People I know

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Other Side

I am not an enthusiastic traveler and I have traveled very less until I was 24. Of them, trips to sringeri, a pilgrim spot in Karnataka, were memorable ones. One such trip was by car, when I was studying 11th standard. This story is about that car driver who helped me understanding social issues from totally different perspective.

The car driver was from sivakasi, the “kutty japan” of India. We all know that Sivakasi is famous for fire works industry and printing technology. If we forget the fact, that these industries employ a large number of children to work in hazardous conditions, we can hail their contribution in our country’s growth. I wanted to discuss these things to him to get to know the ground reality about child labor in sivakasi.

After I have had befriended him by talking all sundries, I slowly started asking about his family. He said he had a wife and a kid of 3 years old. He also said his wife was working in fire works industry. I asked him if it was true that the employers of such industries employ children. He said that it was true and he did not see anything wrong in that.

Then I told him about a fire accident in one such industry, Where so many kids and women died because of an accidental explosion. The social worker who visited the site immediately after the explosion, narrated about death of a baby. The baby was laid in a “thottil” out of the building and it died not because of the fire injuries, but because of “Noise” created by the huge explosion and they were still searching for the mother of that baby without knowing whether she was dead or alive. I told him how he could justify such horrible incidents.

After listening to this story, with an expressionless voice, he told “These kinds of social workers spoil our lives”. I gave him a puzzled look. He continued “We have only fire industries to support our lives; I have worked there when I was boy until I became driver. If not for the industry, our family would not have survived. Do you know one thing? My wife too was working there in that site. She jumped over the wall and escaped that day. She is pregnant now and still works in same industry. Because there is no other way to make the ends meet. In any industry such hazards will be there and one need not fear that. But I must accept that working conditions have improved when compared to my period”. I could not talk for some time. It took sometime time to understand what he said; but it took several years, still I could not digest what he said.

Kodidhu Kodidhu, varumai kodidhu
Adhaninum kodidhu Ilamaiyil Varumai

Sunday, March 27, 2005

pei ena peium mazhai

Jagadheesh called as “jaga”, was very much interested in studies, especially in the nursery school. There was no problem with that, but jaga had a peculiar mentality. He could not stand any girl scoring better than him or than his friends. He used to see to it that girls did not come within top five ranks. When joined a new matriculation school in Madurai, because of abrupt transfer to his father from karur, he dethroned sadhana, who was topper in that class until then. As his wont he also made her to move out of top five ranks (by coaching his friends) in the half yearly exam. One day, sadhana’s mother came to the school and she was crying. Initially he was scared thinking that because of his behavior she was hurt and was crying. He even thought mohanasundaram who had scored fifth rank needed no coaching from his side so that sadhana could be accommodated within top five ranks.

He heard sadhana’s mother saying “sadhana appa poitarunga”, to the principal. In few days sadhana stopped coming to the school. He was very guilty for adding agony to their family because of his attitude.

After that, he did not meet sadhana for a long time. Also in few months his father died because of heart attack, so he was shifted to government boy’s higher secondary school, as his family could not afford the school fees. Somehow he forgot sadhana during his high school days, until he reached tenth standard.

There was a master in madurai, who was coaching poor students for free, to take the tenth standard public exam. He liked that master and joined his tuition class. There he met sadhana again. He came to know that she too joined government school (girl’s), after she had left their previous school, but was keeping good in studies. But he did not talk to her and was looking at her only as his rival.

Once he happened to visit their house. It was one of the houses in “stores”. “Stores” in madurai dialect, is a place which has several studio sized apartments with a common bathrooms and toilets. He met her mother and also he found her mother sporting a “pottu” and “thali”. So, he was relieved that her father was not dead. But he found they were poor and her mother was trying to meet the ends my working in a local nursery school for a meager salary. He never happened to meet her father and sadhana told him that her father worked in nagpur and would visit them rarely.

Her family became very affectionate to him. Sadhana called him as her brother and was showering so much of love and affection. He never knew women can be so caring. He thought he had got a younger sister for life. Sadhana’s mother, visalam teacher, liked him so much. She considered him as her own son and he could clearly feel they were happier after he started visiting their home.

Sadhana was very soft spoken and jaga had never seen her raising her voice for anything except for one cloudy day. That day jaga went to sadhana’s house and there he saw one muscular ugly looking angry man was threatening sadhana to burn her alive. He was having bottle of kerosene oil in his hands. Sadhana was not at all afraid and was shouting back at him. Suddenly that fellow turned towards jaga and threatened him to stop visiting them. Jaga did not understand anything and he did not know how to react. That ugly looking man left immediately.

Sadhana told him, that monster was her uncle, her father’s brother. She said her father had deserted them long back and never visited them. Her uncle used to terrorize them as he did not want them to have a share on little family property they had in their village. She was even beaten badly, when she was young, by that monster.

He could not tolerate her pain and he became very mad at her father. He stayed with her until the teacher came back from work. Sadhana was crying all evening. Jaga told the teacher “I cannot understand sadhana’s father’s behavior. I would think he was irresponsible”. The teacher became very angry; He had never seen her like that. She said “If you are going to talk ill of my husband please don’t come to my house. He is my husband and I cannot allow any one doing that”.

He could not understand teacher’s reply then. He felt like he was taught a new lesson that day. It was raining heavily outside. He started walking outside with a confused mind, despite sadhana forcing him not to go as it was raining.

Even now, after 14 years, Jaga contemplates over that incident. Does this teacher represent “Karpu neri”, which is represented from the days of ramayana by the Indian women? Or does she represent superstitious beliefs? Certainly times have changed. Still he got impressed by teacher’s selfless unwavering love towards her husband.

“kandar igazvanave, kadhalan thaan seidhidunum
Kondanai allal ariyaa kulamagal pol”

“Even if a husband humiliates his wife, born in great family, she wont desert him”
Divya Prabhandham (689), Kulasekaran azwar.

I want to end this story by saying “ sadhana’s father returned to them in few years after that incident and from then on they lived happily”.

Note 1: All characters in this story are imaginary and this story is based upon certain real life incidents. The characters of the story represent mixture of personalities I know.

Note 2: The title is part of a thirukural which says "when a women who does not worship god, but worship only her husband, says "let it rain", then it will rain".

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Dress Code and the Wisdom dawned

Madurai is a very unique city for so many reasons, good or bad. The sands accumulated by the sides of every street are one of them. It comes from transportation of sand from river Vaigai to different sites of construction. When talking about construction we cannot ignore the children working in that industry. This story is about a boy, about 10 or 12 years old, who was working on a house construction near my house.

We were a group of cousins. All of us were under ten that time, playing in the sand. This boy was busy carrying the sand over his head to mix it in the cement mix. His dress was very ugly. We were making fun of his torn dirty dress and he was in turn shouting at us not to mix the raw sand with fine sand (sallicha mannu). He said not to make fun of his dress and he too had nice dress. He would wear that after he is done with his work. In the evening he came to our house and knocked the door. When we answered the door, he said, “ippo en dressa parunga” (Now look at my dress). We all laughed again, as the dress too was torn at places but was washed one and we all shouted “Post box” by pointing at those tearing on his trouser. He was about to cry and left without a word. I could not forget his face and the pain on it. I felt a lot for that boy and wanted to meet him again. For some reason he did not turn up next day.

That boy really believed that his dress was nice and with our ignorance we committed a sin by humiliating an honest laborer. I could not even convey the lessons I learnt from that incident. Very importantly, from that day on I started laughing at people who give lot of importance for their dress. To me, that boy’s dress was most beautiful dress till date.

Once I was playing cricket in the street as it is normal in our city. I was 14 then. There came two “adult children” driving “Tri-Cycle”. A Tri-Cycle is a very important transportation mode in Madurai to carry most of the things (like furniture, vehicle spare parts etc). I called them adult children because, though with in 12 – 15 years, our people would be wearing a “kaili”, smoking “beedis” and earning to fill their stomach. But what I saw were younger looking than 12 years. All of a sudden, one middle aged man came to them, slapped them (any person can slap them and after growing up they slap us so hard…origin of all crimes) and took their beedi off. He shouted “indha vayasila beediya? Naaigala” (“beedi at this age? You dogs!”). The boys asked him back “pasikudhilla, 15 kassuku 2 beedi kudicha naan vandi midhipen, nee soru vaangi tharuviya?” (“I am hungry, a couple of beedis for 15 paise would give me strength to pull my tri-cycle, and else would you buy me food?”). Their question, made me feel like crying. I could not find an answer to their question in 15 years. I felt like wisdom dawned then. But I don’t know how can I help them, but for sure I will pay them the respect they deserve and will not look down upon them.

“Dharidhra devo Bhava”

Poor people are god, because they provide you an opportunity to help them. Hinduism believes god comes to you as needy.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Real Bharath Rathna

If any one asks me about my reading habits, I will say reading newspapers forms a very important part. Wait! Please don’t rush to think about me as a person with great general knowledge. I don’t know much of the happenings in europe and even in united states. Even national news, political leaders do not catch my attention much. Always I admire normal people whose names never make in the newspaper's front page, but whose honesty and will power to fight their way out in corrupt country like ours. So I read more about regional news especially my hometown madurai news. A few days ago, I read about a murder which raises so many questions in my mind till date. Let me tell the news.
It was about a "pookari" (flower vending lady), who sold flowers in the bus stand. Once she happened to witness a gang rape by a group of thugs. During investigation she stood up to the task and gave her testimony as witness in the court. These thugs were released on bail after "Charge sheet" was filed. They threatened the "pookari" to retract her statement else had to face dire consequences which included raping her teen age daughter or Killing the pookari.
She was adamant and eventually she was killed by the thugs. It was reported in lesser number lines in a regional newspaper.
Now, these are the questions I have in my mind.
1) How many of us will dare to fight for justice like that great lady?
Mind you injustice was done to a unknown person. She just witnessed it.
2) Apparent assumption of her less or no literacy, I see she was very selfless and brave. As far as I know, no educated person, including myself will be that daring. What good is this education for?
3) The country worries a lot if Sachin gets out on wrong "Decision" or a "Kavarchi Nadigai's" dog dies. Here the great lady was killed, not even a single tear drop shed. Why so much indifference and hopelessness when seeking justice is concerned?
4) Does she not deserve a bravery award?
5) As long as we don’t respect people who fought for justice, leave alone we taking the fight by ourselves, we will be fast losing that brave race . Is that not what we see from their dwindling numbers?
"Dharmo Rakshathi Rakshanath"
Righteousness protects those who protect it.

Muthukumar Puranam

Friday, March 18, 2005

Story Format

I want to write only about people. It will be very difficult to maintain privacy of the people.
So here after I am gonna write in short story format based upon my own interactions with people. I dunno how interesting I can write, as you have rightly guessed, I am novice in writting. Let is see how it goes.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Avaiyathu Mundhi irupa seyal

People who know me personally will be surprised to see me saying I am influenced by my dad, because I don’t have a lot to remember about him. I am not even sure how he looked. I lost my father when I was seven years old. I did not have much time spent with him. But still he influences me a lot till date. He has given me what a dad gives to his son. I am ever thankful to him.
Thiruvalluvar says making a son learned one is the duty of father. If at all any one taught me how to study, it is my dad. In the school people teach you how to read and write and may be how to score marks. But I have rarely come across teachers who taught me how to understand and apply learned stuff in real life.
My father taught me by making me to teach him my 2nd Standard English, math and tamil. I have also taught him 3rd std History. He later taught me to read newspapers and magazines. He subscribed "Gokulam" for me. We used to read together, he will help me by holding my finger as I was doing "ezuthukootal". Even when I was under 6 years old, I knew well that there are many things unknown to us and books help us learn them. The fire of inquisitiveness he ignited still burning and the thirst to know the reality is never quenched.
The greatest thing about my dad is his great sense of humor. He used to tease me a lot for my absent mindedness. He would count all my fingers once I am back from nursery school and would report that I brought all my fingers back and did not forget any of them at school. Sometimes people say I have good sense of humor. May be the seed is sown by him.
My father did a greatest help to me when he took us to paramacharya of kanchi. I have very faint memory regarding this. But later on somehow I knew Paramacharya is none other than god personified. I am ever thankful for his darshan despite I was very small kid then.
As if he guessed his death, he took us to so many temples. Although I don’t remember all the temples we visited, it was really a greatest experience. My father was a great lover of temples and sculptors. Though we never conversed on that, whenever I spend hours together at temples, somehow I feel my dad inside me.
My father was a brave man. I have never seen him afraid of anything. Even at his death bed he was consoling my mom saying my elder brother has bright future and not to worry about future. For some reason, he always stayed awake in the nights. I have hardly seen him sleeping.
During nights, he would sit in thinnai. The local thieves with all their weapons who would go on stealing properties would say "Hi" to my dad and would talk to him for few minutes. He was not afraid of them. He would say they are his friends. He was not afraid of snakes too. Our house had lot of visitors from snake kingdoms. Never seen him afraid or panicky.
He was dharmakartha of local Narasimma swamy temple. That was a abandoned place when he first overtook the in charge of that temple. He renovated it and called archeological people to visit the temple to read the "Kal vettu". I was told it was a chola temple. I am not sure about its authenticity. Before his death he wanted to perform Kumbhabhisheka to the temple. I remember his last meeting with village elders (they visited him), on the day he was leaving to get admitted to the hospital for the last time, I think he told "Naan thiumbi vandhiduven, vandhu kumbabhishekam nadathuven". (My memory is vague, but sure remembering saying something like this). He was socially very active. One might ask what the greatness in that. He had very poor health. He was born as blue baby and also lot of other complications. But we have never seen him complaining. Instead he worked for public cause. He lived happily and always optimistic.
I have inherited so many qualities from him without my knowledge. I don’t know what the philosophies my dad believed in are. I never had a physical father-son talk. All my life I missed him a lot. I am sure had my father been alive, I would have grown up in our village. Probably would be taking care of agriculture. I might not have been living in U.S.A. I still feel living with a great personality like my father is better than living anywhere else. By the way, My father was a lawyer, our village was Krishnagiri in dharmapuri district.
"Pithru devo Bhava".

Note: "Avaiyathu Mundhi irupa seyal" from a thirukural, which is as follows
"Thanthai Maganuku aatrum uthavi avaiyathu
Mundhi irupa seyal"