They fade away...almost
Dad bought our Agfa camera when I was born. It had an external flash that fascinated me. What I loved most was the standby indicator that continued to glow after the flash was charged for a 'flash' and disconnected from the power supply. How on earth could the indicator keep glowing for so long without any battery or external supply of electrons?
It's another matter that the glow would gradually begin to dim after some time until it disappeared completely. Learning the concept of capacitors and how the flash actually worked demystified things somewhat.
I guess there are some parallels between how the glow gradually fades and memory gradually fails. My memory is a mix of mute snapshots and short videos from the past...the sum of which tells me who I am. The memory footprints aren't necessarily spectacular, indeed most of them are mundane that the brain decided to archive for no apparent reason.
Like when an aunt visiting us in Jamshedpur had to make do with a chair without a backrest at the round dining table. I loved the prospect of her leaning back only to discover that there was no support. In fact, she even pretended to suffer the 'ignominy' just to appease my imagination. I remember my ringing laughter.
Or arranging an issue of TARGET in an in-wall shelf before Dad could snap me and didi for bhai-phota. The snap vividly captured the Gorilla face gracing the cover.
Or my two neighbouring friends and I hanging out at the parallel bars and discussing the entry of TV into our lives. Dad had just bought a B&W Telerama and we couldn't contain our excitement at the whole world being thrown open through its miracle screen. Anil was the most excited and I tried to dissuade him from visiting my home (he was my next-door neighbour) for yet another glimpse (or was it the first?). When that failed, I relented and all of us went to my home together.
Or Dolly didi playing a game of carom against didi or Manoj dada commenting about a sticker on my pencil-box. Or Dad and I scouring the market in futility for a particular type of tiffin-box that I had seen with a classmate and developed a fancy for. Or the rustling leaves shyly peeping through the drawing-room window as the slender branches of the Eucalyptus swayed and drooped, coaxed by the breeze. Or us assembling in the verandah during many a load-shedding and being entranced as the glittering Moon painted the landscape in silver and the buildings cast dark silhouettes.
As time goes by, however, many of these memories will be relinquished, many will gradually distort and eventually falter, but some will survive. It's amazing how we remember some of the most trivial things without ever choosing to do so.