FORGETFULNESS and absentmindedness are universal phenomena. We come across them in our daily lives — someone throwing his phone instead of a paper cup in the dustbin or another one looking for his spectacles everywhere in the house when he is already wearing them. Then there is the famous case of Sir Isaac Newton putting his watch in the water to boil and gazing at the egg in his hand instead of doing the reverse.
This syndrome leads to embarrassment — and peals of laughter — both in life and literature. In PG Wodehouse’s Something Fresh, Lord Emsworth inadvertently puts a fork in his pocket after lunch in a high-profile club. The waiter has to point it out to him, much to his discomfiture. Emsworth’s absent-mindedness reaches a crescendo when he distractedly pockets the prize exhibit given to him to appreciate by the father of his prospective daughter-in-law.
My habit of forgetting things landed me once in a very awkward situation almost two decades ago. Newly posted at a Chandigarh bank, I hired a second-floor flat facing a beautiful park. The only annoying feature was the 30-step staircase — it was quite trying climbing up and down. My bachelorhood and chronic absent-mindedness added to my woes.
Every day, I would get ready for the office and come down the stairs to realise, while opening the door of my car, that I had forgotten to take my mobile phone or the office diary along. Already late for office, I would hurriedly climb the stairs, almost two at a time, and rush back after collecting the forgotten articles. But on reaching the car, I would find that I had forgotten the car keys upstairs. Sometimes, while turning the ignition on, I would remember that I had forgotten to switch off the geyser or the electric iron. Two or three trips up and down the steps became my traumatic routine each morning. The charming lady standing at the gate of the house in front watched this ritual daily with amused concentration, which made my ordeal even more irritating.
I shared my predicament with my colleagues. Most of them laughed it away. But one came up with a cogent advice: “You must prepare a list of things to do. Get ready for office slightly earlier and just tick the items on the list before leaving.”
I duly made the list after reaching my apartment -- electric iron, geyser, gas stove, water tap, diary, mobile phone, specs, etc. The next morning, I got ready five minutes earlier than usual and ticked the items one by one with composure. With a confident smile on my lips, I climbed down the steps whistling my favourite tune. Ignoring the neighbour’s suppressed smile, I opened the car door and ensconced myself in the driving seat. When I reached office, the guard gave me a strange look while opening the parking gate as if he had seen a ghost. I looked in my rear-view mirror and noticed with awe the baniyan-clad figure staring back at me. I had forgotten to put on a shirt.
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