By C T JOSHI, Senior Journalist, Bengaluru
Mahatma Gandhiji had a little worn-out butt of a pencil. He always used it for writing. He would not buy a new pen or pencil. Nor accept any other offered by others.
He had clung to it, as it was given to him by a little girl with love. With equal love he had cherished her memory by keeping the pencil throughout his life with great care. How could he throw away this symbol of the girl’s love? he would say.
It is such little, down-to-earth traits of character that do make a man great. They show how human he is. And it is humanity and humility that create life-long bonds and make the life — his as well as those around him—lovable and livable. Not wealth or status or perhaps even one’s achievements in life.
There was a BMTC (then BTC) bus conductor Rangappa in Bengaluru. People would skip buses and wait eagerly for his trips.
He was bonhomie in person. Would cut jokes, tell stories and regale his charges with his geniality. It was indeed a pleasure and delight to travel with him.
A bus conductor’s life is not a rose of beds. For eight long hours day after day he is literally on his feet moving in cramped space and jostling with passengers, many of whom often do not understand his plight and are insensitive and unsympathetic to his stress and strain.
For each one of us Rangappa is the role model.
Long back at the traffic square near Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru was a familiar figure, almost a part of its ambience. He was Thimmaiah, a traffic head constable. Tall and well-built with a profusion of curly jet- black mustache, he was called endearingly “meese Thimmaiah” (mustache Thimmaiah). He had a large heart matching with his large body. He never lost his cool. Was ever out to help people, especially the aged and the handicapped. But he was strict and uncompromising in the discharge of his duties.
There is tragic end to his story. Once while on duty at the square, he died cruelly and tragically while trying to save a woman and her child from being run over by a van in 1995 — a prey to our lack of civic sense and responsibility. The square has been named after him, an ordinary cop–something perhaps unheard of in the entire country. It is a mute, eloquent homage to this simple and noble soul.
Thimmaiah–a prey to our lack of civic sense and responsibility
Simple and noble are often dealings between man and man (and woman and woman!). Yet touching and ennobling. Sometimes they are strange, unfathomable and unexplainable. I have myself experienced it.
Once when I was a teenager I was going home from my father’s clinic in my home city of Belagavi in North Karnataka in our car. My father was driving it. On the way there was a big ditch by the road-side. As we reached it, the car screeched to a sudden halt. My father got down to check. I was in the car when suddenly it started moving, swerved to the side and in a moment would have fallen in the ditch. Both I and my father were shocked and helpless. Then, as if out of the blue, an athletic-looking man appeared and stopped the car with his bare but strong arms. We both recovered from the shock and looked around for the saviour. But he had disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared. To this day I do not know who he was.
For students examination time is a trying, testing time—not just examination time. Most of them have exam blues. Because of anxiety and nervousness, they may not do well even though they have prepared well.
How to make them feel at ease and write with confidence? The Education Department of Maharashtra Government had a simple remedy. It arranged to greet students cordially and receive them at exam centres with flowers! How simple and human ! It had a positive impact.
Examinations need not be mechanical, nerve-wracking. They SHOULD be tempered with humanity.
My colleague and veteran journalist S V Jayasheela Rao was humility, humanity and simplicity in human form. But never hesitated to call a spade a spade. He taught me my life’s lesson. Due to a quarrel during my marriage, I had not stepped in my father-in-law’s house for 10 years thereafter. But did not show disrespect when he or his people came to my house. I told Jayasheela Rao of this–proudly as if some achievement–when we had gone together to Karnataka’s district city of Kalaburgi for an election coverage. He scolded me soundly and said “What Joshi. What happened long ago still rankles. Forget it”. His words “you should grow” still ring in my ears. I realised my folly and forgot the past. My wife died more than 10 years ago. My relations with her parents’ family are still close and cordial.
The human bonds can also be negative. At the Shivananda Circle, a major landmark of Bengaluru, a traffic cop used to regulate traffic manually standing in the middle of the circle. That was before automatic traffic lights were installed. Once he had stopped, by waving his uplifted hand, the vehicles coming from a particular direction. Ignoring his directions, many scooterists just whizzed ahead. With utmost patience and restraint, he tried to stop them. But no. They didn’t heed him. Finally he screamed at them in exasperation. So much for our civic sense and responsibility. Should we blame him?
A young pioneering industrialist used to deliver his products himself on his bicycle. What he started as a small engineering unit in a small backwaterish town of Maharashtra is today a major industrial house of the country. Another leading industrialist had stated in his will that his factory should not be closed on his death. And his employees did work as usual in deference to his wish after paying homage to him. In fact six of our global entrepreneurial giants began in dismal-looking, far-from-imposing garages. One IT unit started in a dark and dingy outhouse and grew impressively. What a contrast with these days when showmanship is all that apparently matters.
Small steps taken by tenacious entrepreneurs — to long strides !
Man’s bonds do not–and should not –end with man. They extend to the Nature, especially to the mute
and hapless birds and animals.
There was a conscientious Bengaluran who rounded up stray dogs, kept them in a house specially maintained by him for this purpose and looked after them.
Even today trees and plants are a part of not only our religious but also of social conscientiousness.
The orthodox used to keep food and water for birds outside their houses daily before eating themselves. How wholesome this practice! Today the practice has gone. Birds like crows and sparrows have also gone. Thanks to our “modernity”.
It has become a fashion for many these days to paint our traditions entirely in black. But they had many good and positive aspects. Like the fine gesture to the birds.
Benign human dealings and relationships make way for benign dealings and relationships between castes and religions too. Without man, there is no caste or religion, which is made or marred by him. Countless are its examples. Here is an example of exemplary religious harmony:
A middle-aged woman came from an ultra-orthodox Brahmin family of a small town in North Karna-taka. Orthodoxy was then deep-rooted, all-pervading and had people in its iron grip. Yet, childless, she vowed an offering during the Moharrum if she was blessed with a child. And, lo, she did have a child in a year. Her descendents still recall the incident.