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.

The Iron Man.

No, I am not talking about Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. I have been given the title by a friend. Read on.

A couple of weeks ago, I had gone to the park wearing my black Hush Puppies sandals. Vimlu asked how come they were so shiny and I preened and said that I had polished them myself. She immediately recollected the stories told to her my late mother as well as Urmeela about how I ironed clothes before wearing them even though they might have just come from the laundry and also how I would polish my shoes.

There was another friend Mahesh who had accompanied me to the park that day and he was listening to this story. On the way back, he ribbed me about the ironing of clothes to remove the folding creases.

He returned to the USA and has just sent me this to describe me.


Delirious has an interesting post “The Trials Of Being An Only Child” in her blog.

My son Ranjan is an only child, and to the best of my recollection he has never had a ‘No’ for an answer from his parents, ever. He was and is clever enough to ask for only those things for which he would not get a ‘No’ for an answer.

The issue that I wish to address however is not whether he should have got some ‘No’s. It is too late to worry about that now.

The story that Delirious conveys brings to mind a story that my Guru Swami Dayananda Saraswati, uses to highlight the value of values. I relate the story in a much abridged form.

A childless couple adopt a street urchin who they regularly see near their home eating whatever he can scavenge from the thrown away packets and the waste bins. They clean him up, and arrange for him to go to school and the mother becomes very fond of the child and teaches him about his new station in life and how he should behave.

Every day, the child would get dressed in the school uniform and go to the near by school and just before leaving the house, the mother would give him a chocolate to have some time during the day. It once so happens that on the way to the school itself, the child unwraps the chocolate to eat and the nice bar falls on the road.

At this point, Swamiji would pause and ask the audience as to what the child would do. The answers would inevitably be either that the changed circumstances would make the child to ignore the fallen chocolate, or that he would pick it up, dust it up a bit and eat it. Swamiji would say that the most possible scenario would be that the child will first look around to see if any one was observing and then would pick up the chocolate to eat or not depending on the situation. He would add that if the situation permitted, the child would pick up the chocolate and perhaps as a concession to its current status and knowledge, instead of eating the bar, would first dust it before biting into it.

The point is that the child’s values have changed, but not its desires. Then of course, Swamiji would proceed to elaborate, which is not the thrust of this post.