We treat the symptom, not the disease. Headache, for instance is only a warning signal, just as the red traffic signal at a road junction. Headache means that something, somewhere is wrong in our system. But, we take an aspirin tablet to suppress the pain. Not only individuals, even the government resorts to the treatment of the symptoms and not the cause. If someone dies in a traffic accident, the government pays some compensation to the victim and allows the matter to rest at that. No investigation is done to find out the cause of the accident and the necessary steps to be taken to avoid such an accident in future. So, every year, accidents happen in the railways, roads, electrical infrastructure, water bodies, hospitals and innumerable other things. Let us address the cause, not the symptom.
What was the happiest moment in my life?
The day I passed my first university examination with a first class?
The day I was married?
No doubt, I felt quite happy on those days. But my happiest moment was when I got the acceptance letter from the editor of a reputed magazine. It was my first story and I was in cloud nine when I came to know that my story had been selected for publication. If you think deeply, you will know that apart from his basic needs like food and water, man craves for ‘acceptance’ from his fellow human beings. When the child is not ‘accepted’ by his play-mates, he starts crying. It is followed by ‘acceptance’ by the hostel-mates, colleagues in an office, and so on. Another word used with the same connotation is ‘recognition’.
Could you put a wealth of knowledge in a verse of minimal words? If your answer is positive, how many words would you suggest? And how many verses could one compose? A dozen or two? Or a hundred or two?
The Tamil saint-poet Thiruvalluvar who lived about two thousand years ago had composed one thousand three hundred and thirty short verses, each verse containing seven to ten words, but brimming with profound wisdom. The European priests who learnt Tamil for the purpose of communication with the native people with the sole aim of spreading their religion were astonished by the immense wealth of knowledge imparted by these verses with minimal words. The collection of verses was aptly named “Thirukkural”, meaning sacred short verses with minimal words.
Here are a few samples – the translation is mine. I have tried to bring forth the original idea using minimal words :-
- As ‘a’ is the first letter of the alphabet, so is God the beginning of this universe.
2. What is the use of education if one does not worship God?
3. It is difficult to be free of worry if one does not surrender at the feet of the one
who has no equal (God).
4. A man who has an unblemished record of life in this world would be elevated to
be an angel in the Heaven.
5. The duty of the father is to make his son sit in the society of learned men.
6. A timely help is more precious than the world itself.
In history, no country was free from invasion by conquerors. But people with nationalist fervour and racial pride generally want to erase all traces of conquest. The same fanaticism renames the streets, towns and even the countries. I know I am entering into a controversy, I can’t help it. Bombay was renamed Mumbai. Calcutta was renamed Kolkatha, Madras renamed Chennai and so on. This national fervour – or call it by any other name – did not confine itself to India. Rhodesia was renamed Zimbabwe, Batavia was renamed Djakartha, Peping was renamed Beijing, Formosa was renamed Taiwan – the list is endless. Fine. But did the renaming ceremony bring forth any good to the respective geographical entities?
Once, Samuel Longhorn Clemens, wanted to play prank on his friends. He bought a packet of cheap cigars, removed their labels, substituted them with labels of expensive cigars and passed them off as genuine ones. His friends were all praise for the “expensive” cigars, commented on the aroma, and generally felt elated by the “quality” smoke.
The shop-keepers and manufacturers exploit this weakness of the customers to their advantage. The same company, manufacturing two products of the same quality, labels them differently – with one product prized higher and the other a little lower and markets them. Most customers choose the one priced higher, with the hope the quality will be better. A woman customer, noticing that I fell for this trick, told me the lower-priced product was also equally good. She told me that her mother had experimented with both the products and found them to be of the same quality.
Well, for those who are not familiar with the name Samuel Longhorn Clemens – he was known by a different label – Mark Twain.
Many people are in hot pursuit of luck. What they do not know is that luck is also pursuing them. At one point, luck gets so exhausted that it opts out of the race. Poor man, while running to get hold of luck, he leaves it far behind. That’s his ill luck !
Man has a fascination for something bigger and heavier. That’s why he builds massive structures as the abode of gods. The chariot of the god Jagannath is so massive a structure that the word Juggernaut is adopted in the English language with a totally different meaning. The statue of ‘Thiruvalluvar’, the poet saint, ( Poet saint? Yes, you have read it right. We accord the status of sainthood to the Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar whose two line verses hold eternal truth) built at the cape at Kanyakumari, in the south of India could be termed a colossus. All the temples, the abodes of gods are massive in structure. But one thing I do not like about the word ‘massive’ is , when it is associated with heart attack.
Science didn’t make me an atheist. On the contrary, it strengthened my belief in God. A human child needs a lot of care and attention for a long period so that its intelligence potential blooms to its full level. But the new born calf reaches the mother’s udder by instinct immediately after its birth. Every animal acts by instinct and not by any serious training by the adults. They choose or discard a plant or weed by instinct and not by training. When they have eaten some harmful plant by mistake along with their usual fodder, they follow their instinct, go for the precise antidote, eat it and throw out the entire feed along with the harmful one. You may not have noticed it. But the cowherds have. In fact, many of our indigenous medicines have been discovered by the cowherds and forest tribes who had keenly watched their charges going for antidotes after imbibing some harmful weed or plant. Who gave this instinct to the animals?
I find a pattern in everything God has created. In fact many discoveries were made because scientists looked for a pattern everywhere. Halley discovered a pattern in the movement of a heavenly body – a comet that followed an elliptical path conforming to a precise mathematical equation and predicted it would appear again after seventy-two years. Edwin Jenner discovered that there was a pattern in the attack of smallpox. No milk vendor was attacked by the dreaded disease. Hence his discovery of vaccination as a preventive measure for smallpox. Music follows a pattern of timing. So is poetry. When the sound does not follow a pattern, it is noise. I believe drawing and painting should also follow a pattern. But, wait… does abstract painting follow any pattern? I am intrigued. Probably it follows a pattern of inconsistency.
My village was not electrified until I got my university degree. Kerosene lamp was all that I used to read my lessons at night. There were no motorways around and no bus served our village. I walked to my college which was at a distance of eight km from my village. I never felt them as impediments in the pursuit of education or a joyful life. A daily walk of sixteen kms and a smoke, dust-free atmosphere helped me enjoy robust health. An irrigation canal and a few lakes around our village helped us learn swimming without spending a single pie from our pocket.
There was plenty of space around the village which was used to herd the village cattle in the morning before they were driven to the nearby hills for grazing. In the evening the same space was used as the village playground. There was no dearth of playmates as well.
My college-mates from the town used to wonder, “Up and down you walk sixteen kms. Won’t you get tired when you go home? When do you get time to study?”, they used to pity me. “No, on the contrary, when I reach home, I have to water the farm animals, put fodder in the manger and so on. Then only I feed myself and then sit down to study”, I replied with pride. “Don’t you listen to the radio?”, they asked me. “Radio? where is the question of radio when there is no electricity in my village?” My friends were aghast at my reply.
Well, to cut the story short, my friends were astonished when I got a first class in the first university examination. I was also a rank-holder in the university examination.
Coming to other advantages over my friends in the town – as the village was wrapped in total darkness after 8 p.m. , by which time the entire village retired to bed, (remember there was no radio and television hadn’t made its appearance yet even in towns) the clear sky free from dust and smoke presented a panoramic view of the celestial bodies. Being a student of mathematics with astronomy as a subsidiary subject, I could identify all the first magnitude stars in the sky. A calm and cool night helped me devote my attention in my study.
Arriving at the city armed with a government job, I realized almost all my colleagues also came from humble village surroundings, where as the sub-staff, like the helpers and drivers, mostly came from the city. So, being born in a village is no impediment for your upward movement.