Forgetting Names

by phoxis

I am very bad remembering names and relating them with faces. I had a book  from Reader’s Digest with different kinds of mind puzzles along with their descriptions. I used to read it, and  liked to tryout different puzzles and check how I was doing.. There was a puzzle which required to remember names and faces of people. In one page, faces of about 10 to 12 persons and their names are given. As per the book, one should inspect it for 30 seconds and then turn over to the next page, where the same faces are arranged in a different order, but their name fields are blank, and which has to be filled. I always failed to identify the faces. I managed to get a few correct matches. Although I am good at relating an entire sentence with a small scribbling like image and some other kinds of stuffs, but the face and name relation proves to be very difficult for me.

Years back, while I was walking on the road, somebody called by my name. It was one of my classmates from my higher secondary school (class 11 and 12). I studied from class 1 to 10 in one school and 11 and 12 in another. Even in these two years I often mixed up some of the names. Now after a year or two, a guy from that group suddenly shows up. I went up to him while trying to remember his real name. Real name because, I remember his nick name, which when translated in English has the exact meaning “Thief”. Although the naming was not done because he did something like that, but only because his behaviour was a bit strange and he seemed to act strangely when talking to people and moving around, his body language was as if he has done something wrong and now trying to cover up things. He asked me “Can you recognize me?” . I told “Yes”. That is because I really did remember him, and it was hardly 2 years I left the school. I asked, “Do you remember my name?”, he told my name. Now it was my turn when he asked if I remembered his name. I had no choice but to tell that I do not remember his name. The translation on his reply is something like this: “You don’t remember my name? Its Thief. The Thief. Don’t you remember the Thief?” . Ya I definitely remember “The thief” and the person, but not the real name. It felt bad. The most unfortunate part is, at the time which I am typing this line, I still do not remember his name, even after he told it that day.

The best was when I forgot both the name and face. A boy studied with us in the old school (class 1 to 10). May be after class 3 or 4 he left the school, after which we never met. Some months before I was standing for a bus with a friend, and a guy came and started talking with me as if he knew me. I started talking and tried to think who it was. After some conversation on what I was doing and even after asking what he was doing and some more conversation, I was able to track down that he was from the old school and from that group who left the school. I remember the faces from that time, but couldn’t find a match. He was in a rush and went away. The friend with whom I was standing asked: “Who was it?”, I replied: “No idea.” . He said: “What ? You were chatting for that long with a random people like if you knew him for a long time?”. I noted that it was not random but may be from old school. After a some days, may be weeks, I met him in the undergraduate college, when I asked him his name. The name strikes the mind and old images from class 2, 3 comes up, which differs a lot from the current person’s face, but does have the main features. Till now I remember his name and face too!

Although there is a counter example, I could remember the name and the face of a classmate from kindergarten (miraculously), whom I never met since last 18 ~ 19 years, and I was able to recognize the profile of him in facebook correctly!

There are some more from the recent past. When I joined the undergraduate, took a lot of time to know who is who. I knew all the names, all the faces are also familiar, but a lot of time I couldn’t figure out what is one’s name. Same at the postgraduate university. It took over one and a half semester to properly know every person’s name and faces. Sometimes I meet someone and simply forget the name of that person, even after trying to remember. Although this is the case with the person with whom I have or had a very little interaction. In the last summer internship I often wrote the names of the teacher and some other students on my palm, with whom I had to work and share the laboratory space.

Some months back I was walking with a friend, when I saw a classmate from my undergraduate college standing. I went up to her. She asked me to introduce my friend with whom I was. There the problem was. I know the face of my classmate very well, also know the name, but can’t just get it out from my mind. I thought hard to get the name for some time, then gave up, and simply asked “What was your name ? I forgot!”. As soon as she told her first name I was able to complete the last name immediately.

Sometimes I call up friends and their parent’s pickup the phone, and simply can’t remember the friend’s name. Most of the time pausing for some time and forcing on the mind gets the name out and the day is saved, but some times it is a pathetic situation. Call up someone and forget the person’s name you are calling. Once I just had no choice but to tell “The boy who lives there, who studies with me” etc. and at last I had to tell the school nickname (which was extremely awkward and her mother laughed hard after listening it). For important calls, I write the points and the  names for safety.

A similar scenario with story books too. Like others, I also create an image of the characters and places inside my mind and label them with their names. Later I find it very difficult to trace who was who. Even when there are only 3 or 4 characters. In a detective story, once I believed that the name of the culprit is the name of the victim and vice-verca. At the end of the story I was perplexed. The “ooh!” moment came after I went back to the page where they were first introduced, and reading some of the parts again. Same with movies serials etc. I can’t get the names of characters until I see the movie more than once, or follow the series for some time. Not to mention the painful history books. I thank the almighty that I have at last, at last, got rid of the subject. Freedom!

Although I remember every name and person from old school, where I studied from class 1 to 10, and still keep in touch with them. One of which is a friend of mine last 18 years (and today is his birthday). Therefore the problem mostly is  remembering names of the persons with whom I have interacted less, infrequently or recently.

Sometimes I remember a name and the face at one chance, it is not possible to tell which one will i forget, and more importantly when. Although this problem is not at a critical level, but annoying, and sometimes may seem very insulting (for others).

There is also one funny dimension. A lot of time whenever I see a person a random name, sometimes very awkward, automatically comes in my mind, and for a long time I use that name to refer that person, until the original name takes over.

There are several other examples of mixing up names and faces. Also, this is not the only thing I jumble up, there are some more on the list. May be later I will post them, but one thing is for sure;  I don’t forget the names of the persons I interact a lot and especially I will never forget the names of my friends (includes family) and the persons behind it.