Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Hemantha Kalam - 23 'Native Wisdom!'

As I was pondering on the subject for my next blog, a chance exchange of a couple of messages, over the Facebook, on ‘wisdom’ between me and Prof. Anandswarup Gadde, Australia, triggered a subject for this blog.

Tempered with Common Sense and Experience ‘Wisdom’ is effective outlook, good judgment, knowledge imparted and received through ages, towards planning a right and effective plan of action.

In my humble opinion, wisdom quotient is embedded in every person though, might be, in different levels. Thus the wisdom of an uneducated person could be much more than that of an educated person and / or vice versa too.

I wish to write on three examples now; two of them passed on over ages as adages and fables and the last one – an experience of my own.

In all these cases, the protagonists are not educated but experienced.

In Telugu, my mother tongue, we have a saying ‘Chaduvukunna vaadi kante Chaakali vaadu nayam’. Freely translated into English, it says that a ‘launderer is better than an educated man’. Now this adage is a representation of age old wisdom of the natives and so I wish to call this as ‘Native Wisdom’

While the forecasts and predictions, of the meteorological department, with all their education and equipment is quite off the mark many a time, and vary on the veracity, the prediction of weather by a launderer, on seeing his donkey’s activities, was considered more reliable.

In India, for a very long time, the launderers used, and in several rural places even today use, the donkey, for carrying the load of dirty and soiled clothes to the waterfronts to clean and wash the clothes.

As the washed clothes needed drying in sunlight, the launderer needs to know when the sun will be available and when the rain is likely to occur. For this, he keeps observing the donkey’s activities and understands the weather conditions by the change in the donkey’s moods and movements.

The fable goes that one day a launderer warns his villagers to harvest or cover their paddy fields as rain is expected in the afternoon. The village’s learned men predict that being not a rainy season, there cannot be any rain in the following days. The launderer completes his washing and drying in the morning itself and returns home from work before the afternoon. And rain, indeed, falls as forecast by the launderer on that day afternoon itself, inundating the farms and resulting in the loss of crop and grain. The launderer explains that his donkey always bends its tail in a peculiar way and stiffens its ears a few hours before it rains and it has never done this otherwise.

So his ‘native wisdom’ is derived from observation and experience.

The second fable is also about rain.

In a court of a king, the country’s designated astrologer dies and a need to fill the position is created. The king arranges for the testing of several astrologers for the post and finally two are short-listed.

On behalf of the king, the minister administers the final test of asking the astrologers to predict what will happen in the afternoon. One astrologer says that though at present the atmosphere is dry and clear, by noon slowly clouds will form and by afternoon there will be a stormy atmosphere with incessant rain. He even predicts that a dead white fish would be seen floating at the main entrance of the court. The second astrologer also confirms the same but adds that the fish to be found would not be white but slightly brownish in colour and it would not be found at the main entrance of the court but a few feet away from the main entrance.

As predicted, the weather changes, the rain occurs and a dead fish, brown in colour would be found a few steps away from the main entrance of the court.

The second astrologer would be declared winner of the two and is appointed as the Court’s astrologer. The first astrologer approaches the winner and asks him what went wrong with his prediction. The second one answers, ‘nothing but lack of common sense’ He says the fish that was seen is indeed white in color and was originally at the entrance only. But because of the heavy rainfall it floated a few feet away from the entrance and in the process got dirty and acquired the brown tinge.

Here, the emphasis is on the need of education to be combined with common sense.
Now, my own experience!

In one of my assignments, I was the General Manager – Marketing and Sales of Security equipment such as CCTVs, Spy Cameras, Image Recorders, Voice Pens and what not? All these, when most of India was not even aware of such products!

The promoters and my bosses were frugal in education but much rich in business experience. So much so, that they could see a niche in products and could really make a very good business out of it, as pioneers.

When I used to approach my immediate boss Fakhribhai, for a discount, beyond my authority, for a customer, he used to ask me why I am recommending it. If I said that the discount is likely to bind a customer with us for a longer time or that I can ensure larger quantity of sale, he used to consider the merits and decide on the quantum of discount, if he is willing to allow.

If I say that the customer is a small customer and he cannot afford the prices, he used to say, ‘GM saab, agar aapko dhanda karna hai to aap daftar ko dimaag leke aana, dil ghar mein rakh kar. Aur jab waapas ghar jaten hain, tab dimaag ko daftar me rakh kar dil ko leke jaana’ In English it means, ‘when you come for business / office leave your heart at home and bring only your mind and when you return home leave your mind here and take home only your heart’.

How true and sensible? This comes out of an experienced outlook.

Nowadays, sadly though, we tend to notice that as more and more educated we are and more and more structured our thinking is becoming, the common sense, on which the native wisdom is based on - sharing with experience though, is being affectively eclipsed. And we are becoming more mindful and less hearty at our homes.

Isn't it? What do you think?

You tell me! 

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Thanks (English), Dhonyabaad (Bangla), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai) and Asante (Kiswahili).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

Chennai, India


  1. Sir...well said..... conventional wisdom has its place, will always have its place in any form of advancement be it for scientific, personal or for the entire mankind. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I think even I can relate it to my own wisdom...it reminds me of the lyrics from the famous song By Bon Jovi " Blaze of Glory ..."You ask If I'll grow to be a wise man
    Well I ask if I'll grow old "

    1. Thanks so much dear Rithwik, for sharing your kind thoughts!

      It is people like you and responses such as yours that keep me going on writing my blogs, doggedly though, every fortnight.

      Thanks a lot, indeed, for reading and responding!

  2. Sir,
    A Classic Example of Native Wisdom:
    Before the out break of Psunami at Andaman And Nicobar Islands, the aborigines/ Natives of the land visualized that something is going to happen and hence all climbed to higher places and escaped. The so called Educated did not follow the Nature and met with all Calamities.
    T Ramanathan. Madurai.

    1. Thank you so kindly for your response and thoughts Mr. Thenappan.

      Thank you for your time and for patronising my blog and my averments! :-)

  3. Wisdom is explained aptly with a Telugu proverb, a story( it transported me back to Candamama reading days) and an anecdote. I got hooked to your blog. I shall go through your previous postings. Thank you!

  4. Thank you so much for your encouraging and kind words Narayana Rao garu. It is only words like these that make my work a reality and worthwhile!

    Thank you indeed! :-)

  5. Shared this write up with the group in my Facebook account. Thank you.