3.06.2009

And you sir..?

There's this quiet little temple near my house... built to typical Kerala architecture: A closed Sanctum, surrounded by a walk forms the central portion. At various places along this you find other deities, most often under the shade of a huge banyan tree. Typical.
Then you have the lovely 'grove' in which a small path leads to a tiny pond, surrounded by small leafy trees, in the midst of which stands a Krishna, complete with his wooden bansuri, and a little calf grazing near his feet. Tiny little bells hang above the idol, which tinkle by themselves as the breeze filters through the trees after rustling their leaves, and the morning sun-rays illuminate the smoke wisps emanating from the sandalwood incense sticks placed nearby. As if to complete the serenity, a soft, devotional song in the soothing Sahana raaga or a mellifluous Yaman Kalyani floats in from afar..

This evening I felt the urge to spend a few minutes at the place and took off. After making some customary salutations I sat down to enjoy the evening breeze under one of the huge banyan trees which adorn the temple. A few people were sitting on the stone platform surrounding the old, wizened tree. One side of it, however, was a figure. An old man with an unkempt grey beard, a shabby, randomly buttoned green shirt, and a dirty white dhoti. He was sitting crosslegged, eyes staring into the distance. No one was on this side of the platform. Having given it a thought, I went and sat a few feet away from him. A few questions popped up in my mind... was this guy a tramp? Is he okay in his head? (this is one thing all we Indians think on seeing a haggardly dressed figure in a decent place).

Out of a few furtive side glances I saw that he was tapping his fingers to the music. My doubts started vanishing.. I wondered what he would be thinking of this young man sitting next to him. I feared he might have put me into the category of people who dismissed him as 'just another tramp'.. and something told me he was not what he seemed to be.
A couple of minutes later, I turned my wrist to look at the time.. but my watch had died the previous night and so I slid my hands into my pocket and had a look at the mobile phone's screen. 18:32.

Then he spoke. A quiet voice: "Samayam entha.. aarara aayo?" ("The time.. is it six thirty now?")
I looked at him, surprised for a fraction of a second, and replied in the affirmative.. "ah.. aarara aayi". He smiled.

I was right.

A few seconds later, he spoke again, in Malayalam. "You shouldn't get used to wearing these glasses... try moving about without them... do some exercises, ones that stimulate the nerves and the blood vessels of the eye"
I nodded, "Yes.. but my glasses' power is very high"
"You should have thought of that before... this has become a sort of a compulsive accessory for students nowadays.. and is promoted by certain medical companies too... forcing the community away from regaining good eyesight, and to become dependent on spectacles."

He asked me what I did, and I told him I was an engineering student. Where, he queried. "Trivandrum Engineering College.. at Kulathoor", I replied.
"Oh", he raised his eyebrows, "the government college?" he asked. I nodded.
After asking me which branch I was in, he asked me if I knew a certain Mr. M, in the Civil Dept. I told him that I didn't know him personally, but that I have heard of the professor.
Ente aniyante mona, he said. ("He's my brother's son")

He then went on to say where he had been working (I forgot), that he lives in Sreekariyam(12 kms from here), and also mentioned the names of some other lecturers in my college and how he knew them.
Every statement he made, was uttered from a completely normal, educated mind. I asked him his name and got an answer. He then asked me about the opportunities for higher studies in my field, told me how his sister moved to a good research post in the US after a brief stint at TIFR, Bombay, and made a remark about how nice an atmosphere my college has. All except about himself.
It was getting dark. I made a gesture as if to rise, and said "Well okay then.. see you again sometime". He nodded.

I made my way out of the temple, and walked back home. Just another day... and I had met a new friend. I wanted to ask him a lot of questions.. "Why are you dressed like a shabby tramp? Or have you fallen upon bad times? How do you come here all the way from your house? Why don't you give a thought to your appearance?"

I thought he would take the conversation to that direction when he spoke, but he preferred not to.

I respected his dignity.

13 comments:

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

I am actually glad I wore glasses. It has stalled my power at between -0.25 and -0.5 for nearly 8 years now!

Anyway, now that you found this experience interesting, you should do it more often! :)

I am in the habit of accosting(subtly of course :p) people who catch my attention and making conversation with them in order to know more about them and their 'governing forces' as I like to call it. It helps to broaden perspective, a key to much happiness.

The Blue Indian said...

I am pleasently surprised to see you (your posts actually) move from the typical technology-obsessed-train-obsessed-geek types to a more mature and comprehensive realm!

Way to go man! Seems like college is teaching you a lot outside the classrooms :)

PS: You mentioned about your mobile phone in this post. You haven't given me your number!

silverine said...

He is lonely thats all! Wanted someone to talk to...I have met people like him! Mostly old folks with busy grown up kids. Just don't get involved beyond the conversation, and you will be fine. Nice post!

Sriram said...

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan
{

Well my glasses' history is from a humble beginning from -1.5.. right now it's -6.5 and counting :)

And unfortunately I'm not a very good talker, and can hardly start a conversation... I guess I need to build up some 'people skills'!

Thanks for visiting!
}

Karan
{

Oh man.. why does everyone think college changed my style? Havent you read my old posts.. the ones in '06?
( and that was another mean marketing strategy hehe ;)
}

silverine
{

Yeah you're right about the old guy...
and I'm never good at talking with people.. everyone says I hardly talk! So getting too involved in a conversation where computers, tech, music or books are absent doesn't apply to me :D
}

Sidhusaaheb said...

I wouldn't have asked him those questions either and left it to him to touch upon the subject, if at all, at his own discretion.

Mutual respect is the name of the game.

Here's hoping for many more interesting conversations ahead!

:)

n i t i n said...

be it my limited vocabulary or my wacky sense of writing... but then I really dont know how to comment such posts. It just evokes some contentment in my life. Thanks bro.

Sriram said...

Sidhusaaheb
{

Thanks.. and of course, this is just an arbit post.. nothing very big :)
}

nitin
{

Oh man that happens for everyone.. and the usual suspect is, when someone writes "Good post... loved it" etc. But you chose to say it straight :) Stay happy!
}

urgu said...

aah....i can feel that breeze again dude (listening to Pink Floyd right now!) Can imagine the feel. U were sitting near the entrance's tree or the pond's tree? Wish it took place there, think the vast expanse does wonders to the conversation. Neways this is that kinda post u read laidback, listening to Comfortably Numb's ending guitar riff as im doing now, incidentally. Aliya enganum njan ippo adichu fit/high ayirunnel mayil vannu ninakkoru treat thannene. Veendum pondinte karayil irikkana pole. Aa sandhya nerathu, with the temple bells forming the background score....(*gooosebumps*)

AMAL BOSE B.S said...

it was nice of you to go and chat with him.. most people dont do that.
and im surprised at what he talked about.i had the assumption that these kinda people had only their sorrows to share.. guess i was wrong..
nice post by the way.

Sriram said...

guru
{

Aliya... it was under the banyan where you find yourself facing the devaswom board office as you sit... right down the steps from the Garudan statue road.
Music... ah.. metal is in my veins now :)
}

Amal Bose BS
{

I too was pretty surprised on hearing him talk... hence this post!
Thanks for visiting my blog.. do drop in often :)
}

amalbose said...

yes.. im from CET,
EE 3rd year..

Niranjani said...

its amazing how we go about judging people from their physical appearances isn't it?? all said and done i would have never got the guts to sit near him!!

Sriram said...

Of course physical appearance matters a LOT when judging people for the first time.. but this guy was just one of the numerous exceptions who prove totally alien to their outfit