Friday, August 16, 2013

P&M V - Guess who I am

"Guess who I am?"

Ah! I had lived long enough to know that the person asking me this question could belong only to one of three categories

1. Someone from school or college who I have not seen for lo these many decades. Having recognized me, despite my crude attempts at disguise like some additional twenty inches around the waist and a shiny pate, he expects that recognizing him should be a piece of cake for me.
2. Someone who I ran into in a jamboree like a wedding or some party some time in the past. Why I should have been memorable to him is something that only he can explain but why he has not  been memorable to me is now my task to explain to him.
3. A variant of 2 above - someone who I ran into in a party, when I was wandering around in an alcoholic daze, hardly noticing mere humans what with exotic creatures like pink elephants and flying mice having captured my total attention. He would have had a better chance of being recognized had he been a Hobbit or a Balrog. What makes it tough to explain is the fact that he is possibly one of those unfortunates who have an impaired eyesight - owing to a regrettable indulgence in those abominations called soft drinks - and are unable to see the wonders that are visible to the more fortunate.

Unfortunately, identifying the categories is as far as I have been able to get. In almost every instance I have failed miserably to identify the person concerned.

Hitherto I had confined myself to phrases that meant something different from what the dictionary would literally have them mean. In this case, however, the person who asks the question means exactly what he says. He/She does actually expect you to guess who he/she is. The problem for me is in identifying what makes people indulge in these guessing games.

If ever there was a question that was designed specifically to cause unhappiness to the person asking it, it is this question. I have heard cruel replies like, "I never knew you and do not want to" to "If I had guessed, do you not think I would have ducked out of sight in time?" Such wounding replies have been rare but, more often than not, the other person has had to indicate his inability - or guess wrongly - causing the questioner to feel hurt badly. It is a rare case where the recognition happens as expected - and the joy of such recognition is not really mind-blowing. Seems to me like this question is the sort of lottery where you buy a ticket for a million bucks in order to possibly win a humongous jackpot of one buck. So, why do some people play this game where the potential losses are huge and gains paltry? Masochism?

It is also a fact that most of these instances have left me vaguely guilty for the lapse of memory and vaguely resentful of that person as a consequence. There is this one instance, however, when I felt neither.

"Guess who I am?" came the tenor voice over the crackling static of the telephone connection.

"I do not know", which has been my invariable reply. I never really could play the 'your voice/face/whatever is very familiar and your name is on the tip of my tongue' game very well.

"What is this? We were so close till the 5th at school when you moved away" came the distressed, wounded voice.

Ye Gods! That is one time I could not have apportioned even an iota of blame to my memory. I defy even God to hear the tenor voice over a crackling telephone, discern the childish treble of thirty years ago and go on to identify the speaker. I swear, this really happened.

Now, can someone please tell me why people ask "Guess who I am?"

32 comments:

  1. And it happens so often! The next few seconds always have me reaching for all possibilities in the dark regions of my head and shortlisting but my success rate remains very poor! In any case the person learns not to try playing the same guessing game again! :P

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    1. Hmm! Sometimes i really think they like making the other person squirm in embarrassment. Which is why stoutly refuse to be embarrassed :)

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  2. A question that has challenged me as well.

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    1. Challenges almost anyone on whom it gets tried :)

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  3. heheh... I did this many times too, but with clues though :P On the phone.
    When they see me in person, a person who saw me before 20 years can identify right away :)

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    1. An you must have found people like me who stoutly refuse to guess :)

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  4. The question gives me the creeps. Though I pride myself on my memory, really how I am supposed to remember someone from two decades back just based on the voice? I try to be diplomatic and say, "Your voice sounds so familiar...!" Hopefully, prodding the other person to provide some valuable inputs read name :). Your choice of topics is quite something, Suresh!

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    1. Ah! What is the point in having a blog if you cannot even air your pet peeves, Rachna? :)

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  5. Ah ! That triggered memories..I know the types and it irritates me no end. Leaving me at the wrong end of the stick for no fault of mine whatsoever. And for a person like me , who notes down the names of people I meet, and their kids and their spouses etc..just in case I don't pop the same 'good name' question in two seconds.. this is a complete nightmare !

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    1. Now me - since I rely on my memory, despite having reason to know its close resemblance to a sieve, I have a lot more reason to blame myself and an absolute dread of this question :)

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  6. I always had a question to ask you. No, not "Guess who I am?"
    I wanted to know what does 'Jambudweepam' mean, sir? :)

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    1. I am almost tempted to say "Guess what it is" :)

      Our vedic rites specify the position of our world in an island called Jambudweepam or Jambudvipa. You would have heard the mantras go "...Jambudweepae; Bharatavarshe, Bharathakande.." etc which is almost at the start of Vedic rites when the Brahmins say where the rite is taking place.

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  7. ha ha, so true Suresh. THis reminded me of my marriage reception. Every fifth or sixth guest to whom my dad had extended an invitation would come stand next to me and say 'Do you recognize me?' Seeing the absolutely blank look on my face they would go on to place their palm on the same level as their knee and would say 'You were this small when I last saw you'. 'What do you think I am ? A prodigy from heaven above with super dooper memory?' I never responded though I wanted to :D

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    1. Well if any of them did not come to the wedding you can go and tell them "I was this small when you saw me last" :)

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  8. "I was wandering around in an alcoholic daze, hardly noticing mere humans what with exotic creatures like pink elephants and flying mice having captured my total attention." - You really want us to believe that these are who you see as most 'exotic' when inebriated? :) I do believe you when you say this incident really happened. I, for one, get most irritated with this 'pehchan kaun' biz, and the disappointment on the other end of the line when I do not is almost visible over the phone. I was hoping for a solution to this very bugging aspect of life, but you give none. Alas! However, the post, as usual, is A-One!

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    1. Alas! I was sober when I wrote it - which is why they appeared exotic :)

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  9. Hahhahaa....yes, this had got to be the most ridiculous question to be asked to a person who already looks befuddled enough! You have hit the right notes of annoyance and disdain with this one!
    Oh, and yes, the riddles on the phone are even worse!
    Loved this one :-D

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  10. Loved this one mainly because I am good at guessing people and my dear sister is not. She would fume every time someone does that to her and wonders what satisfaction they would probably derive from the guessing game :-)

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  11. Suresh this reminded me of the time when I went to a family gathering of my in laws . "Do you you know who I am " asked one of the aunties. Of course I know was my standard reply to which she triumphantly asked "tell me who I am "
    Its really embarrassing and I fully sympathize with you !

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    1. I normally say "Of course I don't" and they end up feeling all hurt and embarrassed. :)

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  12. Hah! The universal question, often coming from people on whom you have left some unforgettable impression. I usually ask them , Have you done some unforgettable things to me? LOL That usually teaches them not to ask stupid questions to me. Some times I scare them by asking back things I had never lent them in the first place.

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    1. By now you must have scared everyone off, Farida :)

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  13. I never answered this question to anyone. Whenever someone asks me this, I simply give them a questioning look and they know what I mean :) Then, the blessed creature takes the pain to introduce themselves. While on the phone, I go silent :)

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  14. I have this incredible ability of looking through people whom I don't want to look at. I have been called a snob because of that and I kind of like it.
    Either that or I answer the question with - Great! How have you tomato?

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    1. I'll make sure I never ask you this question :) People sneer at me for being too transparent as it is :)

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  15. A question I've always dreaded. It's like I am in a trap and the "who" in question is waiting to pounce on me.

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    1. Ah! That trapped animal feeling - how evocative of how I feel too :)

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