The Salt Of The Earth.

This is Shanmugham, my friend from the park. He is from Tamil Nadu and wears the traditional dress of that state; white dhoti and half sleeve shirt. He speaks the same language as my mother tongue and that is the factor that brought the two of us together.

He is a retired farmer from the Kaveri delta. He comes from a village very close to my ancestral village. One of his sons now manages his agricultural interests. He has another one running a very profitable fly ash brick making industry, close to his farm lands. One of his sons is a Manager in a Five Star hotel in Quatar and another is the Executive Chef in a Five Star hotel in Pune. He has come to Pune to spend time with the last.

Where I sit in the park after my walk, to my left all my English/Hindi speaking friends sit and to my right, Shanmugham and another Tamil speaking friend Ganesan sits, and occasionally, another Tamil friend Ramanathan joins too. An important friend, Rangachari has just gone off on a three month tour of South India and the Far East Asia. All these gentlemen live with their sons as do I. The difference being that they keep visiting their many sons, while I stay put with my one and only child Ranjan. All of them keep visiting their daughters too.

Whenvever any of these friends come home, my father is over joyed as he can speak to them in Tamil and he particularly likes to chat with Shanmugham with whom he shares the agricultural background.

My English/Hindi speaking friends wonder how I can survive in the stereophonic cacaphony every evening and are convinced that I am a freak. I agree.

Shanmugham is my current link to my roots and some common sense solutions to life’s problems. He is totally guileless and entirely fits this definition of the phrase of this blog post: “Those of great worth and reliability.” All his children, the four sons and two married daughters as well as a brood of grand children adore him as I can make out from the telephone calls that he keeps getting from around the globe as well as from the way he is treated by his local family.

He neither speaks nor understands any language other than Tamil. He has studied up to the fourth standard in a Tamil medium school, and while is literate, not very well read. He is wise and his IQ must be over 140. He had to stop schooling to help his father run the farm and so lost out on formal education. For all that, he has ensured that all his children studied and the results are there for all to see.

His background, one foot in the village and the other in other towns and cities of India as well as overseas, is repeated all over India and is a factor behind some good and some bad developments. His story however is full of the good developments. With this particular story as a backdrop, this NYT article shows how complex and enigmatic India is.

I am privileged to have him as my friend and I am flattered that he considers me as a good friend too.

Risk.

Welcome to the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where Anu, Ashok, Conrad, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Padmum and I write on the same topic. Please do visit the linked blogs to get five different flavours of the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Grannymar.

Communication being the difficult thing that it is, the topic chosen by Grannymar offers me a chance to be a bit different than I usually am. Had I rung up Grannymar to find out the topic, instead of reading it in Conrad’s blog, I would have ended up writing about “Risque” instead of “Risk”.

I am normally risk averse but, I have taken a risk now in trusting that Grannymar’s sense of humour will prevail over her despair or indignation. But the risk is there nevertheless, that I may face some music from her. Let us wait and see. She knows that I am not risque averse!

As is the case often in my life synchronicity came up again when I read Cheerful Monk’s blog post “Optimist Or Pessimist” earlier this week when this post was on the drawing board. CM, this is my response to your question. I hope that it amuses you.

I am Panglossian in my belief that I already have the best of everything possible in my life and do not wish to take risks to jeopardize that status quo. Despite that however, I also accept that I cannot live a normal life without taking some risks. I know that every time I step out of my home, I risk being hit by one of the millions of two wheeler riding maniacs , who is quite capable of mounting a footpath to do the job. Every time I step into my very cozy shower, I risk slipping and falling and having to be rescued and perhaps hospitalized.

I am also practical in the sense that when I predict something in the future, the expectation will be strongly influenced by my present experience or value or emotion or whatever. This understanding enables me to minimize risks in day to day living by being realistic about the results that will follow taking such risks.

I have already written about the big risks that I took in my eventful past in my post “Taking Risks” and my views on the subject are, I hope, by now well known to my readers. Apart from those risks, I also took the big risk that almost all of us take without considering all the consequences – getting married! That is one risk that all married people take, based on a presentism projected to the future and discover that we have to make a lot of adjustments to a completely different set of parameters, nowhere near to the euphoric pre-marriage stages. Now that I am a widower, will I take that risk again? I don’t know. I would like to experience the pre-marriage euphoria first, which in turn will entail taking risks with new relationships and my panglossism may well kick in and warn me to be wary!

Let us now take a different view of risk. Here is my house guest Jay, all the way from California, USA in our native dress of a dhoti and a half sleeved kurta. Very comfortable to wear in our climate.


Now, don’t you think that Jay is taking a big risk wearing that combination? Unless you are quite used to wearing it there is always the possibility of the dhoti coming undone at unexpected times. So, the local lasses will hope that Jay takes a stroll in our park and hope for the best. Very risque is it not?

Now let me take another huge risk and be risque. Imagine Grannymar in a sari!