Eternal Darkness of the Mutating Thought

August 25 2023

Human memory is flawed and gets worse with time. One phenomenon where I face my own memory’s fallibility, with increasing regularity, is the contrast between an actual event that occurred in my past, and the memory in my mind many years after. I wanted to record one as I process it, even though it is a memory of a poem I read, so not strictly an event.

Only one Thirukural of the hundreds we had to memorize in school has stuck with me. I don’t remember the words of course, only the rough meaning:

A son’s duty (to his parents) is to ensure that others speak highly of/praise him to his parents.

As I write this, I probably read this kural 12 – 15 years ago. As it turns out, this wasn’t one kural leaving a trace in my memory, but two. Both are from the Book of Virtue, in the chapter dealing with children. The first, kural 69 is about one’s duty to their mother1:

Eendra Pozhudhin Peridhuvakkum Thanmakanaich
Chaandron Enakketta Thaai

A woman rejoices at the birth of a son, But even more when he is praised.

Kural 70 is about duty to the father:

Makandhandhaikku Aatrum Udhavi IvandhandhaiEnnotraan
Kol Enum Sol

The son’s duty to his father is to make world ask, ‘By what austerities did he merit such a son!

I’m glad to realize now, in my wise age of 29, that even Valluvar had to resort to padding. Usually I lament my memory’s fallibility, but in this case, I’m glad my mind saw the redundancy and reduced them to one thought.

Unfortunately, the amount of mindspace this thought occupies is more than two or four verses, and will only grow with time. Every day is a slow realization how true the verses are when they shouldn’t be, and a reminder how I’ve not done enough, even though I’m enough.

  1. in transliterated Tamil. I cannot be bothered to get fonts for Tamil on my blog just yet