It is said that if you are young and not a communist, then you don’t have a heart. And if you are old and still a communist, then you don’t have brains.
A few days back I met an old man with good brains. He was sitting on a bench in Jheel Park at Delhi. He looked gentle. The culmination of years of experience was sparkling in his eyes. I don’t remember how I started that conversation with him, but it spanned from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. The only things I remember are:-
Him: How do you find Delhi? For a Malayali it must be quite an experience.
Me: Delhi is good. It is totally different from Kerala. Lot of historical places…the people…they love to eat and celebrate.
Him: So you like the food in Delhi? It must be tough for you to tune in with the masala tea of Delhi.
Me: Yes. I was having real trouble getting adjusted to the food. But now I started cooking myself.
Him: Achha! What all do you cook? Sambar?
Me: Oh! Not sambar. I’ve just started learning. Sambar takes a lot of time and effort. Lots of things which are easy to eat are very hard to make. So now I am in terms with Upma. It is very easy to make, so even if try to prepare something else like sambar, this Upma pulls me back into the pit. But I like it. It is pretty and sweet.
Him: Wow. That’s an interesting relationship.
Me: Yes. But it is very much demanding and strict. If I don’t obey what it is asking you will be having ‘pain’ in the end. Sometimes I can relate my fellowship with Upma. There are lot of deadlines and commitments.
Him: Well in that case I can tell you something the great writer Dostoevsky said about a similar situation. He had a deal with his editor that if he fail to complete a Novel within few months, all his future works will be the property of his editor. But he didn’t write a single page and the deadline was near.
Me: Oh. What did he say about this?
Him: Compelling a man to complete a work of art is just like asking a flower-bud to bloom within seconds.
Me: Now that is something I can relate to. Well, there are lots of buds in the garden still to bloom.
Him: So how is your work?
Me: As of now my job is to watch films and winnow down the best ones.
Him: Movies are a great source of knowledge, a mirror of society. What do you learn from those which you watch?
Me: Aah! I am learning a great deal of things from them. Most of them are about environmental issues around the world. Some movies are typical, some don’t make any sense and some are captivating like the salt flats of Bolivia, Lion hunting in Africa…things like that.
Him: Seems like you like your work.
Me: Of course I do.
By that time, the sun was setting behind the Dadi-Poti tombs. That was a different picture for me who has only seen the sun fiercely kissing the Arabian Sea. When I said goodbye to him, and got up from the bench, he was still looking at that setting sun as if he was having a silent conversation with it. Then he told me “I think you have to learn to use the form ‘an’ before vowels”.
Me: I didn’t get what you said.
Him: It is not Upma. It is “an upma”.
“The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is a man who calls himself a fool at least once a month.” Fyodor Dostoevsky