“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving”.

                                                       -Albert Einstein, Theoretical Physicist (1879-1955)

At some point in our lives many us have spent some time to introspect to know more about ourselves (though some fortunate ones might have never done), especially when things don’t work the way we wanted. Those who have done self introspection may not realise the truth that the inner world is as complicated as the external world, more so in this era of technology, as mind gets cluttered with variety of information and huge data. In other words, managing the mind is getting more complicated than the body. No wonder it is said, Ignorance is bliss!

Post 1970s with the beginning of globalisation process, the intensity of geo-politics and geo-economics have considerably increased over the last five decades. Thus, constantly emerging global issues of varied nature, apart from the several local issues, thanks to the media which sensationalise them, affect the human minds either directly or indirectly.  Hence, there is an increased need to introspect to know more about ourselves with respect to our own capabilities, immediate family members’ capabilities, support that we get from relatives / friends and the environment in which we live, to remain stable/ calm as long as we are alive.

It was during this early period of globalisation process, 1973 to be exact, that I graduated in Electronics and Communication engineering from the University College of Engineering, Bangalore. Having born in a typical Indian Middle-class joint family system, my main objective was to settle down in a job, as my father was retiring three years hence, and I had three siblings younger to me, who have to establish themselves, in terms of education and employment. I was fortunate that I could get through all the competitive processes of written exam, group-task and interview to get placed in a well-established Public-sector company as Research and Development engineer within a short period after graduation. In the interim period of seven months I was employed in a Private company.

By the time I graduated, I had several set-backs to my health off and on, apart from break in my schooling for a couple of years due to my father’s transferable job. At that age, I was not really worried about either. I had books for my company and always found a few peers in the neighbourhood to play. Also I did not have any great aspiration to achieve something in my life. It was hence, easy for me to carry on with my life. Another important aspect of my nature that helped me during my younger years was that I have never been competitive, but focussed more on the process rather than the outcome. Even while playing games, I recall that I never played to win, but enjoyed just playing.

I was mostly influenced by my family elders during the initial years, though I was attracted to do what my peers in the neighbourhood were doing. However, during examination time, I’d become serious as I considered  moving  on to next year atleast with a first class (> 60%)  is my duty, lest it may tarnish my family’s good image.

When I reflect, I am able to understand that I was greatly influenced by my paternal grand-mother Kaveriammal (1888-1984), among my elders. Kaveri was born in Sholingapuram in the erstwhile Madras State as the eldest child of Thiruvengatachar (1864-1917) and Kamalammal (1872-1935) and was named after the river Cauvery as her birthday coincided with 18th day of Aadi (Tamil month falling during mid July to mid August) which happens to be a festival day – Aadi Perukku. The festival is celebrated with traditional fervour (this year it was on 3rd August). On this day, many including newly married couple perform pooja in gratitude to water bodies, especially river Cauvery[1]. During this festival season, the river is full and provides nourishment to the crops and the farmers enjoy a surplus harvest.

Two year old Kaveri migrated along with her parents to Nellore[2] in 1890, as her father got a teacher’s job in a Primary school. From her very young years, Kaveri was fearless, outspoken and honest. When she was just nine years old, studying in third standard, there was a routine inspection in her school. An officer from the department of education, a stern looking and well-dressed gentleman entered her class with a few teachers in tow.  He pointed out to a girl and asked a question which she was unable to answer. When the inspector made a snide remark about the student’s inability to answer, Kaveri stood up and said, “Sir, if you ask a question from a chapter that we haven’t learnt yet, how will anyone be able to answer it? Ask a question after finding out what we have studied and also speak a little slower. Then you’ll get the answer”. Saying so, she gave the right answer to the question that he had posed. The inspector was pleasantly surprised and said, “Gosh, whose daughter is this?” and was informed that she is daughter of head-master of the school.

On another occasion, her class teacher gave an offhand assignment to the students and went off to sleep. Kaveri stealthily walked up to the chair and tied the tuft of hair to the backrest of the chair. By the end of the hour when the teacher awoke, there was a strong tug of his hair. It took some time for him to untangle and seething with anger he roared, “Who did this?” There was pin drop silence for a while. Before he could repeat the question, Kaveri stood up and said, “I did it.” The teacher angrily retorted, “How dare you, I will complain to the Head-master.” Kaveri replied, “I am the one who will do the complaining. Instead of teaching us, you are sleeping in the class. Is this the right thing to do?” After coming to know that she is daughter of Head-master of the school, the teacher sheepishly walked out.

Kaveri was married to Srinivasachar (1880-1942) in 1899 and started her family life at Bangalore from 1902. All through her life, my grand-mother had a strong sense of dharma and would never hesitate speaking her mind. Though she had studied only up to fourth standard, all her five younger brothers who were academically well qualified for that era (post-graduates / graduates) and her only son-in-law holding a high position (Chief Engineer of a British Company), respected her just for this trait – upholding dharma always.

I have this trait of being fearless and outspoken, perhaps because of my grand-mother.


[1] Cauvery river rises at Talakaveri on the Brahmagiri range in the Western Ghats in Karnataka at an elevation of about 1341 m and flows for about 800 km before its outfall into the Bay of Bengal.

[2] Nellore is situated 175 KMs north of Chennai.


October 2nd, 2023 | Ravi 63