Friday, September 4, 2015

Communication by lunchbox

Watching the superb Indian film The Lunchbox again the other night, I wrote down two of the best lines from the movie. The key line, said twice, has to be, "Sometimes the wrong train will get you to the right station." That seems fitting for a story about the wrong lunchbox that goes to the right man.

But I like the other line just as much: "I think we forget things if we have no one to tell them to." The lonely widower, about to retire, writes this to the lonely young mother, ignored by her preoccupied husband. The lunchbox she packs every morning for her husband is being delivered to the other man by mistake. The notes they exchange in that lunchbox give this man and woman, strangers to each other, an avenue for expressing their thoughts, feelings and the everyday experiences of their very different lives.

Our communication with spouses, friends and sometimes even strangers fills a deep need to express ourselves, to document our lives and, yes, help us remember those things that are important to us, however unimportant they may be to everyone else. It helps just to put things into words. I find dreams easier to remember if I can put them into words as soon as I wake up. If I can tell my wife about my dream, it becomes more fixed in my memory. Otherwise even the most vivid dreams are quickly lost.

The phenomenon of texting, something I have never engaged in, may be explained by this compulsion of people to express to someone the details of this lives. Blogs, something I do engage in, may serve the same function. Once I write in my blog about something that has been on my mind, I feel somehow relieved. It is like scratching an itch, as I told a friend recently.

If telling someone things helps us remember them, it may also, sometimes, help us forget them. Doesn't that help explain our desire to describe our feelings of grief, depression and suffering to others? It is not that we want to remember these things, but rather to get past them, to forget them. Telling someone else, whether that's a friend, a counselor or a stranger getting the wrong lunchbox, somehow helps.

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