Isolation

I have included some strips of the manga Koe no Katachi by Yoshitoki Ooima in this blog. Please read the strips from right to left.

When I watched Koe no Katachi aka A Silent Voice/The Shape of Voice, watched several video essays on it on YouTube, and later read the manga, I could relate the most to Shouya Ishida’s character. I was not a bully but I used to be nasty at times. However, the similarity lies in the ways he isolates himself. That took me back to my own school days.

I grew up pretty fast during my childhood, psychologically as well as physically. The problems of my home changed me from a carefree, outgoing boy into a worrying introvert. I spent my childhood trying to maintain good grades under the expectations of my parents and teachers. I hit puberty faster than most of my classmates, and that made me feel distant from the rest. Until I was 12, I had a few best friends, but none of them stayed long. I believed that I could have only one best friend, but that best friend was never permanent. After 6th Grade, I could not even tell who my best friend was. I had imaginary friends since I was 8. I spent most of my adolescence with them.

Koe no Katachi took me to those days and made me think: Why didn’t I have no friends then? My house was in the end of a small goreto beside a stream now turned into sewer. I never brought anyone home. I never went to anyone’s. I was scared I might get lost if I went anywhere other than my home and school. At the age of 3 or 4, I had actually lost at Ason. Had the Lamini Aama, who lives in our neighbourhood not found me, I don’t know what would happen to the proud Ankit/Sandeept that is today. But these were all secondary. The primary reason was my pride.

As long as I remember, I have always been proud. I was proud of my good-looks. I was proud of my high-pitched voice. I was proud of my memory. I was proud of my hard-work. I was proud of my timeliness. I was proud of my ability to speak well in public.

The first blow to my pride came in the form of the crooked tooth that somehow changed my good-looks. The second blow was the change in my voice-pitch. The pride of my memory ‘poofed’ when I realized that my brain could not remember everything and that the memories were ever changing. My pride of timeliness, hard-work and my ability to speak up facts from memory got kicked away once again in March when I did my worst presentation ever. But I still did not let go of my pride.

With pride, I had cultivated ego, and I enclosed myself within its walls. This wall has stayed ever since I realized I was different from my classmates, and that I could not easily mix with them. I had several problems. I could not stand them shouting out obscenities, I could not stand them fighting for petty things, I could not stand them taking my note-books, I could not stand them talking about ‘Street Fighter’, I could not stand them joining social media, I could not stand their aggression. In short, I could not stand the adolescents being adolescents. My “matured outlook” was actually my ego. I grew it in such a way that I did not frankly talk to anyone. I pushed them and have always tried pushing other friends and people away from me. I shoved some of them so hard that I have never had life-long friends.

In Koe no Katachi, the anime, Shouya Ishida shuts his ears, and crosses out everyone. That’s who I was, and still am. While my classmates had fun in the class, enjoying the never-returning times of their lives, I ignored their voices, canceled them out and concentrated on books. I used to be in the classroom, but I used to be aloof from whatever they did. Whatever they did, I thought, was nonsense. What I did, always right.

Looking back, I was never sad that I did not have much good memories with my childhood friends. I had my biggest lesson on large-group friendship when I was in my Bachelor’s. That was the time I enjoyed with my friends the most. But back in my head, I still had a doubt like Ishida has at the midway in his character arc, “Is this what friends are like? Am I allowed to be in their friendship, and to be happy?”

By now, I have again been hit by a realization. Even the largest groups of friends dissemble at some point of time. People who used to spill out all secrets, get along with awkward smiles when they meet after a long time. The dimensions of friendship changes with time and it’s natural. Nobody remains the same. I am, however jealous of some of my friends who can keep more than one best-friend in their life and respect each one of them. I am jealous that they can maintain the same dynamics that they created in their childhood. They are the polar opposites of someone like me, one who believes that there can only be one best-friend, and loses even that best-friend eventually.

Koe no Katachi, the anime, shook the walls of my ego; the manga cracked it further. As I dug deeper into my psyche, I realized that I could have been more accepting. I could have enjoyed a bit of “the trifles” of my friends. I could have a bigger heart and accepted many best-friends in my life. I could have been proud of the fact that I valued friendship over my own pride-generated ego. I apologize to you all, my friends, that I could never see anything beyond my ego. That I never tried to understand you; that I did not try to accept you, not even once.

Will I be able to break the walls of ego? I don’t know. Even after the blow it got, it still stands. I have come to a realization that only I can break it. The wall, however, is many-layered and has made my personality. Breaking that wall means that I will have to change my personality to some extent. But am I ready for that alteration? Am I ready to face my demons? Am I ready to move out of my comfort zone? I don’t know. But I am inspired by Ishida when he says in the manga: “There is some things you just can’t change. …I think it’s the time you spend trying to change. …That’s more important.”

I want, my friends, not to push you away; I want to understand you, your perspectives; I want to be more accepting of you; I want to be no more jealous of you; and I want infinite joy whenever I interact with you.

Memories

I have lost hundreds of photos and documents due to hard drive crashes and memory card failures. Crashes are inevitable. Electronic devices can fail anytime without any symptom. I backup some of my important data online but I don’t backup everything. Over years, hard drives turn into parts of my own memories, and they even represent my personality. I feel I lose myself every time a crash occurs. Sudden crashes have hurt me at least five times now, the recent one occurring on February 14, and I have not been able to recover everything yet.

Our brain captures our sensory perceptions and makes memories. The brain also erases the ones that are less significant. It is so spontaneous that we don’t care how the construction and deconstruction of memories occur. I have come to realize that when we actively interact with the environment, we make sharper memories compared to times when we are passive. Undivided attention helps produces better memories than when my mind is divided. My memory becomes the weakest during the times I have to multi-task. As I am writing this, my mind is trying to run quickly, but it is also interrupted by the talks of my sister and mother, and the loud TV. I am trying to understand what they are talking about but my mind processes only bits and pieces. I am sure when I wake up tomorrow, I won’t be able to remember anything of this evening except that I was typing something on my laptop.

This lack of proper memory construction a frightening situation for me. It was not always this way. I used to do home-works while watching TV in the past. My brain might not be as effective as it was 10-12 years ago; I don’t know. I might not have been able to grasp information from different senses at the same time. I can’t say for sure. Did my brain change the way it worked as I grew into an adult? I can’t say for sure. What I know for sure is that the volume of information my brain has to process is huge, and it has tired. All the things from trivial to complex calculations have affected it for a few years. The fatigue has lingered for a long time as I have not been able to give it a proper rest.

Unrested mind is unstable. It fears more, lacks confidence, and kills enthusiasm. It has so much to do but does not want to do anything. Moments of laughter decrease as worry grips every thought. Such a mind does not make good memories. It takes one deeper into abyss. Images of Riley from the movie “Inside Out” run in my mind as I write these lines. Sometimes, I see myself in her place, trying to keep myself happy against all conditions and making myself sadder as time passes.

The TV is making me listen to Yog Gurus who are focusing on happiness and Pranayam (breathing techniques) that help in the removal of all thoughts. After that, they say, we can enforce happy thoughts. I have not tried them yet, but as I look the paragraph above I become doubtful. Are we composed only of happy thought? We definitely are not. We are made up of several different kinds of emotions—happy, sad, angry, and so on that have roles in defining our personalities. And as the movie “Inside Out” showed, these feelings are ingrained in our memories.

Do memories make us human? Do they drive humanity? As long as I know, we learn a lot of things from the individual experiences of our parents, teachers, friends, and our own. We also have collective memories in the forms of communities, societies, rituals, libraries of books, and archives of different forms of media. Humanity relies on these things so that we don’t have to start from the beginning of the civilization. Humans are in a sort of relay race where the older generation passes the baton of memories to the younger generation can continue from what they have. A new generation always more privileged. Look at the progress in technology, for example.

Progress in technology means that we are relying more and more on it to keep our memories. Will a time come when the machines understand the meanings of our memories? That they will empathise with us? We are already astonished by the answers given by Siri and Sofia, aren’t we? Will they be more human than we ever are? “Blade Runner 2049”, the sequel to the classic “Blade Runner” movie triggered the question within me. Both the movies focus on memories implanted in factory-made humans; the sequel on the memories of automated programs as well. I don’t have the answers to the questions but the possibility of the machines becoming more intelligent or more human could be possible. For now, I am happy with the machines helping me put a part of me into them. It’s a risk as they may crash any time and I might lose those bits of my memories again. It’s okay because, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”[1]


[1] Quote from Rutger Hauer’s character Roy in Blade Runner (1982)