Designs, digits & dates: This memory athlete breaks records

Last month, Prateek Yadav, an engineering graduate from Uttarakhand, attended the Maharashtra Open Memory Championship in Mumbai. Yadav, a 12-time national champion in memory sports, wore a cap and placed an A4 sheet inside it to block out distractions before competing in the various tasks. These tasks included memorizing and recalling a page full of historical dates and events within five minutes. Yadav, who holds numerous national and world records, is a skilled memory athlete who has honed his mental capabilities through years of training and practice.

Memory sport competitions, which became popular in the 1990s, require participants to memorize and recall large amounts of information. These competitions typically involve ten contests, ranging from card decks to fictional historical dates. At the recent state-wide contest organized by the World Memory Sports Council and Growth Vidyapeeth, Yadav impressed everyone by setting a national record for memorizing and recalling 1206 binary digits and a world record for memorizing 168 random words, both within five minutes.

Despite his extraordinary abilities, Yadav insists that he is not superhuman. He compares his mental training to the physical training undertaken by athletes to enhance their skills. Yadav’s fascination with the potential of the human brain began in college when he learned about Swami Vivekananda’s ability to recite ten volumes of an encyclopedia from memory. This led him down the rabbit hole of memory sports, where he discovered the strategies used by German and Chinese practitioners. The memory palace technique, which involves associating information with familiar locations, particularly resonated with Yadav. He would create silly visuals linked to locations in his memory palace to help him remember various pieces of information.

Yadav’s preferred memory palace, which stretches from his building’s parking lot to his neighbor’s home, has played host to thousands of random visuals, words, dates, faces, and more. Utilizing this technique, he has achieved great success in memory competitions, even winning a gold medal in Singapore by memorizing fictional dates and events. Yadav’s dedication to training his memory has allowed him to excel in the field of memory sports, leaving everyone in awe of his impressive mental abilities.

It has been a month since the Maharashtra contest, and Prateek Yadav has since cleared his memory palace of the digits and words he memorized. However, he continues to visit his memory palace daily for around 30 minutes to maintain his mental acuity. Yadav believes that stimulating the brain is essential for optimal performance, just as physical training is important even in a time when food can be conveniently delivered to your doorstep. He asserts that training the mind in an era of countless reminder apps is not redundant but actually beneficial for overall mental health.