Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Adamant Sister

Nila and Mala are two sisters born with many brothers in a decent business family. What is ‘many’? ‘How many’? Say, four! Nila is the elder one so Mala is the younger one! Nila is a very ‘good’ girl. A soft-spoken girl, who wouldn't fight back with anyone for anything! So, though the foods she prepares are salty and spicy she is always known as a sweet girl with no ego and pride. She always wonders, 'what have people achieved with so much ego and pride?!', but doesn't even like to argue about it with anyone. Nobody tells her but she would be the first one to start doing all the housework in whichever house she goes to even if it is a few hours visit. She doesn't allow her guests to do any work when they come to her house and she doesn't allow the hosts to do any work when she goes to someone else's house. So, needless to say - everyone loves her. Even then at times even some small pigs would easily disrespect her. Pigs? Yeah, they are related to some pigs as well by fate. Who respects modesty in our society? Whoever dies… however important or unimportant they are to her… she would cry like mad. Those who are very close to her find it itching when she does it everywhere. They would think, ‘this is how she cries everywhere so she gives the same importance to us and strangers!'. Some of her cousins even make fun of her for that. Some people just ignore all these, doubting that maybe she enjoys doing these things – housekeeping and crying everywhere. She treats every one of her in-laws just like how she would do her own family members. Luckily, unlike her relatives, the in-laws are nice people so she is respected for that virtue in hubby’s place. She is very happy about it and keeps boasting about it to everyone, which makes people jealous of her often. Even when she had financial problems later, her brothers helped her in all possible ways, which made life easier for her.

On the other hand, Mala is a ‘good’ girl too but she is little cleverer so nobody can cheat her that easily. Who will like you if you are clever? She is brave too; doesn't fear anything – anyone. Nobody can come and make a fool out of her when they have no pastime as they do with her sister Nila. So, the jobless women who generally play around with Nila try to save their faces by not getting on the wrong side of her with Mala. She has enough egos and more than enough pride. Like the salt in pickle! She strongly believes that 'no salt… no use!'. She has never regretted not being as popular as her elder sister. She has only felt bad for her sister. At times, only ‘at times’, even her elder sister has felt helpless for not being able to be like her younger sister though it is the same blood that runs in her veins. Whenever the self-respect takes a beating, she thinks 'I don't want to rule the world by being like her but I can at least live with some self-respect!'. Mala gets all the respect that people of her types generally get. If the price that Nila paid for her modesty is disrespect, what Mala got back for her bluntness is a lot of unwanted problems, difficulties and inconveniences. Life after marriage was not that great. The primary problem is the financial problem. Ladies-in-law aggravated it.

"When your sister milks so much from your brothers, what is your problem?" is the perennial question that Mala's mother-in-law has been asking from day one. She never seemed to tone down her demands. Rather, it was getting more and more by the day. Mala was very adamant – "I would even die here starving but won't ask for a penny from my brothers!". "Once I got married, I have no business with my parents or brothers. If I go to them for money, it's nothing but an insult to my husband's manliness!" is her view. The elder one goes to them for everything and the younger one doesn’t want to go for anything. Every now and then, the elder one keeps going to her brothers asking for money for different reasons – in the name of ‘loan’ to grow husband's business (business never grew; only the loans grew!)… with ‘no name’ for children's education... clothes and dress materials for every festival... and so on. She was making use of her brothers in every possible way. She never missed an opportunity to milk them. ‘Unbelievably good sisters-in-law’ who never question anything that their husbands do to their sisters was the added advantage. Only the crying child gets what it wants, right? Mala never cried so never got anything. She was so unlucky that her mother-in-law was alive even after she herself became granny so her mother-in-law’s cribbing episodes comparing her with her sister continued for unusually longer time.

Although this problem haunted her throughout her life and she also stayed steadfast with her principles, there were difficult times when she had to face the wrath of some other people as well for the same trait of hers. When others also started blaming her, she felt hurt. The toughest of them was when she was ill. The doctors said it would cost a few lakhs for the surgery. Where would she go for so much money? All her brothers visited her in the hospital. They also asked her if she had enough money. As usual, she said, “yes” when it was actually “no”. She stuck to her stand and said, "Let's manage with whatever money we have!". Her mother-in-law was fuming. "You didn't want to ask for my son... OK. You didn't want to ask for children's education... OK. Now you are going to die... What's your problem in asking now?" is her question. As if she realized all her previous demands were wrong! "I have never seen a woman like this. She wants her brothers to be happy and rich; and her family to come to streets. Horrible woman!", she was cursing to everyone that came to the hospital. Mala felt all the more horrible hearing this broken record umpteen times a day. Those days, she had no stamina to fight back but she had no patience as well to listen to all the crap day in and out. "If you die like this, my son will waste all his money and come to streets. Ill-fated woman!", she kept complaining. For Mala, life has been like this from day one but this seemed to be the toughest phase. Even those who praised her earlier for her resolute started criticizing her – "Why is she complicating things by being unnecessarily adamant?". "If it continues like this for some time, she will die. Then, what will she do with this good-for-nothing ego?!", they started the count-down. Even then it didn't look like she would come down. Her condition didn't improve but nothing serious happened to her in the end. Luckily!

One side, Nila was getting every help she wanted with no hesitation and lead her life peacefully. Her kids grew up and started earning on their own. Her family’s overall financial condition also improved. She and her children had a lot of gratitude for her brothers. Her brothers were satisfied too because all their helps didn’t go waste. Nila and her sons paid back whatever was possible in installments. A timely help that changed someone’s life can never be considered as paid back even if it was paid back with interest. So, it’s not the amount but the time and deed that matter. Even after paying back everything, something will remain as bad debt in the name of gratitude. Even if it is paid back in different forms by doing bigger helps, people would still remind you of the timely help you took to reach to that place. It will always keep your success incomplete. Some people might have roughly understood that this is why Mala is refusing to take any help from her brother but it didn’t look like everyone understood this very well. People didn’t know whether she thought about all these and refused or it is just that her basic nature is to refuse any help that comes her way – even from the closest ones. But, the question right now is, is it such a great virtue that one could pay a life as price for it? Isn’t it just a law of the nature that helping one another when possible and getting reciprocated later when required? Then what is the point in living with so many billion people together on this planet? Otherwise, wouldn’t it be like each individual living on a different planet?

The next test came when Mala’s son was in need of money for higher education. Thanks to her brothers, all her sister’s children are well-off now. Now that there is a case study to prove that only those who don’t hesitate to ask get help, what is she waiting for? Even then she was very adamant that she wouldn’t take anyone’s help. She just has to say, “I need this!”. There are people to give her whatever she wants. But, she doesn’t want all that. Some of her brothers also thought, ‘Let her ask, we will do!”. This time, her mother-in-law’s lyrics changed – “You didn’t want to ask for my son… OK. You didn’t want to ask for your life… OK. Now your son’s life itself is in question. What’s your problem now? Spoiling a young boy’s future is a sin. You are committing it. You will suffer for it!”, she cursed. Now, Mala has slowly started getting worried. She thought what if her children would ever ask a difficult question like this – “When your ‘not-so-intelligent’ sister could educate all her children with zero pennies in hand, why did you an intelligent person spoil our lives like this?”. The very thought about it was disturbing.

She started thinking differently now – ‘People take loans from banks for education. It’s just like that. How is it different from that? I am going to ask for a particular reason that too with a plan to pay back, so there is nothing wrong!’, she decided. For the first time, she thought like others the averages – “To take it from my own brother is in no way worse than taking it from a bank!”. ‘Is what I called self-respect all these days a different name that I gave for adamance, arrogance and unwanted ego? Have I got addicted to the name and fame that I get for this trait of mine at the cost of even other lives? My ego is going to kill my children! Not just that, it’s a trait that might even affect the lives of their children and their children. Have to arrange for so much money in fifteen days else making my son an Engineer will become an old dream. I would become another unable woman who could just dream about her children’s future. I don’t want to be remembered as a mother who stayed adamant till the end and killed her children because of that. Instead, why shouldn’t I try to become a mother who even gave up her self-respect for the sake of her children’s future, like my sister? I shouldn’t be worried about anything. Anything means… anything! How to start – speak – ask – take… nothing! Should leave this night, reach brother’s house, have a good peaceful sleep, wake up in the morning and just initiate the discussion with him… it’s enough, he wouldn’t wait till I complete. He would just give me more than what I want. There is nothing more to think as of now!’, she decided. There is another bonus in this – She can shut her mother-in-law’s motor mouth for sometime. She (MiL) also would have to look for a new problem. How long will she manage the show with the same issue like our local politicians?

Once the sun set, she started feeling giddy. As it became darker, her eyes went blurry too. She got restless when she started thinking about starting the conversation with her brother. ‘Shall I go alone or take my son with me? If I take him with me, it would be easy for them to understand the message. The need and importance of my going there would be felt stronger. It would stress why they should help as well. My son also would understand later what all I went through for his well-being. On the other hand, if I go alone, only I would be indebted. If I take him with me, even he would have to carry the burden of gratitude throughout his life. He might even think that I needn’t have done all this help to him. He may have to bow in front of my brother’s children out of inferiority forever. They also shouldn’t feel superior to my son looking at all these. That would continue for generations. I shouldn’t end up sowing such a weed by taking my son with me!’, she was worried too much about everything. A passing thought in between – ‘Would my sister have thought of all these every time she went with her children to collect money?’. ‘She wouldn’t have made her children Engineers if she had thought about all these so much!’ was the reply from her inner voice.

After all confusions, she came to a strong conclusion. ‘Looks like this is my problem as everyone says – making things murkier by thinking too much about everything unnecessarily. If one thinks beyond a limit, woman or man, they would only lose their hairs, not gain anything in their lives. Is it only the unable lazybones talk and think too much like me? OK. Let me not think too much. Let me take my son also with me. It’s miraculous that having someone with you, irrespective of who it is, is always a great strength. Even if it is a day-old child! Especially, it’s better to keep someone with you when you are doing something wrong for the first time!'.

The lights are on and it’s night now. She hasn’t left for her brother’s place as planned. She told her son in a tone that she herself could not hear, “Tomorrow morning, we will leave for uncle’s house!”. Now the travel is postponed to next morning. Like the goats that return home from pasture, she finished all her housework unconsciously for the day. The day passed. A day she took one of the most important decisions in her life! The 'decision days' will pass very fast. Only the implementation days will keep getting postponed. Throughout the night, she couldn’t sleep. She was just turning this side and that side but no use. Only her dirty blanket was tired; she was tirelessly thinking about the same thing in sixteen directions. Is there no way to get out of this complication???

This is the first time she has got into such a complication. It’s a mentally draining thing. She is wasting her whole night losing sleep on something that would be done within a minute if she doesn’t think too much. She believed that this restlessness was an indication of the good news on the way. That’s how we have been taught to believe, right? If the ride is painful the destination will be gainful and if the ride is smooth the destination will be painful. All those who enjoy their life happily go to hell and those who sacrifice everything to lead a life full of miseries go to heaven.

Before the sun rose, an idea dawned on her. It will be Tuesday when it dawns. It would be all the more great if it doesn’t dawn at all. Luckily, it is not going to be Wednesday. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have got a reason to postpone it by another day. Yeah, another decision made before the sun woke up! As Wednesday is considered to be a more auspicious day than Tuesday, she would meet her brother tomorrow - another tomorrow. Now, she doesn’t like herself for postponing this simple thing so many times. Once and for all, she postponed it to Sunday. Reason? Holiday is holier than all working days! Working day? For whom? Yeah, for her son, it would be a working day after the college opens but it has not happened yet. For her husband, it is a working day but how does it matter to her?! For her brother? No, he has his own business so he is the owner of his business and his time. So, he neither goes to office on working days nor does he stay at home on holidays. For herself? She has no other major work than washing, bathing, cooking, eating and sleeping on these days. She doesn’t have the work of going to work. Anyway, it’s yet another postponement. That’s it. She didn’t know that she was being cheated by her own mind.

Is she thinking that the Sunday will never come? She's wrong. That also came. Again, head rolls… aches… pains. How to escape??? She has acceptable justifications for everything that she is going to do but there is something itching there... She knows that her son’s education is more important than anything else but something is stopping her from going ahead with the plan. “Is the bank loan worse than brother’s loan?”, suddenly the question is reversed now! ‘Why not check with the bank before going to brother’s house?!’. The Sunday passed slower than usual and faster than expected this week.

The next morning, she went to the bank with her son. After a week of running from pillar to post in the same town, they got everything they wanted. More importantly, they didn’t get anything they didn’t want. The pain of running from pillar to post back and forth was not as painful as what she went through in the last one week.

The next scene… fast forward to 15 years later… ‘Not-so-intelligent’ Nila’s both sons married unknown girls and are not even able to show their faces to their uncles for not marrying their daughters. ‘Not-so-innocent’ Mala’s son has married… yes, an unknown girl only… but is still a respected guest in his uncle’s place despite not having married their daughters.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Agonies On Road!

The journey of life, at times, is very frustrating. Just because of the fellow travelers who do not behave in a way that we expect them to. The same goes for the journey itself. I mean the ‘literal’ journey – the journey on road. Roads keep reminding me how dangerous my journey on this planet is – what kind of fellow human beings I have to travel along with. First of all, I am not sure if all of them could be qualified as human beings at this point. Like birth certificate and many other medical certificates, it would be great to have some systems in place to check our ‘human index’ – a measure to check how human we are. Those who are low on human index should be sent back to jungle.

A friend of mine used to say he would be at his philosophical best while in toilet. Likewise, at times, I get horribly philosophical while on road. This concept of human index came to my mind when I was driving today – amidst some of my most human(!) countrymen. What on earth, sorry, what on road makes me so philosophical? Please do not come with data to prove my point wrong or to say that my crap about human index is not worth enough to call myself philosophical. :)

I see all sorts of characters on road. The most exhibited trait on road is ‘selfishness’ – one of the strongest animal instincts that have been staying on with us for too long. Nobody wants to care about the lives of fellow human beings. It’s not that they kill a number of fellow human beings every time they take out their vehicle. They don’t do that because they can’t do that. Luckily, we have such laws and systems in place today. May be, if we were to live in such lawless civilizations, each one of us would be killing a number of people on road every day – like animals. By the way, ‘lawless civilization’ is not an oxymoron. It’s a reality. No civilization is completely civilized yet. One more ‘by the way’, I wouldn’t argue with you if you say Australian cricket team is the least civilized of them all. Let’s leave them aside for a moment for the sake of focus in our discussion. :)

Coming back to my agonies on road… Some of our ‘best’ drivers are those who drive recklessly without being too worried about other lives. The way they drive is very safe for them but not for others. These are the ones that prove the selfishness theory. They just don’t care a damn about the following vehicles (if they are smaller vehicles than their own) while changing lanes. I don’t have quantitative data, but I am sure it (changing lanes) should be one of the topmost causes for accidents. Unfortunately, most of our drivers don’t even know what it is.

They, instinctively take a swift cut even when there is a small patch (a patch that is not worth such a swift action) on the road. They are more worried about their tires than the safety of the ones that follow them. This is one of the most common phenomenons that I have seen with most of the drivers. When the entire road is full of such patches these people just drive zigzag throughout – disturbing everyone else on road. They do it just for the sake of avoiding some small jerks in their long journey. They want to have a smooth drive at the cost of others’ inconvenience.

These are the guys that don’t switch off high beam headlights even when you keep signaling them to do so repeatedly. These are the guys who honk too much. I have seen some guys who keep their hand on the horn for longer time than on the steering itself. It is the second most important thing for them in any vehicle - after accelerator. They are so fond of noise - as if they were born in the streets.

It’s just that they have come into our living area from jungle little earlier than their other fellow creatures. We can’t get rid of these problems until we have a world full of only human beings driving vehicles. All my friends who have visited western countries say that those countries have better systems in place to ensure only human traits are exhibited on road. Let’s pray for such change in our holy land too. So many religions were born here, but no one has taught us how to behave in public places like road. It’s better to have some sections on road etiquette incorporated in our holy books.

The next – most seen trait is the ‘carelessness’. Carelessness is just the absence of fear or I would even call it the absence of sense. It’s just that they haven’t thought about the way they drive. It’s just that they don’t know the value of their life. These guys would change if they get a second chance, but unfortunately most of them don’t get one. They are like that because they don’t think of anything other than their destination. For them, end is more important than the means. This also sounds like selfishness because this also roots from selfishness in many cases if not all.

Most of those who drive in opposite lanes and jump signals do so out of carelessness. And, the remaining ‘most’ might be doing such things out of ignorance, I guess. They haven’t heard of accident stories due to driving on opposite lanes or due to jumping signals. They haven’t been scolded by any of their more powerful countrymen (politically correct term for arrogant fellows!) for driving like that. They haven’t been fined by cops or they haven’t paid any luxury tax (politically correct term for bribe!) to cops. They would correct themselves the day they are taught a lesson.

Yeah, arrogance (one of our national traits) shouldn’t be missed here. Some people, no matter what, have to shout at certain number of people once they are out of their house every day. May be, they are taking out their frustrations back home. But, what they don’t realize is that these people who get shouted can introduce them to more dangerous consequences than the ones back home or the boss can do. These guys think the whole world is theirs and they have all the rights to shout at anyone anywhere as they wish. They generally change after getting slapped once or twice by a mightier countryman on road.

I have seen this in long queues in toll booths, railway gates, petrol pumps and single-lane roads. When there is a single-lane queue, some nuts just overtake all the vehicles in front by driving on a wrong lane and just insert into the space that they find between any two vehicles in front-most positions when all other law-abiding fools wait in queue. They think they are smart and others are all fools. They have been living because no one has dared to slap them so far. My blood boils when I see such people. I feel like going on a national expedition to find such people everywhere and slap them one by one. It is not just arrogance. This is kind of an inhuman behavior. It’s lawlessness. It’s animalistic. They should better be in jungle.

There is a more serious form of carelessness. It is just that they don’t know the seriousness of life itself. These guys just get into race with fellow drivers. They invite others to the race by driving in provocative ways. They can’t even drive for an hour without inviting someone to this trouble. A friend of mine says he can’t drive long distances without having such fun. Every time he goes to his native place he gets into this kind of races. He loves it. He is too excited by such things in life. He says there are too many people like him to give him enough company when he drives such long distances. Crazy… Mad… Insane… - Aren’t they? I have heard of stories that started with this kind of fun and ended with end of lives. Hope they hear them too.

There are also a good number of people who get shouted for reasons they don’t know. They can’t shout back. They can’t correct their mistakes. They can’t understand what their mistakes are. Sometimes, the mistake could be their decent look. It could be their gender. It could be that they drive a vehicle registered in some other state (it doesn’t matter if they have no objection certificate from the original state or not; it doesn’t matter if they have paid road tax in the current state or not; it doesn’t matter if they drive properly or not; sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if they belong to other state or this state itself!). These people remind me of the weaker sections in our society. They can’t do anything about it. They just have to watch helplessly and smile or keep quiet. What a cruel planet we are on!

The most worrying thing that I see on road is that some people who drive so carefully and safely that nothing could ever happen to them on road... they also get into problems. It’s like teetotalers dying in cancer before chain smokers. They respect the road. They follow all rules. They keep reminding themselves about the lives (elders, women and children back home) that depend on them for their food, pleasure, happiness, security, school fees, emotional support and all sorts of livelihood. Even then some of them get hit – get shouted – lose lives – lose organs – don’t reach their destinations. This keeps reminding me how biased life is – for some people. Despite making no mistakes, they suffer because of someone else’s mistake. That ‘someone else’ doesn’t even get punished for his mistake in most cases.

Why? I don’t have an answer right now. Nor am I hopeful that I would ever get an answer. All I can do is to blame it on fate. That’s what inability can do. Can fate be managed better by us human beings? I think so. I am optimistic. Everyone following good road etiquette could save lot more lives. But, for that, we need people with good human index – to be open to learn them and follow them. :)

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Is not cheapness
When it is to cheap people

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mr. RV - A Freedom Fighter!

We don't keep thinking of the nation always. It's only the sweets distributed on Independence days and Republic days that were reminding us of the nation. Additionally, these days, the mushrooming private channels make us more patriotic by showing patriotic movies (which you wouldn't be able to see anywhere else or any other time!) and jingoistic programs on those two days. We can see even more patriotism on our streets on the days of Cricket matches and at times of war with the neighbor country. Unfortunately, war is more interesting a subject than Cricket itself for most of my countrymen for whom Cricket is a religion. At a time when patriotism has taken so many such different forms, I am reminded of not just the country but also of my grandfather (Mr. RV) on Independence days and Republic days. Wondering what have grandfathers got to do with the nation? Well, that's a long story. There is no better time than this to talk about it.

We are celebrating his centenary this year. We all thought our life would be incomplete if we don't do this for him. At a time when even crooks and clowns are promoting their fathers and leaders as martyrs, we didn't have someone to take this responsibility for a true martyr. None of us are so attached to the political party that he worked for as much as he was. Only an uncle of us, my grandfather's direct disciple, jumped in and started the work in full swing. He kept on saying that his life itself would become meaningless if he didn't do this in his lifetime. Mr. Nallakannu, one of the most respected communist leaders from Tamil Nadu, is doing everything possible to make this centenary celebration meaningful.

There are just two things that we wanted to do for our grandfather's centenary. One, renovating his memorial. Two, recording his revolutionary life in form of a biography. This has been taken up by the Sahitya Academy recipient writer Mr. Ponneelan. Since Mr. Ponneelan is one of those who had the opportunity to be with my grandfather and work with him closely, we are more than sure that there is no better person than him to write this biography. He has been searching for and collecting a lot of information about my grandfather by going to every place where my grandfather went and interacting with everyone my grandfather had interacted with. As part of that, everyone of us who has been with my grandfather (irrespective of however short or long the duration was) is sharing whatever stories we know and remember about him.

I was just four years old when he died. However, I do have some memories about him. Since people used to inflate me saying I would be like him when I grow up (it's a different matter that I haven't become even 1% of him yet!) I have always been attracted to all stories about him. More so because I have also enjoyed the benefits of being his grandson in my early days in our village. I also have a lot of stories that I heard here and there. I thought if I dig out all those stories from my memory, put them together and send it to Mr. Ponneelan, it may be of some use to him. It might give him at least some hints or few lines that everyone else has missed. That is how I started off writing this piece. But, then I thought let me also translate it into English and put it on my blog so that a story worth sharing would reach a larger group. OK. Let's get into the story now...

Our native place is a place called Boothalapuram in the erstwhile Kovipatti taluk in estwhile Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu. As per the new maps, it is in Vilathikulam taluk in Tuticorin district in Tamil Nadu now. If you just walk a few miles eastwards, there is Ramnad district. Ramnad district is supposed to be the most underdeveloped one in the whole of Tamil Nadu. So, needless to say, even our place was underdeveloped and not very well connected with the outside world. Our people mostly used to marry people from the same village or nearby villages within a radius of 5-10 kilometers.

Ramnad district is known as a desert-like area with no water most of the times and its people are seen as the most barbaric by the outsiders. People in our place used to be scared of them. Our people used to say that they do robbery in our places at times of famine and they would even kill someone for a bottle of liquor or a few pieces of meat. Maybe it's a slightly exaggerated opinion but if you know the place you would agree that it's not totally wrong. But, our people are more peace loving. Unlike them, we have never had caste-based riots. Not only our village, that entire region is such a peace-loving one. The southern and south eastern parts of Tamil Nadu have always been known for their violent lifestyle. However, our region was like a cultural island there. Caste was never a major factor that united or divided our people. We never had the animal instinct of killing fellow lives for the sake of such a nonsense like caste. The entire village used to be like a large family. It's like everyone is everyone's relative. Though they lived in a small world, I would say they are one of the broadminded lots I have come across.

When I talk about my grandfather's story, I should also talk about how broadminded the place where he was born and brought up was and the people with whom he grew up were, in addition to saying how broadminded he was. Only that will make the story complete. Not only that, I also believe that this would help the future generations understand what all ingredients should go into any revolution when they fight for a change. What are the ingredients? It should have a decent leader. More than that, there should be open minded people around him who would listen to him. He had such people. That is the reason why he could do many extraordinary things very easily later. We only hear stories that talk about how leaders change their land. Before that, we should also understand that the land also makes a leader. When I say land, which land? It could be any land. It could be the home, the streets, the school, the playgrounds... it could be anything. But, when we write biographies, what we should also take into consideration is, the land in which one lives and the people with whom he spends his time also play a major role in shaping up the leader. Then we can talk about the stories of leader changing the land.

My great grandfather's (grandfather's father) name is Ramaswamy (I am consciously avoiding his surname here as it would indicate my caste. Having talked so much about its evils, I don't think it would be in good taste if I myself use it so proudly. I am not very keen in talking about it either. At the same time, I should also admit that I feel like talking about someone else when I don't suffix his name with it!). Ramaswamy was called "kudhiraikkaarar" (the horseman). It was the style then. He would always roam around on a horse with a tuft on head, handlebar mustache and earrings. In my aimless quest for unknown (!) things in childhood, I found a rusty sword in our house. Heard that even that was his. They were the richest in the village. They had lots of land. Their house was the biggest in the village. It used to be called "keezha veedu" (the east house). In the east house, except on east, there were gates/doors on all other sides. Thanks to the partitions, every gate has become many houses now. Some houses have become debris as well.

In a place where people don't marry anyone other than the cousin next door, three generations back itself these people had gone more than 100 kilometers away for marriage alliance. Ramaswamy's sister (my grandfather's aunt) was married to an affluent family in a place called Palayanoor near Madurai. This connection between Palayanoor and Boothalapuram was many generations old. In the last few generations, it has completely changed now. Other than sending invitation for family functions we have no connection with Palayanoor now. But that was an important place for my grandfather. That was his base location from where he was going to Madurai for studies (Let me tell you later why his going to Madurai for studies is so important in our story!). He left his parents and went to his aunt's house for two reasons - 1. His aunt liked him more than his parents did, and 2. Her place was better than his native place in many ways.

Boothalapuram was a remote village in Tirunelveli district with no connection with the outside world whereas Palayanoor was a bigger village (or small town) with Madurai in close proximity. Their house in Palayanoor was called "kallu veedu" (stone house). The latest update we got says there are only stones now and no house! Ask anyone in that region about "kallu veedu", they would tell you where it is. It was so popular. My relatives in "kallu veedu" used to claim that they were from a royal family and the descendants of some king. I don't know which king. Should be some small time king or a chieftain! The lake that is spread across the outskirts of Palayanoor which is serving the entire village even today is on the land that was donated by their family to the village about a century back. Such a big family! Since it was a yielding land, there was no shortage of anything. The story is different today. The descendants of the royal family are aimlessly roaming around in the streets of Madurai today - having lost their identity, spoiled reputation and not knowing the purpose of their lives. Before the next generation, their history might get wiped off completely with no traces.

But, the Boothalapuram genes are comparatively more active than the Palayanoor genes today. The credit should go to my grandfather for that. He had two siblings. One younger brother and one younger sister. My grandfather's name is Veluswamy (avoiding surname again!). Next, Kandaswamy - his younger brother. Then, Lakshmi - his younger sister. Lakshmi granny is still alive in her nineties to tell us all the forgotten stories. Some of both RV's and RK's grandchildren have studied little bit and are settled in cities and foreign countries now. Though we have forgotten it now, we can never deny that wherever we are today is because of some of his (RV's) ahead-of-the-time decisions at that time. Let's also talk later about how some of his decisions took us back in the opposite direction by generations.

Thanks to the extraordinary affection his aunt and uncle had on him, they took him to their place and joined him in a good school in Madurai. He studied in United Christian school there. That's when he got introduced to friends who were involved in the Indian freedom movement. Mr. Muthuramalinga Thevar was one of them. They were very close for sometime (maybe as long as they were students) and then parted ways. Thevar was close to Bose till the end so he joined Forward Bloc when Bose founded it whereas my grandfather joined the Communist party (I will tell you how he became a Communist later!).

When his friends were learning to drive bullock carts in his native place, he had started his fight against the English imperialism. I heard that it got intensified when he participated in a demonstration led by Subhas Chandra Bose in Madurai. He was behind bars at the age of 18. We still have a photograph that he took at that time. He had another name 'James' in his school days. Our grandmother told that it was given when he was studying in the Christian school. Like in today's call centers, this dual name concept had been there from that time itself. It was introduced by the British for their convenience. Even in his wedding invitation that we still have in our house, his name is J R Veluswamy. J stands for James, the name given by the Christian school, not his grandfather's.

When he was taking part in all sorts of movements against the British rule, the eldest daughter Ponnammal from "kallu veedu" was married to RV. Don't ask me if this was the reason for the extraordinary affection of his aunt and uncle. As far as we have heard, it wasn't. Even if that was the case, no problem. What's wrong in it? Even after marriage, he never stayed home. Most of his life was spent in jails. The remaining time was spent absconding - in hideouts and jungles. One thing that I always wonder is, how come the elders who decided to marry their daughter to someone didn't think of her future so seriously. Why didn't they realize that she would be left alone even after marriage if they marry her to this guy? Why did the girl also not worry about it? Instead, my grandmother always had great respect for him.

Nobody tried to stop him from getting involved in all these. On the other hand, even his in-laws got involved in the political movement and did whatever was possible from their side. It includes hoisting the national flag on their terrace (doing it today is a fashion; it was an offence then!), arranging for food and accommodation for all of those who were in hideouts with him, gathering people for demonstrations, etc. More than all these, keeping their sister with them and taking care of her and her children were the biggest responsibilities they had accepted happily. I don't think it would have been possible if things at that time were like now. Though it wasn't a time when women could speak much about anything, we all know that we are grateful to his brothers-in-law and their wives for generations. I am not sure if people in our generations could think of keeping their sisters for even a week in their place these days.

You wouldn't believe, my dad saw his dad only when he was seven years old. Until then he was with his mom and uncles in Palayanoor. His father was just not fond of any worldly things. He didn't let his family commitments come on his way. Relations were not nuisance. His brother (RK) was taking care of all the family responsibilities as long as he was not at home. What more do you want when you have such a supporting family and in-laws?

There were seven girls in the "kallu veedu". All of them were very fair. Since we have not got that complexion now, we make fun of them saying they had the color of lazybones. Second daughter was Kandammal. Since she had some health problem, her parents were scared to give her outside and hence married her also to my grandfather. So, he had two wives. Wondering what the heck?! When he didn't even have enough time to live with one wife, what would happen if you give him another girl? Nothing would happen! Even she would sit outside the gate every day and wait anxiously for her hero to come home in a bullock cart one day. Just like how RV also was waiting with a hope that his country would get independence one day when he was living in jails and jungles. 

We used to call Kandammal "chinna paatti" (younger granny). Others would call her "Iyeramma" (Iyer lady). Reason - she was brought up in an Iyer (Brahmin) house, which was next to their house in Palayanoor. Thanks to that Iyer house and their lifestyle, not only Kandammal, most of those seven ammals were pure vegetarians till the end. All the utensils in our house used to be used only for vegetarian food. There used to be ceramic vessels separately in a corner for non-vegetarian. They were taken out only on the days when non-vegetarian food was cooked and kept back immediately after use. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian items were always cooked separately. We always used to have a water bucket in the entrance of the house. Once you come out, even if you have to go back the next minute, you have to wash the legs and only then would you be allowed to go inside. All these habits died naturally when new new daughters-in-law came in. Natural, right?

RV-Kandammal marriage is a funny story. Only bride was there in their marriage. No bridegroom. Why? How can you expect someone who never came home for years to tie the knot? So they sat a stick next to the bride in place of him and completed all formalities. When the real bridegroom returned, they told him "this is your next wife"! How would he have felt? Heard that this kind of marriages were common in that region at that time. So, he had too much responsibilities to handle at a very young age. But, nothing could tie him down. He continued to do what he thought was his responsibility.

It's not just arranging for better education and giving two daughters. There are few more chapters in between as well. They also got him a job in Sivaganga region itself as Revenue Inspector. Though his life was full of sacrifices, for those of us who have got so used to the materialistic life that we lead today, this would be the biggest sacrifice. He had to go to all surrounding villages to collect tax from the farmers when he was the Revenue Inspector. That was his primary responsibility. When any of them were not able to pay the tax, he had to seize their properties. That was the mandate given to him by the British rulers. He throws away his job saying "I can't do this inhuman job" and joins the freedom movement again against the government that asked him to do that job. Will the government leave him? Again absconding. Again searches. Again arrest. Again jail. Again and again... some or the other again. 

One thing that you have to understand correctly here is, throwing away a job that we don't like is not a big deal. Even now some of us do such things (though very few). But, most of us continue to do whichever job we have in hand just for the sake of the bank balance and some additional benefits even if we don't like it. Some people even call you a loser if you throw away a job that you are not interested in. Some of the books that have come now might have taught us that sticking to something adamantly even if you don't like it is a winner's attitude. But, Revenue Inspector's job is not something that one can throw off so easily those days. As a family of his, we are still suffering the losses of that decision of his to throw away that job at that time. Because, my father was not brought up like a Revenue Inspector's son. Instead, he was brought up like an orphan without his dad. Had he been brought up like a Revenue Inspector's son, he should have become a Tahsildar or something more than that, right? But, that didn't happen. Then, what should we have become? Even that has not happened.

RV took his family back in the opposite direction by many generations, which had actually gone few generations ahead of others by then. When he was working for the betterment of his nation, what he failed to do was his responsibilities as a head of the family. Today, when the grandchildren of those who worked as servants to the English imperialists behave like some big lord, I do feel disgusted for what my grandfather had failed to do. He didn't like his job so he threw it off. That's okay. Why did he jump into the freedom movement? Was it because he enjoyed that job - living in hideouts and jails? Public life was not that easy then. Nor did it have huge money making opportunities. Then why did he go like that? Would he have thought at least once when he was suffering in the jails or jungles, 'If I leave my family like this, my children and grandchildren would go backwards by many generations!'? If he had thought so, he wouldn't have continued with what he was doing, right? He should have thought about something beyond that then.

It was not a time when politicians would just read Bhagavat Gita in jail peacefully - like now. The police would harass them like mad. The amount of scars that he had on his body were countless. He died at the age of 73. If he had not suffered those injuries, he might have lived for longer time. He would have spent some time for us at least in his later part of life. On every independence day and republic day, I am also reminded of the injuries he suffered. So much of blood and sweat have gone into this struggle. Today, they are all going waste like mutton blood and chicken blood. Because, the country has gone to wrong hands. The hands of those who have some manufacturing defect! It's all okay. Buggers... they have even changed the meaning of sacrifice now. It's because the stories of people like him (who sacrificed their lives forgetting all their other responsibilities and lost everything for the sake of their land!) were not told aloud, the clowns and crooks are calling themselves martyrs today. So, let's tell the stories of the real martyrs aloud now.

One early morning, even before it dawned, police surrounded the house. Knowing that the villagers will cause trouble if they do it in daylight, they came so early (So, this custom was introduced to us by the British!). The British officer sends his servant inside the house to get RV outside. RV delays coming out saying one after the other reasons - "Will take bath and come", "Will have breakfast and come", etc. His plan is to leave only after it dawns. He thinks, 'Why should I get arrested like a thief? Let the whole village get to know that I am being arrested for so and so reason'. Our man is not able to wait and gets angry. He sends his servant again for the last time with a message - "There are policemen surrounding your house every feet. If you are planning to escape, please don't try that. You can't do that. We will shoot at sight!". RV says, "Tell your boss that there is a dog tied outside my house. He is like that for me!”. Now, the English man is shocked like hell. Then, he decides to wait till it dawns and arrests RV after that as he wished. That's when he gets the shock of his life. His mother who comes out to clean the courtyard waves her hand and says, "Come back with victory, my son!". Note these words. This is what that mother said though in a different language. Which mother would say like that? So many generations back... even before the period when people used to cry if there was a telegraph... before even knowing what message the telegraph carried!

Now the officer writes in his report - "I have only seen mothers that cried while seeing off their sons so far. This is the first time I see a mother that wishes her son success. Looks like this whole family is rebellious, not just the guy!". That gets him the first class facilities in the jail. Another reason for that was his English that he learned in Madurai. It seems there used to be good respect for those who speak English at that time. Another story that we have heard from the uneducated people in our place - When he went to the collector office in Tirunelveli once, the collector who was keeping everyone else standing asked his assistant to put a chair for RV as soon as he heard him speak something in English very fluently. All these are very interesting stories for us who heard it later after he died. This also tells us how the British rulers had ensured first class treatment for their language at that time itself.

He had the opportunity to get close to many popular leaders of that time when he was in jail. He has been with two former presidents of India. One, Mr. V.V. Giri. We haven't heard much about this relationship. Another, Mr. R. Venkatraman (Another RV). Mr. Venkatraman has made some major changes in RV's life. He was the one who converted him from Congress to Communist by asking him to read a lot of Communist books. Ironically, he remained in Congress and went on to become union minister in Congress cabinet and President of the country later. Whereas, my grandfather just became the president of our village!

There is a wooden box in our house, which has a lot of books that were presented by Mr. Venkatraman. I was a school going kid when he was the President. I used to show his signatures to my friends and feel very proud about it at that time. I used to think they might have got the same room because both of them were RV. Maybe, the rooms were given in alphabetical order. By the way, I don't think that my grandfather also should have been made a union minister or President of the country just because he was with Mr. Venkatraman in jail. It's just a 'What if' analysis. We just think at times 'what if' he had continued in Congress... He might have become something bigger than what he actually could by becoming a Communist, right?

A major incident that happened during the freedom struggle movement was, setting fire on Kadalkudi police station. My village was under that police station at that time. When they had kept him in the police custody there once, the whole village went there, helped him escape and set fire on the station. Next morning, only the story of police station getting burnt comes out. What happened to RV? Was he also burnt inside? Nobody had answers to these questions until he was caught by police next time somewhere else. Is it so easy to get the support of an entire village? Or, is it so easy to retain their respect for so long? It may be easy today when you will get a share of what was looted by your leader. How was he able to gather so much people at that time? What did they come with him for? Were they so interested in freeing this nation from the clutches of the British imperialists? Or, was it because of their human nature to stand by any fellow human being who is being with them in anything that he does? The people who did such helps at that time still continue to be our relatives, defying all rules of relation. Even today, we would do anything for them and they would do anything for us.

Got independence in 1947. Does the story end there? No. It doesn't. If he had remained in Congress, it would have ended. But, he was in Communist party, right? Even they had to be banned in Nehru's period despite which they had to go ahead with all their protests for certain demands against the government, which eventually resulted in continued absconding for my grandfather. This period of absconding from Indian rulers was more horrifying than the period in which they were absconding from the British rulers. That is when he got close to Communist leaders like Jeevanandam, Baladhandayutham, Kalyanasundaram, P Ramamoorthy, KTK Thangamani, Sankaraiah, Nallakannu, P Manikkam, D Pandian, etc.

They used to hide in each of their places for some time. Even in our house, village and the surrounding areas, there are many places that remind us of those days. Our elders tell us that this is where this happened, that happened, etc. When they were hiding like that in our jungles, there were a lot of people who used to take water, food, etc. to them regularly from our village. The kids and youngsters of that time used to tell us a lot of such stories in my childhood.

The jungles of Kalakkadu and Sivagiri are two such places where he spent most of his absconded life. Even now, his photograph is hanging on the walls of Sivagiri party office. It might have been done by Comrade Sivagiri Chellaiah, who was the District Secretary for a long time in Tirunelveli district. Some old men who are sitting there still remember RV. Comrade Nallakannu is also one of them who had been with him at that time. Even he has told many stories about my grandfather. Once they were hiding in a cave in the jungles of Kalakkadu. Next morning when they woke up they saw a lot of snake skins around. Not one or two. Many! Luckily, there were no snakes. Why did they do all these? Whom did they do all these for? It was certainly not for us - his children and grandchildren. Then what for? That was for being in a banned party - for working towards the goals of that party - for having done a historical thing.

Party? Communist party. Goals? Many goals like "land belongs to those who work it". Historical thing? It was the famous Nellai Plot Case. What is that? If you are from the southern Tamil Nadu and if your father or uncles have been interested in politics from childhood, check out with them. They would have heard of it. In their agitations against the government, they toppled a train that came to Tirunelveli. Don't worry. They didn't kill innocent lives like the ones that do such things now. It was a goods train. Will the government leave them? They chased them, caught them, locked up, beaten them to near death, made them bleed, vomit blood, killed some of them in lock-up, killed rest of their valuable life time and released them after that. RV and many of his friends are such people who have lost most of their life and youth. Comrade Nallakannu is one of them. He has been with him and witnessed everything that RV went through. That is the reason he is trying to bring out his history at all costs adamantly.

By virtue of coming from an agricultural family, he headed the farmers wing of Communist party. He has not held any high post in the party. The highest position he held in the party was state council membership and district secretary post for a short period. But, he has been instrumental in growing the party, gathered youngsters and still remains in the hearts of all leading Communist leaders. When he got an opportunity to contest in Kovilpatti assembly constituency in 1952, he was not interested in that and he allowed Mr. Shanmugam Pillai, a close junior party cadre from our village, to contest in place of him. When he got an opportunity to contest in Ramanathapuram parliament seat in 1962 as well, he refused to contest. What we heard was that he was not interested in both the opportunities because he thought he would lose. He could have just contested. We would have been able to boast about it forever. :)

He has been elected unopposed as the President of Boothalapuram panchayat many times. It was not a period where presidents were elected directly by people. Elected representatives of people used to elect the President. You can't anyway believe them till the last minute, right? Once one of his junior party cadres, Mr. Abraham Reddiar contested against him, made him lose peace of mind and eventually some of Mr. Abraham Reddiar's relatives only helped RV to win against him. He stopped that President business also from then. The same defeat that he was scared of when he refused to contest for assembly and parliament elections came very close to him with the help of a close friend and junior in the party. How can he digest that? But, what happened after that is history today. After RV's victory, they forgot their differences, joined hands and worked together forever. But, what I still don't understand is, what made someone who was not even scared of the violent attacks of British rulers so scared of election defeats.

Not only that, he was the one that solved all infighting problems in the forty odd surrounding villages. North gate was the place where all those hearing used to happen. That's the place where his body was kept when he died. Even now, when some oldie from our region asks, "Which place are you from?", "Whose son are you?", etc., when we reply, they would say with glowing faces, "Your grandfather only solved my land dispute with my brother, sister, etc.". When I met a old woman from our village in Bangalore recently, after mutual introductions, she got very emotional and said, "If ayya (sir) was not there at that time, all male members in my family would have cheated me. Those days... Where was the court? Where was the law? Who was there to understand women's problems and give judgement? That time itself, he gave me more share considering I was a woman and I had girl children!". I also got emotional. I was wondering how many such people's wishes and blessings may be with us today!

It's not such an easy calculation. This local justice system doesn't only produce well wishers. There are also affected parties. In the same number! Will their curses leave us? My mom keeps saying that our granny used to tell her that no family that give such judgments would be peaceful. My mom also repeats it now. They believe that it's the effect of those curses. The hearings didn't just happen in North gate sitting on rope cots. There was also a long stone lying next to the North gate. A lot of hearings happened there also. Like in the South Indian movies, even in our villages, on the banks of the lakes, there are banyan trees and stone pads under them. These hearings happen there also. In addition to that, they went in bullock carts and ran mobile courts as well. More than his involvement in freedom movement and his sacrifices in the Communist party, what made him so popular among the local people in that region was these judgments that he delivered.

Then, he brought facilities that none of the surrounding villages got in his time. He got tar roads laid in that time itself to that remote place and got buses from distant towns like Tuticorin and Kovilpatti. When the villagers were drinking lake water, he arranged for wells. Even now when we meet oldies from the neighboring villages in Ramanathapuram district, they say, "He was the one who got wells to your place. Only after that, you people started drinking well water!". It is a land fertile only for cotton and chillies. In that land, he tried to make them rice fields by getting a big lake. Before it came he died. But, when his dream got realized later, our village didn't fail to remember him. There was only one flag as long as he was there. That was red flag. Now, just next to that, there are too many different flags. Village has got divided into multiple groups on different lines. There is absolutely no unity. Some people are saying that only now the democracy is maturing. I somehow don't understand what they are saying!

He had two sons. First one is Sethuraj. He also, like his father, was brought up in the stone house in Palayanoor, went to Madurai for studies, then to Bombay for further studies, did inter-caste marriage (as I said earlier, they were our relatives though from different caste!), got double M.A., joined the Education department, got very good name in very young age and died when he was 42 years old. His son's death was a much bigger blow to RV than the injuries that he got from the police. From then itself, his health deteriorated and he also died in next three years.

The family was shaken by two back-to-back deaths. We would take few generations to bring the family back on track. Reason - His second son, i.e. my father is the most impacted family member by his negligence towards the family. He was not as successful as the first son in terms of Education or professional life. You may ask, "Why didn't his maternal uncles take care of him also as they did to the first one?". My answer is simple - It's not that easy to replace the father's role by someone else... for all kids! Only dad can do that for some.

Mr. Sethuraj was an intellectual. Both father and son were getting all sorts English magazines that came nowhere to close to our village in that region. They made others also read those magazines and encouraged them to debate over issues. His inter-caste marriage created a major problem for his children later. If either my grandfather or he were alive, that wouldn't have become such a problem. When they were not there, those who didn't know about them and their revolutionary lifestyle came and questioned us. We were forced to think if those revolutions failed in our case. Why did a marriage which was appreciated and blessed by the whole Communist community fail so miserably? Do you have an answer to this? If you do, please write to me.

Finally, the biggest strength RV had was his kin and kith. Notable strength came from his nephews. His brother Kandasamy's sons! Even his brother got married to two girls in the same house - the stone house in Palayanoor. So, all their children grew up in an united environment. He was always surrounded by many of his nephews. In addition to that, he had some wonderful friends whose families are still very close to us and they just behave like our family members.

He was very close to the popular advocate NT Vanamamalai and writer - professor N Vanamamalai. He had always been in touch with them through letters. There are lots of letters that were received from them in our old wooden box. There are also many diaries that he had written in English and some English books whose titles are about some minute stuff in Communism and Economics that we can't even understand. A lot of people came to understand about his life and took away all those evidences. I am not sure how much is left out now. Should go to my village once to see if there is anything still left out for me.

We should surely talk about his death in a separate paragraph. Though I was 4 years old, I still remember that morning when the news came. He had passed away in the early morning in his elder son's house in Vilathikulam. The news came in a bus that his body was coming in a car. A lady that heard it came running towards my granny and mom crying like mad - hitting with her hand on her own head and chest. She banged on my granny and cried non stop. Looking at that, my mom cried aloud. Without understanding what was going on, I also cried. Then I could understand what had happened. What happened afterwards were all dramatic. It was like watching a south Indian movie. Our village women were all lamenting through some songs about him. Exclusive songs composed about him in various times! All songs that were composed about him were coming out on that day. The one who composed most of those songs was an illiterate woman by name 'Kumarayi'. She is no more now. Many people came and took note of those songs. We don't know where they are now. We want to collect them before the book comes out. I don't think a book is more for a person who lived such a revolutionary life. What do you think?

The amount of crowd that came for his funeral said how great a life he had lived. That crowd looks smaller after having seen the paid crowds that are gathered for political meetings today. But, it was too much for a village like that at that time. Then, they wrote a lot about his life and sacrifices in Communist magazines. Even after that, Comrades came in bulks for many days. Like all dead men, even he had lots of stories. Every one that came, came with a story. I have a feeling that the number of pages in the book that is going to come out is going to be less because I couldn't understand and write down all the stories that they said. Let's see.

As a token of appreciation, in the name of pension, a small amount came to him and after his death to his wives, . Though, it has become small today, it helped to run the family smoothly for some time. For his contribution in freedom fight movement, he received a copperplate from Indira Gandhi. Leaving these, if I have to tell you what he has left for us... here they are...

* A list of things that we should never do. Why? Because, we have a feeling, 'We are his descendants. So we should never do such things. If we ever do such things, it would be a humiliation for us!'. I don't have to boast about myself. But, there are some people who lived with him very closely who are living an extraordinarily decent life to ensure that his name is not spoiled for whatsoever reason. I also think that I should keep that name too.

* Having known very well that our politics would never get better, we always have some kind of attraction towards that. Just like how he hoped that one day India would get freed from the British, we hope that some day our politics would get freed from all these cheap stuff. Not just in politics, we have this interest in everything that is to do with public life.

* We get some extra patriotism on Independence day and Republic day and we feel that we have more privilege to celebrate those days. We don't ask for any extra benefit. We just want to feel more proud. By the way, none of us have enjoyed any of the freedom fighter ward benefits so far!

* When we see the kind political prostitution done by some rogues today, we get a question - 'Is it for you guys did he lose everything in his life?'. The inability boils our blood. We also yearn that if he had had even 1% of your selfishness we would have been little more better (if not like your children). 

* A curiosity to know how the children and grandchildren of those who did bigger sacrifices feel now when we ourselves feel so much (Please understand correctly - I am not saying that we are in need of your help with an intention to take any benefits from you!).

Tell me now - Is it wrong? Am I not more privileged to celebrate the goods and criticize the evils of this nation?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Atheism – Another Religion!

It is one of the questions for which we perhaps would never have a concrete answer in our life time or no one that takes birth on this planet would ever get a convincing answer. Does God exist? Don’t know. Looking at the events that happen around me every day, I get a confusing answer. My answer is positive when I come across something that doesn’t have a convincing logical answer. And, it is negative when I come across something that doesn’t have a convincing spiritual answer. Whatever be your explanation, I strongly believe that this world does not deserve so much chaos, problems, pains, bloodbaths, wars and hunger, which are experienced by right from new born babies to women to elders.

When there is no logical answer, my theist friends argue that the absence of a logical answer doesn’t mean absence of God. They shoot me back with a simple question – “Do you believe only things that are proven?” and another not-so-simple follow-up question – “Who proved to you that your father was yours?”. The very word ‘belief’ means it doesn’t need any proof (or it doesn’t have any). Likewise, when there is no spiritual answer, my atheist friends ask me if I am so foolish to believe anything that others say without questioning them. They ask me a very simple question too – “Would you believe everything that is not proven?”. What do I say? If I say “Yes”, I would easily prove that I am a fool. If I say “No”, they also have a not-so-simple follow-up question – “Then why only God?”.

I am under no compulsion to take sides. Even if I decide to do so, I don’t think the skeptics all around the world would get the right answers to their questions or the believers would have better proofs. I am okay to be in no-men’s land as long as there are unanswered questions. Having said that, I should also admit that I am finding it very interesting to talk about the subject like ever before – every time it comes up for discussion. I love to advocate atheism with theists and theism with atheists as that brings out the best in the discussions.

Okay. Let’s say God does exist. Who is it? What is his name? Is it Jesus or Allah or Shiva or Vishnu or what? I think it is Lord XYZ because that is what my parents told me and their parents told them. Would I have told the same thing if I was you – born in your place, for your parents and brought up in your environment? Or, would you have told the same thing if you were me – born in my place, for my parents and brought up in my environment? Would you or I have told the same thing if we were born in some other corner of the world? Say, Saudi Arabia or Europe or Africa. What is his form? Is he human-like in appearance or something different or form-less? Is it he or she or something else?

This question almost nails down to something – Who created this universe… a complex structure that has so many varieties of species, natural resources, inter-dependence, mysteries and questions?. But, the same question brings us back to square zero – Who created the creator then? If he could be self-created, why not the universe?! How simple yet complex question this is!

Most of the revolutionists were atheists. What does this indicate? From my personal experience, this is what I feel. When I am in trouble, if I believe in God, I go to him, cry in front of him, complain to him and get back to my regular work with the confidence that he would take care of it for me. When I don’t believe in his existence, I don’t get sleep until the problem is resolved. That keeps me reminding about the problem until it is resolved and forces me to work towards some kind of solution. Because, I know no one else would solve it for me and I have to do it for myself.

So if you want peace of mind, it is good to be a believer of some power – unknown power. But, if you want problems to be resolved, you have to go after solutions. That is what can give you long term – practical solutions. That is what can relieve you from your real problems. But, we don’t rule out a mid-path. You could still do your duty and believe in God without expecting too much from him. I think – that’s a more sensible form of theism. Belief should not have vested interests. It should not be for any worldly reasons. This is how most of our gurus advocate spirituality.

But, most of the common people (people like you and me) believe in God because they think it was God who bailed them out of their troubles when they pleaded to him. It is God who gave them everything that they have. The same people have a different answer when their problems are not solved or when they don’t get what they asked for. They say, “He wants me to go through all these for some reason, so I better do that”. So, that clearly means God’s primary responsibility is not to bail you out of your troubles or give you everything that you ask for. He takes his own calls. So, if he takes his calls then it should be based on some basis. If that basis is decided based on what you do outside the temple, church or mosque, it doesn’t make any difference anyway.

Atheists are saying non-believers have never been a problem to those who hold any kind of belief whereas those who follow a particular religion have been to those who hold different beliefs. The future of this planet has never been questioned by the non-believers but by those who strongly believe that only their belief is right. Only by those who think their belief is superior to the rest!

Other than the belief, what differentiates the believers and non-believers?

A generally held belief is that those who believe in God are controlled by the fear of God whereas the skeptics do not fear for anything so they don’t hesitate to commit any sin. But, what I see and hear does not prove the point. All criminals are not atheists. All politicians are not atheists. All those who evade tax are not atheists. All those who cheat their fellow human beings for their livelihood are not atheists. All the money that is spent on religious activities is not white money. It is not that all those that are behind bars are atheists.

One could believe God and still commit sins. His thought process is very simple – ‘I have to worship him because he is the one that created me and he is the one that gives me everything that I ask him for’. My father or mother never punishes me for any of my sins. They just accept me for what I am irrespective of how good or bad I am. It is the same kind of relationship that I share with God as well. I expect God to be my unconditional savior and not to be like the police department. All that I offer to God are in exchange of what he gives me irrespective of all my sins.

Do the atheists not fear God? Yes. They don’t. They are not convinced that they would get punished by an unknown power for their sins. But, they do fear that they would get killed if they are caught by the victims of any sins they commit. They also have equal amount of humanity. They also feel bad when they see an accident or someone gets hurt. It’s the basic human nature irrespective of whether you believe God or not.

I come from the land that has the highest number of temples and the highest number of atheists in the country. They both peacefully co-exist in the same land for a few generations now. There are houses wherein both believers and non-believers exist without any problems. There exists another group of people that are fascinated by the idea of atheism, but are skeptical about the skepticism itself. They just don’t want to take any risk. “Let him be there or not, but I don’t want to waste my time in researching about him and his existence. I will just do what my parents have been doing and asked me to do as that is what they did as told and done by their parents and their parents and so on for ages” is their stand. Sensible stand indeed!

It all started off with someone by name E V Ramaswamy Naicker, who is fondly called Periyar (loosely translatable as ‘respectable person’) by his followers. He did something that nobody dared to do in our land. He categorically said aloud that there is no such thing called God. He vehemently opposed all ideas around God, rituals and religion. Although the skepticism was not new, his approach was new to the world.

Like democracy, atheism is predominantly known as a western idea. The ratios of atheists in some western countries are incomparably higher than that in ours (see the picture below for density of atheists across the world). Some claim that both democracy and atheism had strong presence in our land even before they were adopted and marketed by the west. That’s what even Dr. Amartya Sen keeps saying in his book - “The Argumentative Indian”.

But, what was new in Periyar’s approach is that he spent a great amount of time in denying and propagating against God when most of the atheists are so just because of their belief that theism wastes a lot of time and energy on something that doesn’t exist. He hit the idols with footwear in public and asked people if God would punish him for doing it. Interestingly, God didn’t. This new form of atheism attracted the youth at that time and created waves across the state.

There are ardent followers and diehard critics of Periyar in my close circles. Some call him the best Tamilian (some don’t even accept him as a Tamilian as he belonged to a community that migrated from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu before which they had migrated from Andhra to Karnataka some centuries back; so he is either a Kannadiga or a Telugu but not a Tamil!) ever born for the kind of change he brought to the society that he belonged to. Others criticize him for some of his very basic personal problems and his brutal verbal attacks on the Brahmin community just because they are a minority in the society.

Leaving all of them aside, he remains the symbol of Indian atheism even today as nobody so vehemently denied God and spent so much of his valuable lifetime in propagating atheism. Of late, I also see his pictures being used regularly in some of the north Indian Dalit movements. Most of his followers got into electoral politics later and corrupted both politics and themselves when he chose to stay away from that knowing that power would corrupt.

I don’t know what really the social condition at that time was, but I think he would have been less controversial and more acceptable if he had excluded the anti-Brahmin attacks from his agenda. Those who belong to the original movement he started (however small they are in number or however cheap they are in other aspects of public life) are still pure atheists whereas all those who chose to join mainstream electoral politics have become perfect hypocrites that make completely unconnected statements depending on the place and date of the next election.

Other than Periyar, there were also a good number of atheists and agnostics all over India. While Gandhi was so spiritual and religious, Nehru declared himself as an agnostic. Agnostics are the ones that are not sure whether God exists or not whereas the atheists are non-believers. Bhagat Singh was an atheist. Scientist Subramanyan Chandrashekar (Nobel laureate for physics) was an atheist. Another Indian Nobel laureate Amartya Sen is an atheist. Actor Kamal Hassan is an atheist. Hindi lyricist Javed Akhtar is an atheist. But, there is also a surprising entry in this list – Vinayak Savarkar who was the president of Hindu Mahasabha was an atheist. All communist leaders (not necessarily the ones at lower levels) are atheists. Mani Shankar Aiyar who proudly uses his Brahmin-surname is a known atheist of our time.

The father of psychology Sigmund Freud was an atheist. Two of the richest people of our time Bill Gates (not sure whether he is an atheist or agnostic) and Warren Buffet are atheists. Bangladeshi writer and activist Taslima Nasrin is an atheist. No one on earth would be surprised – Karl Marx was an atheist. The future of British politics - Miliband brothers are atheists.

So, this makes few things very clear. Leaving out Periyar and few others, most of our atheists were/are Brahmins. If atheism is a western idea then we could be sure that it would have come through them (Brahmins) just like any other western idea did. If religion is a result of their innovative thinking so is atheism. In a way, it is another religion. If black and white are also colors, why can’t atheism be another religion? Those who get closer to God tend to question his existence more often than others when they are disappointed over something in their life. It’s the same logic that we apply to any relationship. You get into conflicts only when you go close to someone. You don’t bother about someone when you have no business with him/her. So, atheism is not an anti-Brahmin idea. Only in Tamil Nadu it has become so since Periyar linked-up or mixed-up both (supporters would call it link-up and justify that whereas the opposers would call it a mix-up or mess-up). It does happen that we don’t like any idea that is spoken by someone who is against us.

Next point that is coming out of Gates and Buffet cases is that you don’t have to be religious to be a philanthropist; they are two different things. What matters here is the compassion. You don’t have to be a follower of anything to feel hurt or sympathize with someone that suffers. You should have either gone through the same pain or should be able to feel someone else’s pain. I think these people are better than those who do noble things to spread their religion by converting the beneficiaries to their own religion. Those who kill people in masses to save their religion (the ones that we studied in history books as well as the modern-day terrorists) also prove this point. Being religious doesn’t guarantee humanness either!

Savarkar’s is an exceptional case. Is it possible to be religious and atheistic at the same time? Yes. That’s what he has proven. He has proven that one could be an ardent follower of Hinduism at the same time when he doesn’t believe in the existence of God. Unlike Buddhism everything in Hinduism revolves around God. Buddhism doesn’t talk about God. Most of them worship only Buddha. I don’t know if they have accepted him as God or as something else.

This takes us to the next question. Can someone be an atheist and practice spirituality? I think, “Yes”. Spirituality is not about worshipping God. It’s about working with one’s own spirit which could be with the help of God or otherwise. Atheists can do physical exercises like others as they have a physique like others do. Atheists can think like others as they have a brain like others do. Atheists can be spiritual like others as they have a spirit like others do. They can follow a religion of their own – Atheism, which is driven more by conscience than any holy book. The problem comes only when the conscience is not capable enough to have self-less rules. That way, all holy books are clear in their recommendations. What worry us are the new interpretations to those books that are coming out of late.

I don’t have to be a lawyer to know what is right and wrong in my day-to-day dealings with my fellow human beings. I don’t even have to read through the constitution of the nation from end to end to live in this country. If I just do my duty and do no harm to others, I could still be a law-abiding citizen. Likewise, if I just do my duty and do no harm to others, I could still be a good human being on this planet. I don’t really need to have a law book or holy book; a government or religion!

But, that doesn’t mean that the governments and religions are meaningless. It is for those that can’t have strong conscience. It’s for those common men like you and me who can’t be so easily governed by conscience alone. It is for those of us who can’t take our own decisions on major things. We go to our parents, well wishers, lawyers or those who are capable of giving us the best ideas. Likewise, the governments and religions have to be run by (or managed by) intellectuals for the sake of common men like you and me. Both will never be a problem as long as they stay within their territory without getting too greedy. If that is not possible, unfortunately, atheism is the solution!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Tamil Nadu: Good 10!

I was born and lived in Tamil Nadu for 20 years. Today, I have become more Bangalorean than a Tamilian. However, the connection with Tamil Nadu is still there and I have been following the current affairs in Tamil Nadu as well even after leaving the state after my graduation. If you claim that your place is the best in the world nobody would take it seriously unless the following two conditions are true - 1. You should have seen the world, i.e. places other than yours, to compare yours with them, 2. You should be mature enough to look at things in an objective - unbiased manner. I have not seen the world nor am I going to claim that mine is the best place in the world. I have traveled to many places within India and I have spent a good amount of quality time outside Tamil Nadu. Unlike some of my friends, I have not restricted myself to people who speak the same language as mine only. I have a lot of friends from other places and cultures as well. So, all I am planning to do is to write about the goods and bads of my native state from my perspective - as objectively as possible. There is no hidden agenda. I am not trying to prove anything here so please be open when you are reading this whole series.

The conventional wisdom says, the positives have to be discussed first and only then the negatives should follow. That's what my experience in the corporate world also has taught. That's what we do in appraisals, right?! I know that there are lots of stereotypes. Even some of my close friends who like me as a person have talked to me with that prejudice. In my opinion, some of them are valid and some are not. In the online world as well, a lot of things have happened of late. It has become so much easier to spread hatred these days. All I can assure you now is that I will try my best not to exaggerate things and irritate you if you are one such person who is so irritable to such discussions. I would just look at things objectively based on my experiences with people from Tamil Nadu as well as others. Even if you conclude that I am biased after reading this, I have only one request for you. Please wait till I complete the next series on the negatives, which I am sure would be bigger and more interesting to you than this.

And, I generally hate generalizations. Most of the times, I consider those who make generalized statements either funny or immature. So, whatever I am saying here are not applicable to every Tamilian. In this age of modernization where most of us travel across borders, I don't think there is any common trait that 'everyone' in a particular group possesses. However, there are patterns. We shall talk only about them. Needless to day, that also means, there are exceptions to everything that we talk about. Sometimes the exceptions could be more than the examples we have. So beware! And, I don't believe in irritating people by attributing individual weaknesses to groups. However, it's better to be aware of these patterns that I am talking about. It's good for those in question to be aware of their strength and weakness because the awareness of strengths would help them get energized at times of difficulties and the weaknesses would help them in correcting some of their problems easily. For others who interact/work with them, awareness of the other party's strengths would help in setting expectations and the weaknesses would help in being prepared for the worst while interacting/working with them. :)

Here we go. These are the ten things that make me proud of being a Tamilian (Let me remind you again - Those of you who are irritated with this bragging (those who don't like Tamilians being proud about 'anything'!), please be patient for a few weeks. You would surely hear everything that you like to hear in the next series! :)

1. The Language:
Experts say that the number of languages alive will slowly go down as we get more and more global. A well-known Tamil poet once said eventually there would be just sixty languages in the world and Tamil would be one of them. All other languages would have a natural death. Not just Tamil, I would say around 15 Indian languages would be among that sixty. But, Tamil would be one of the last few to die in those 15. Why? The people who speak the language are so fond of it and its literature. This interest has always been there from time immemorial. The scholars back home are cribbing that the current generation is losing interest in the language. But, after seeing the current generations from other places, I think Tamil is dying slower than others. Its antiquity, simplicity, rigid grammar, resourceful literature, readers market (it's all markets now, you see!), the relentless efforts by our people in translating every new word... all these are keeping that interest alive. Even the movie dialogues could be added to the above list. Though the habit of reading (especially in regional languages) is dying down all over the country now, it's comparatively better in Tamil Nadu. The sales of newspapers, weekly magazines and other journals are comparatively better here. The habit of writing poems is prevalent across the state - though they are all love poetry mostly and most of them are crap. I was astonished by the number of people that came for a poetry competition when I was in college. Even today, the amount of Tamil content on web is incomparably huge. No other Indian language has so much content online. Though most of the credit goes to the Sri Lankan Tamils for that, I am sure that is a clear indication that the language is not going to die so soon.

2. History:
I am yet to be fully convinced that a particular ethnic group needs to have a special history of its own. Because, the day someone says I have a history of my own, it becomes a problem for the equality. It means either others have to admit that they are inferior or they would be forced to cook up their own hi-stories. But, many a times, having a respectable history does help in many ways. That itself wouldn't allow you to compromise on certain basic values. So, my stand on that is, if it could serve as the foundation for your value system, history is good. Recently I was reading a book of Mr. M S Udayamurthy. He explains why reminding of one's own history is so important even if it is exaggerated bragging. It helps people to regain their lost confidence. It makes those who do not believe in themselves to start believing in their abilities - by talking about their forefathers who did great things with the same or more limitations and constraints. But, we also see a lot of people who just boast of their background and use it to just cover up their misdeeds.

Maybe because we were just next to the sea and at the end of the peninsula's land area, every invader who succeeded everywhere else was finally defeated here or stopped from entering our land. There was no other go for our rulers. They had to be aggressive. You should either fight back or jump into the Indian Ocean. It was literally between the devil and the deep blue sea for them whenever there was an invasion. Even the invaders who conquered our land could only disintegrate our beliefs and the language to some extent but nobody could destroy them completely. They are still alive in some form. If you look at the picture below, you could see till where the Chola Empire had its presence. I don't believe in proving one's superiority by invading someone else's land. But, that was not the age of human rights. The mankind was not that mature. I feel so disturbed when I think of what all they would have done to prove their superiority by invading like that. But, that was the way of life then. When it becomes a matter of survival - either you or me not both, killing is always better than getting killed, right?

3. Simplicity: 
I know there are people in Tamil Nadu who would donate one rupee more than the previous highest - just to have their name on top of the list even while starving to death without enough money in hand for the basic needs. However, when it comes to simplicity, I see a clear pattern among Tamils when I compare them with others. Either they are very fond of being simple or at least pretend to be simple. Generally, showing-off works better everywhere. Keep ten successful people in a particular field seated in a row on a stage; I will identify the Tamilian in the group if there is one. He would generally look shabby with the worst possible look, costumes and a cheap - torn slipper but wouldn't care a damn about it. That's how most people are brought up in that part of the country. Most of the times it's an embarrassment. I don't feel proud when an educated youth comes in slippers to office where there is a strict dress code to wear formal shoes. But, there is something to celebrate. The reliance on content more than format needs to be appreciated. But, that phenomenon is losing its ground these days. The format is equally or more important than the content now. If you don't want to lose out in the race, you have to change. Most of the freshers I meet these days admit that it's a problem with 'our' people and they want to be more cautious about it. I don't think all scientists would be like Abdul Kalam. I know that the amount allocated for make-up in our monthly budgets is increasing now. But, compared to the women from other parts of the country our women are still better on this aspect. Some people even look down upon our women for that. Painting the face white and lips red is yet to become trendy here. Most of our men also don't like women with over-makeup. I know that our men are considered narrow-minded for having such reservations. But, if you look at it purely from simplicity perspective, it's a 'plus'. Even our world-class corrupt buggers are respected as great leaders because of this one simple reason - their simplicity (or at least their ability to pretend to be simple).

4. Omnipresence:
I think, it all started during the Chola dynasty. It's happening even today. As I said earlier, I don't believe in conquering someone else's land for that madness is what has made this world so unsafe today. It's that madness that has given birth to so many terrorist groups. That's what is the reason behind most of the wars waged on this planet. But, as we discussed earlier, it was the way of life at some point in time. Killing was better than getting killed. Animal instinct! There are many stories around how our people conquered faraway lands at that time itself. There is one group of such people who entered the Lankan island when Rajaraja Cholan invaded them (Please note that there are also native Lankan Tamils in today's Sri Lanka!). It doesn't mean that they have to be treated as second class citizens or all of them have to be sent back to their mother land now. They wouldn't even know which originally is their place in today's Tamil Nadu if they come back. Even those who invaded India after that period have been accepted as Indian citizens. That's what should have happened there. It didn't happen. They didn't even accept the native Tamils as sons of the soil just because they were less in number. That helped the Tamil race to spread all across the world. Today, they are in far-away places which even Rajaraja Cholan didn't conquer. Unfortunately, they had to go with the tag of refugees this time.

Not only that, our history and literature say, we had business connection with Greece and Rome in the Chola period itself. One guy even said Cleopatra was born to a Tamil mother because she is black and in the period she was born there was a lot of cultural exchange between them and the Chola nation. It may be an exaggerated lie but what is true is the strong presence of our people in those lands during those early days of human civilization.

Another info - You may know that Columbus discovered America. You may know the statistics around how much of Indian population is there in the USA today. Do you know who was the first Indian to go to the USA? His name was Madras Man. He went from the then Madras (Chennai) to the USA by ship and landed in Massachusetts in 1790. That's why he is called Madras Man. His original name might be a Ramaswamy or Subramanian. That's how we have always been - travelling all across the world and exploring unknown areas. Maybe because that's how our land has always been - dry and useless. Today, it looks like there is no country that doesn't have Tamils.

5. Our Movies:
I don't disagree with you on the point that Kodambakkam (the place where all studios are/were there in Chennai) dumps as much garbage on every Friday as Chennai Corporation lorries do every day. But every now and then it is bringing out the best talents that arrive from different corners of the country (please note that there are people from all over the country in the industry - not just one particular ethnic group or locals). The industry has matured so much that such talented people keep trying something new and innovative though they keep cribbing about not getting their due recognition and money by being so. The only problem I have with them is... our politics would have been little more decent if those who come to the industry restrict themselves to just acting and writing. They go beyond their limits, cheat our foolish people, make politics also as dramatic as their movies and make histories. Only that increases our blood pressure. Otherwise, nobody can deny the contribution the industry has done to this form of art by bringing out the best talents like Sivaji Ganesan, A R Rahman and Mani Ratnam. Ilayaraja and Bharathiraja could also be added to the list but I just saw a program in TV yesterday in which they were both acting like immature nut cases. I am yet to come out of the irritation so I can't add them in the list for now. How much ever big genius you are, if you can't maintain some basic manners in public - if you don't know how to speak decently on stage - if you are overly arrogant and egoistic, this is how all your achievements would be undermined by people (We shall talk about this part of our problem in the next series, which is reserved with larger space for this!). Even those who don't like Tamil like the movies that are made in Tamil. And, our movies have played a great role in preserving our culture and language in the last few decades. Undoubtedly this is the best contemporary art form we have today. In a way, it could be called one of the forms of literature, too!

6. Social Justice: 
As long as I was in Tamil Nadu, I used to hate our people for all the nonsense they would do with caste. I used to go mad on observing certain behaviors. Some people are so narrow-minded that they would mingle only with people from their caste, their friends would all be from the same community, they would decide all their business dealings based on caste, they would justify everything that is done by personalities of their own caste, they would exaggerate the smallest achievements of their community leaders as if he is the best leader the country has ever produced, they would shamelessly try to prove that the actor from their caste is the best in Kollywood and they would shamelessly ask about someone's caste in the first or second interaction itself. I used to hate all these. But, the day I landed in Chennai, I understood, urbanization is the best solution to put a full stop to this non-stop nonsense. Even there I have seen a few narrow-minded buggers but they would have changed by now. Otherwise, their kids would make fun of them. When I came out of Tamil Nadu and started interacting with others, all these equations changed completely. For some of my friends from other parts of the country, it's such a big issue. They keep talking about it. They want to keep reminding us that they are from so-and-so community by making some out-of-context comments every now and then. They are so interested about knowing their friends' caste as well. I have never seen so much casteism with the educated lot in Tamil Nadu - at least so openly. After seeing all that, I have realized that the madness is comparatively much lesser in Tamil Nadu than in other places - though it is not zero. At least it is confined to the uneducated country brutes in Tamil Nadu whereas others speak as if their only purpose of coming to Bangalore is just to prove that they are from a particular community.

Then, the most surprising thing that I found after coming to Bangalore is that even the Keralites who are supposed to be much more broad-minded than Tamils on this aspect give so much importance for the caste system. They also talk about upper caste, lower caste and all the unwanted things around it. I was surprised because we used to be told right from childhood that the they were the most advanced in terms of breaking the caste barriers in India. Maybe, my sample has a wrong mix. As far as I have seen, the educated people from Tamil Nadu don't give so much importance for caste - especially in public (ignore exceptions!). Another thing is the distribution of success among all communities in Tamil Nadu. If you take a group of ten successful people from each state in Bangalore, Tamils would have the best mix of all communities in their group. In all other states, the success has not reached all. It's stuck with only few communities in most cases. They only decide most of the things. When I say 'best mix', it's in comparison with others and not to say that it's all perfect in Tamil Nadu. Even here the upper caste is more affluent than others in most places. But, the involvement from others in mainstream businesses and professions is 'comparatively' more - than in other places.

7. Hard Work As Way of Life: 
Tamils are not as good as Gujaratis or Marvaris in terms of entrepreneurship. But, they are into all businesses and professions. They generally don't aspire to own a company but they are ambitious in terms of professional growth. I personally am not a fan of over-ambitiousness. But, it's good in a way. That is the reason people are so hard working and they give so much importance for hard work. Most people are ready to work like donkey to get to the place where they want to be (Please forget the notorious Tamil office-politicians that you have come across at this moment. As promised, I will talk about them in the next post!). In any organization or team, ask who the most hard working guy in the group is. The fingers would generally point at a Tamil guy. At least in the second or third place there would be one. Most people don't understand that hard work is the shortest route to success. Most of our mediocre talents manage the show only by hard work. It's a different story that once they taste success - once they get confidence and courage, they would get all the talent that they lacked and start getting involved in all the unwanted politics in office. Let's keep them aside for sometime (until next post!). There is another group of people who just work like mad without being worried about anything - anything means... winning, losing, conquering the world, getting lost untraceable, anything! They are the ones who just work for the sake of it - like eating, sleeping, speaking and breathing everyday - from dawn to dusk. According to them, working on something is the only purpose why human beings were created. Their only expectation is just the satisfaction they get after completing every small task. It's because of people like them the world is still livable. I personally haven't seen so much of such people from any other part of this country than mine. They are the ones who truly live by Bhagavat Gita. They just do their duty and don't expect the results.

8. Our Plurality: 
As I had told once earlier, Dr. Amartya Sen says, an important attribute of any society to prosper is its openness to coexist peacefully - unity in diversity. It's the maturity to work together despite all the differences. It has been there for a long time in Tamil Nadu. What do I mean? It's the land that has the highest number of temples in the country; at the same time, it is the land that has the highest number of atheists in the country. Even in the believers there are no so many subgroups anywhere else. No other place has witnessed the amount of Shivite-Vaishnavite fight as much as Tamil Nadu has in its history. Tamil Nadu is second only to Kerala in terms of the number of religious conversion. It was those people in then Madras who allowed the British inside India, acted as loyal servants to them for the cheap salaries they paid and helped them anchor their presence as our rulers. It is Tamil Nadu that had the highest number of freedom fighters in the South. It was strategically an important place for both Gandhi and Bose. No other state has so much outsiders that speak different languages (I am talking about the Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam speaking early migrants). Even today, in the rural areas, Hindus and Muslims are living together calling each other Machan and Mama (brother-in-law and uncle) with no religious conflicts. Religious politics has not worked in Tamil Nadu as it has in other states. Not to deny that it has started gaining some momentum of late. It has just started here whereas it has already reached the boiling point in other places. It's second only to Maharashtra in terms of urbanization but it has been producing the highest number of engineers from the rural background. Politics is all the more dividing. Despite all these, it is still one of the peaceful states. There has been no major riot or law-and-order problem so far (touch wood!).

9. Their Courage: 
A friend of mine in the Army says, Tamils are the most respected in Indian Army after Punjabis. For any difficult job, they would say, "call a few thambis; it would be done!". It's not just a testimony for hard work but I think is also for courage. Likewise, a Bangalorean friend of mine told me once, when there was Hindu-Muslim riot in Shivaji Nagar area, it was only people from Tamil Nadu that were on both the sides. It's not something to feel proud of. It contradicts with what I said in the previous point. It actually says how barbaric these people are. However, I think, it also tells us how courageous they are. I have heard that there is huge number of rowdies from Tirunelveli in Mumbai. Varadarajan Mudaliar is the first underworld don in Bombay, right?! Again, this is something to feature in the next post as a negative point as it actually humiliates Tamils. Still, it also tells how courageous these people are. More than all these, one thing called 'Jallikattu' (a bull taming sport played in Tamil Nadu) is enough to prove how far from the humanity we are. We are still animals when it comes to courage. The drunk youth who tame the ferocious drunk bulls are certainly more courageous than those bulls and those who can't do it with bulls.

The Tamils in Tamil Nadu and the Tamils in Sri Lanka have become two different sides of the same coin. We are same yet so different. We didn't help them when they needed our help the most but we could still take some credit from them (which is what we are better at!). Leave alone all the politics around it. Running an alternate military and government against the government of majorities for almost three decades is not a joke (In fact, it became a fight against many governments at some point in time!). Nowhere else in the world has there been such a movement like that of Ealam. That would remain the best testimony to the 'Tamil courage' for centuries.

10. Hospitality
There is a slogan in Tamil - "Vandhaarai vaazha vaikkum Tamil Nadu", which means, "Tamil Nadu is a land that gives life to everyone that comes there!". Generally, there is a lot of question on the Tamil hospitality. Others think that it is the most unfriendly state in India for outsiders. If you just look at their inability to speak Hindi, you are right. But, there is more to hospitality than just speaking a language. Auto drivers are horrible but it is not just a problem for the outsiders. Even when I went to Chennai for the first time I had to face all that. They are rude with all. What I mean by hospitality here is, their openness to accommodate others in business, cinema, politics, etc. We are proud that we have our people in almost all countries. We can equally be proud about letting others succeed in our land. In every city, town and small town, you could see an unbelievably sizable Malayali population. There is a good percentage of Telugus that came here centuries back, settled and became almost Tamils (I am not talking about the Telugu population in Chennai, but the ones in remote villages of South Tamil Nadu). They both are enough to prove our hospitality. No other Indian state (I mean, the entire state - not just a city or town) has so much multi-culturalism. In my region, there is a huge Kannadiga population, too. These are things that were never discussed in any English forums. There are a lot of outsiders who have succeeded in our arts and politics. Tamil Nadu has been ruled by more outsiders than its own sons of the soil. I don't think that has been the case anywhere else in India. Some people even call it foolishness.

Anti-Hindi agitations was a major political movement in Tamil Nadu in the last generation. But, what people outside were not told was, they never attacked even a single individual in north Indian areas though they tarred Hindi letters in all streets. Believe me, even if Rajapakse contests in Tamil Nadu he could win. There are people who would even work for his victory day and night. The only condition is - he should give at least thousand rupees per vote. Have you heard of this Tamil slogan that is written on the walls of United Nations' head quarters - "Yaadhum oore yaavarum kelir!"? It means, "All places are one and all people are our kin!". Both your place and mine; for both me and you!

It's not over yet. As promised, there is another series of posts on the "bads" of Tamil Nadu. Rest assured that would be larger and more interesting than this. I will talk about the top ten things for which I am ashamed of being a Tamilian! That's the place where I would vent out all my frustrations. Let's discuss about them shortly.

Click here to read that - TBD.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...