycles; and all of it going in every possible direction on every square inch of road, I recall the exhilaration and laughter of living so recklessly. Gone are the seconds of terror wondering if that oncoming taxi was going to swerve back into his own lane, gone are the noxious fumes of billowing clouds belching from uncontrolled (and uncontrollable) emissions, gone is the cacophonous blaring of millions of horns, bells, shouts, screeching brakes, engines revving.

No when I think of India I immediately recall the beauty and friendliness we encountered, and a blissful inner peace that at some point comes over you, settles in a corner of your brain, slowly expanding and obscuring the less desirable moments. The India in my memory becomes the India of my photographs, an enchanting land, full of charm and wonders. I remember the family that invited us into their home to share tea and a snack even though they had to run to the neighbors to get enough tea cups. I remember the small family of four, all wearing helmets, all smiling, stopping on their small cramped moped to offer directions to some lost travelers. I remember the enticing aromas and incredible color of the market. I remember the small children taking my daughter by the hand to run her around the village showing off all of their favorite spots. I know India is overcrowded, over-polluted, and over-stimulating, but it is also overflowing with enchantment and splendor.

Check out some of our reflections of India.























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  1. What a lovely post, I was transported to India with your memories and would have to agree absolutely with what you say. It’s true that there are many upsetting and disturbing things about a place as huge and diverse as India but my memories over all are also of joy, colour, smiles and all things positive.

  2. It is interesting what remains in our memories. I think much of it is from the retelling. We naturally repeat the portions that get a positive reaction. After a while, we’re left with the positive highlights and, because that’s what we’ve repeated most, that’s what we remember most. I wonder if this happens more with we who are storytellers.

  3. I like to focus on the positive when I travel. Yes, you are going to see things you do not like and you are going to have bad experiences when visiting other countries (probably). But, it is all part of the experience. I also think of how I can contribute to change the negative things I am seeing. If I see poverty, am I putting my travel money on local business and families? If I see trash, am I disposing my own trash correctly?

  4. A quote from one of my favorite authors! My husband is very reluctant to go to India because all he can imagine are the negatives. I’ve been working on him, though, and talking up the Taj Mahal and Rajasthan. You make it sound like the positives outweigh the negatives.

  5. Memory is a very interesting thing, isn’t it? People tend to remember so little of most experiences even though at the time you think you’ll always remember so many of the little details, it often slips away with time or becomes distorted. It is great that your memories from India are largely positive and most of the negative things have slipped away with time! Sometimes people tend to remember the negative (our brains are wired to focus on it) and it would be a same for vacation memories to be negative. ~ Jessica

    1. Jessica, I think we try to focus on the positive as much as possible. Also, our memories are triggered by our photography and for the most part, we only take photos of the positive as well. Maybe that helps.

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