Monday, August 09, 2010

Engines of the Mind

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.

Actually, Albert Einstein said that.

But I would have believed it , even if my household help, S., had said that.

S., went to the school of hard knocks. The hardness would have knocked someones teeth out, but she just gritted them together, applied her mind and carried on. I have written about her from time to time (searching this blog site for "household help" will point to the relevant posts), and for those unaware of her, she is a single mother of 4 grown up children, and grandmother of 2. They all live in a one and a half room place in an area you would hesitate to visit. She never went to school, got married off very early to a fellow who was totally useless, and then walked out with the children encouraged by her parents; all this almost 25 years ago.

She educated her sons , some till 12th, some till 1oth, and the daughter studied till 7th grade. The daughter was married, found out she was cheated, and returned home. S. herself has a bank account, which she operates by using her thumb impression, instead of a signature. because she never went to school, and cant read and write......

S. isn't impressed by Utopian scenarios. She knows, that the daughter will mostly have to look out for herself once she is no more. And so one day, she came to ask for my help, in adding the daughter's name as second name on her bank account. She isn't overburdened by the number of zeros after numbers in her account, but now that the sons too contribute into the house kitty, she has savings. And she wishes that they unequivocally go to her daughter, without hassles.

There is a women's group, that meets at the local Buddha Vihar (=community hall) in their locality. They help celebrate events for the local children, organize self-help type talks , sometimes by doctor types and nurses, often organize the catering for the celebrations and festivities that involve their entire locality. The so called illiterate and uneducated S., is the treasurer. And the supposedly numerically disabled S., even gets a group of ladies to go to the whole sale grain market miles away by bus, so they can save on expenses for these functions. She figures out transport and other costs and how left overs can be shared. Need based maths. Learned all by herself.

She cannot tell you the names of the medicines , but she has a gut feeling for when someone is taking her for a ride, medically speaking. She once approached me for help regarding a daughter-in-law who was advised some meds and was having problems conceiving. I am happy to say, that intervention by a gynaecologist friend, and good sensible advice regarding nutrition, has resulted in some great news about an impending arrival in the family.

S has a great sense of observation, and she processes what she observes in a very good way. For someone who never entered the portals of a single school in her entire life, she has an amazing sense of psychology, societal transactions, tradition, improving health scenarios, innovative new contraptions, and a great pride in her children and grandchildren.

A few weeks ago, my cell phone rang at 9 pm. It was her son's number. I wondered what the problem was, as she never called like this. Maybe it was an emergency. Maybe she had to go somewhere. I picked up the call.

"Hallo ! Bai ? ("=Ma'am?"), is your computer on ?" S was on the line.

"Yes. Its working. Why do you ask ?" Me. Flummoxed. This a new field for her.

" Just go wherever you go on the computer, when I ask you about something, and tell me about when the eclipse is ..." (I didn't even know there was an eclipse) . Maybe some neighbor told her. But she wanted scientific information, not hearsay.

Of course I went to Google, checked about the eclipse, and called her back. Expectant women don't go out during an eclipse according to tradition. This particular eclipse was not being seen in India, and was supposed to happen at some unearthly hour at night, over 2 hours. I also told her that the Indian calendar did not list this particular eclipse as significant.

Her mind now satisfied, she discussed and told me about the younger expectant daughter-in-law, and that she would just advise the couple not to go out anywhere that night.

I was totally impressed that someone like her, who cannot read a single alphabet, noticed that whenever someone has a question and wants info, I go to a particular thing on the screen, after which a page comes, and then she gets her answer. More impressed because she simply called to confirm what was till then, hearsay, with all kinds of wrong time estimates.

And then I see women, who live in upmarket abodes, don't lift a finger to do any housework, get their thrills from every additional zero appearing in their monthly expenditure , and proudly claim, that they know nothing about any bank related and financial transactions, because, their husbands take care of it all. They just sign wherever, whenever, and life goes on. Haan ji !

Designer lives, designer houses, designer clothes, designer cars, probably an improbable designer education, with stupendous fees and 3 types of yearly uniforms. Probably designer cell phones, on which they message and tweet typical shortened murdered English stuff .

I somehow doubt if they ask their husbands, daughters and sons to find out information on Google. Or some other search engine.

For that, like S., you have to have a Search Engine in your mind....


  1. Common sense is worth more than a College degree.

  2. WOW ... the more I read about S, the more I respect her.
    Hats off ....

  3. So glad to hear about S' d-i-l's good news! And wow she is really sharp! Always love these posts abt S.

  4. WOW a great and sensitively written post. Is this the same lady about whom you had written the poem about what women want? Hats off to her. And you are so right about the designer women!

  5. WOW !!! I am impressed with her observation on going to some page in the comp to search for relevant info.

    A big Hi 5 to S, from me, for being the greatest fan of me... :)

    Necessity is the mother of invention and learning too...

    Keep going S-ji, you are an inspiration to many. :)

  6. Hi Suranga,

    hehehe... Good on her ! The more I hear about S the more I like her... In fact, I believe she could run the country - she'd probably make a great job of it too .... Do you think she would be interested in coming over to Scotland and kicking the asses of our very 'coddled and spoiled' Scottish Members of Parliament? She could show them how to use their brains to improve peoples lives rather than how to line their pockets in no time flat!!

    Cheers, Kate x.

  7. I wish we had some sensible people like S running the country for us!
    She sounds so sensible and wise, and I am so glad she has you in her life to guide her wherever/whenever she needs help.

  8. completely agree with the first comment ! Common sense has no substitute ! And as cliched as it may not common at all !


  9. really!! these uptown women get on my nerves...seen so many of them who are like..sitting in a compartment and while searching for one's coach u ask them which coach is this they say "my husband knows"...aarghhhh! Kudos to S!

  10. Thank you for sharing this story. Common sense is better then education. I have known a number of well educated people - that had no common sense.
    So happy she has you in her life.
    You are good, wise and thoughtful.

  11. Darlene Absolutely agree....

    CA Yes, she is a wonderful lady ...

    Starry Thank you. Very happy about the good news in her family...

    Sandhya Yes, this is the same lady. Observing her and her life is like going to a life university ! And none of the designer ladies are a patch on her...

    UmaS Your "Hi!" conveyed....Thank you..

    Kate Yes, All those politicians can learn a lot from her ...

    Dipali It teaches me so much helping S solve some problem. Keeps one grounded...

    Kavi Since "deficit" is in fashion today, maybe we can raise a stink and make a fuss about "common sense deficit" ...?

    Reema Sometimes I think they do it on purpose. To them , richness is all about someone having someone to run your own brain....

    OWJ Thank you !