(Mr. Tajamul Hussain, 53, was born in Srinagar. He went to the Government Higher Secondary School in Nawakadal, Srinagar, and the S.P. College, Srinagar. He attended the College of Engineering, Andhra University, Waltair, the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), New Delhi, and the Forest Research Institute. He is a freelance writer.)
As a part of my personality trait of attempting to juggle tasks, and inevitably, some tasks get forgotten, every time I lose my car keys, forget them in my locked car, my eyeglasses disappear into oblivion, I walk around the parking lot for half an hour before I could remember where I parked my car, and even get to be noticed that my shirt buttons were pushed through the holes wrongly or I had come out with a mismatched set of shalwar qameez, or with an unzipped pant, I know it happens to many but not as often as it happens to me. When I forget what I am doing I could end up making a big mistake.
It happened to Archimedes in the bath. To Descartes it took place in bed while watching flies on his ceiling. And to Newton it occurred in an orchard, when he saw an apple fall. Each had a moment of insight. To Archimedes came a way to calculate density and volume; to Descartes, the idea of coordinate geometry; and to Newton, the law of universal gravity. In our fables of science and discovery, the crucial role of insight is a cherished theme. To these epiphanies, we owe the concept of alternating electrical current, the discovery of penicillin, and on a less lofty note, the invention of Post-its, ice-cream cones, and Velcro. The burst of mental clarity can be so powerful that, as legend would have it, Archimedes jumped out of his tub and ran naked through the streets, shouting to his startled neighbors: 'Eureka! I've got it.'
Of today's hectic world in which the minute details of our day-to-day lives are easily forgotten the busier (mentally occupied) you are, the more likely you are to be absentminded. Having too many things going on at once and to solve it is to clean out the clutter (in life) that is causing lapses in memory and train brain to remember the things one so often forgets. Usually when you are being absentminded, it's that your conscious processing is focused on something other than the task at hand; you are thinking about something else. When you are thinking about something else, the details, whether large or small, fall through the cracks of your memory.
The fact that things often run smoothly shows we are remarkably adept at focusing when we need to and attending to important cues in our environment. Lapses of attention are clearly a part of everyone’s life. Some are merely inconvenient, such as missing a familiar turn-off on the highway, and some are extremely serious, such as failures of attention that cause accidents, injury, or loss of life. Beyond the obvious costs of accidents arising from lapses in attention there is lost time, efficiency, personal productivity and quality of life in the lapse and recapture of awareness and attention to everyday tasks. Individuals for whom intervals between lapses are very short are typically viewed as impaired.
As annoying as absentmindedness can be, I have not been able to overcome it. Of late aging and the tendencies to get (quite often) mentally occupied, due to career and family problems, it is overpowering though a defining characteristic of the absentmindedness is that it does not normally interfere with my ability to successfully conduct my life. When it does interfere with a person's ability to function on a daily basis, then it is a sign that something beyond a busy schedule or lack of attention to detail may be to blame. Of late my actions of peeping through the key hole of the glass door (the height of absentmindedness), searching frantically for glasses that are already worn by me, the broken headlights and the dents here and there on my vehicle and the like have led my family members on and made to annoyingly wonder that I may not (God forbid) be on a slippery slope to Alzheimer's disease? To top it of the subjective experience of the tip-of-the-tongue or 'TOT' phenomenon, that the memory being right there yet for some reason can't quite access, I often seem to get blocked for the retrieval of the one I really want. Other times there's apparently nothing blocking my memory's retrieval other than my mind's stubborn refusal. I may become 'unblocked' after about a minute or two, but most of the times it takes me days to recover the memory.