Never underestimate anybody; Stay humble.
The sales girl in a Chennai store through the eyes of Washington Post”
After the temple darshan at the Kapaleeswarar Koil at Mylapore, we entered the “Giri Trading stores”
and started searching for this Book on “Thatva Bodha”.
We found many people buying various books and CDs and from their smart walks and accumulation of CDs from Abhang to Aruna Sairam and Bhajans to Bombay Jaishree, sent a nice feeling in us, that we have come to the right place indeed.
I was looking for this book while my wife started collecting Bharathiar’s songs and MS’s music. I searched everywhere for this book.
There was this girl, standing next to the cashier, sincerely watching all our movements – a dark complexioned girl, should be from a nearby village, might be 17 or 18, should not have crossed 8th Std., might be out of poverty she is here. All my journalist’s brain unnecessarily calculated about this gullible girl. Though she was repeatedly watching me, I ignored her and started searching for “Thathva Bodha”.
I saw many books from “Sandhya Vandanam” to Swami VIvekananda’s “Chicago Speech,” but having spent a good 40 minutes. I looked at her, she also looked at me curiously.
I did not ask her, knowing fully well that such a girl cannot have any idea of anything, leave alone “Thathva Bodah”.
“Sir, may I help you?” (in Tamil)
“Yes. I am looking for ‘Thatva Bodha’ “
“Sanskrit text or English/Sanskrit?”
God, she knows!
“Sanskrit & English”
“Do you like to have the publication from Chinmaya Mission or Indu Publications or by Ramakrishna Mutt?”
“I don’t know. I just want to only learn you see. I don’t really know indeed.”
“Do you read Tamil, Sir?”
“Yes I am a Tamilian”, (thinking to myself how most of my lifetime I like to act in most other places that I am not).
“Then, Sir, you can take this”. She ran to the shelf where I had searched for 30 minutes, removed the books in the front and came out with a book in Tamil.
“This one in Tamil by N Sivaraman by Indu Publications in fact is simple and wonderful. You have the Sanskrit text too inside.”
My God! Why did I underestimate such a genius! Just because of my arrogance that I am an NRI. Or just
because I presumed such a black, dark complexioned, gullible girl, who would have come for this job out of absolute poverty, wouldn’t have any idea of “Thatva Bodha”.
I decided to change my attitude and realized that I am absolutely an ‘Idiot’ at this moment in front of this wonderful girl and submitted myself in all humility.
“Madam, I really don’t have any idea of even who wrote ‘Thatva Bodha’ till yesterday. I just attended a lecture on this subject and was fascinated by the lecture, and hence…..”
“Did you attend Goda Venkateswara Sastri’s lecture in Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan?”
“Oh God. How did you know?”
“He regularly takes classes on such subjects. In fact, he is one of the best, Sir, in the city on such subjects.”
“You are interested in such subjects?”
“Yes, Sir, I read a lot about Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna and Thathva Bodha incidentally is my favorite subject”
“Do you mean to say you have read Thatva Bodha?”
“I have read this one by Sivaraman. Once you read it you won’t feel like keeping that book on the table at all.”
“Why, what is so great about this book?”
“Sir, you must be joking that you don’t know about ‘Thatva Bodha’.”
“Really. I accept my ignorance.”
My wife was watching from the corner, admiring all her CD collections.
“Sir, according to me, if you read this it gives the entire Vedanthic Saramsam and to say it in-one-word you become a bit more humble in life, leaving Ahamkaram once for all.”
“Is it a fact that reading this simple book one would get so humble?”
“Of course, one should be involved totally into the text. Needs a lot of conviction and devotion.”
My wife joined the conversation and she felt this girl is indeed a very very talented intelligent girl, so she told me, “Why don’t you interview her for Washington Post? Why at all you should think of Paris Hilton?”
I also felt that I owe something to her. So, I asked her whether she can spare sometime for an interview.
She politely refused saying “My boss has to give me permission. Besides, many people are looking for guidance or help, like you and hence I have to go.”
“What is your name?”
My wife’s admiration for her devotion to duty and her total involvement in her work, made her go direct to the boss and said, “Sir, that girl Kalaivani.”
“Yes very hard working girl.”
“This is my husband Viswanath.”
“Nice meeting you, Sir”
“He is a senior journalist in Washington Post.”
The Boss stood up.”
“Yes, Sir. I would like to interview this girl. I am highly impressed with her ethics.”
The Boss called her.
Time was 5:45 pm.
“Kalaivani, they have come all the way from USA. They would like to spend some time with you. Can you?”
“Sir, there are so many customers waiting for some guidance. as it is a rush time. If they can come again tomorrow.”
“OK. I can come again tomorrow.”
I came back next day morning leaving all my appointments with ‘Times of India ‘and “Madras Press Club “ just to see this girl. It was no rush hour.
My wife and myself found out. Kalaivani is from a small village near Arcot. She has 5 sisters, she being is the eldest. Her father was a drunkard and he died a few years ago caring for none of them. Her mother used to work as a helper in masonry and passed away two years back, leaving all the 6 on the streets.
This girl who had completed her 9th std decided to search for a job and ‘Giri Trading’ came forward to help her out. She brought up all her five sisters with her and with her meager salary she is taking care of them. All the five sisters are going to a nearby Chennai Corporation School.
“Kalaivani. But when did you get this enthusiasm to learn about ‘Thatva Bodha’?”
“Sir, after joining here. I decided that the best way to be of help to the customers is to know the subject first.
I took small books on Ramana, Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and started reading. I found the subject so fascinating. I decided to read other books in Tamil like Bhagavad Gita, and Viveka Choodamani. Thats how….”
“What is your salary?”
“Rs 2,500 per month, Sir.”
“Are you able to manage all your expenses with the five sisters?”
“Not at all, Sir, but the boss helps me a lot.”
“What is your aim in life ?”
“I want all my sisters to get education. Then they would easily get employment. Is it not Sir?”
“If I give you Rs 10,000 per month, for meeting all your expenses, would that suffice?”
“It is indeed too much, but I would accept it only through my boss.”
We took her to the boss and told him that we would like to send Rs.10,000 every month so that all her sisters’ education would be completed.
The Boss said, “She deserves it, Sir. You can trust me. I will hand over the amount to her every month, or alternately you can open an account in her name and start transferring to the account.”
My friend John Paul, who is the Regional Manager of ‘Times of India’, had also come with me. He said, “You have done a good thing.”
My wife said, “I pray that ‘Karpagambal’ helps Kalaivani to become an expert in ‘Vedantha’ and start giving lectures in USA . We can arrange for her lectures.”
We left wonder struck! If we go into the interiors of India, how many more ‘Jewels’ like Kalaivani can be found!!
I really became humbled! The above incident teaches you an important lesson: be humble and open – always. Never underestimate others without knowing them. It can be misleading.