Friday, March 8, 2013

Weird Synapses

While driving on NH-37, most people notice the Sarusajai stadium, a popular dhaba, a few educational institutes or the Balaji temple. But when I go for a drive on the same route, my attention is grabbed by two unusual landmarks, a Tyrannosaurus-shaped tree atop a hill and a life-size model of a red car atop an ordinary house. On my weekly commute to the village where I used to work, few of the familiar landmarks I looked out for were as follows: a pumpkin shed, the toothless old lady who sat on her haunches every morning and picked the head lice of her grandchild, a row of birds on the electric wire, a smoky brick kiln, a muddy pool of lilies, and a police station outside which two men always played carom.

Most people I know are amateur cartographers, gauging distances, noting landmarks and flaunting an impeccable sense of direction. I can drive on the same road for a whole year and yet fail to remember what comes after what, the familiar bumps and bends, and the commonly accepted landmarks. My focus veers into the oddities instead; which after an adequate frequency of visual stimulation serve as good enough reminders to find my way around. But it is a hassle to tell anyone directions such as, “turn left after passing the restaurant that had written ‘dhoosa’ instead of ‘dosa’ on the outdoor menu” or “the lane next to the building that is the colour of vomit”, or even “take the right at the intersection near the statue with parabolic breasts”.

In larger cities with an abundance of one-way streets, I have to take lengthy detours to get anywhere, owing to my selective peripheral vision (once I had trouble recalling and telling a friend the colour of the building I stay in) and driving past my destinations. I require time to cram whole buildings, little nooks and corners, and the roads into my memory. But as I notice the weird stuff rather than the proper street names or house numbers, even GPS technology fails to salvage my paltry spatial awareness and navigate me in this immaculately labelled urban world.

My father claims it is a lack of focus, but I feel it is just an alternative focus; like being left-handed in a world swarming with right-handedness, or being colour-blind among people who sees a riot of colours. Now, colour-blindness is another story. On my first day of HS at Cotton College, I gloated about securing a seat on the first bench of the severely cramped chemistry gallery. The reason was to get a ringside view of the magic show (or the fun chemistry experiments) that is demonstrated on the first day of college by a very exuberant professor. While the magic tricks were going on, the professor turned to me and said, "Do you see that heap of powder on the table? Tell me what colour is it". It was late afternoon ans we were in a minimally-lit room, and there was the additional pressure of nearly five hundred pairs of unfamiliar eyes that had suddenly turned towards me, awaiting my answer; so after a moment of observation  I replied, "It is dark green, Sir." The professor shouted, "ARE YOU COLOUR BLIND? That's grey." And I shrunk in my seat.

Considering I have perfect vision, I wonder if my brain has weird synapses that perceives the world in a different way from the normal folk; and this feeling is reinforced by my habit of looking for signs where they are none. Dear reader, tell me I am not alone.

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