Cause, Then Cure

Experts have taken from the Book ‘Wise and Otherwise – A Salute to Life!” by Sudha Murty.

Travelling opens the doors to knowledge. Without it, education is incomplete. Our country is special in so many ways. It has many states, each with a different language, traditions, customs, flora and fauna. Travelling within India itself gives you the feel and the pleasure of visiting different countries.

If you travel by bus or by second class in a train, then you’ll meet people from different backgrounds. It is particularly pleasurable to converse with one’s fellow passengers on a bus or a train. I discover this often—like the time I was travelling from Bangalore to Hubli by a day train. Normally in such trains we don’t require reservations. We can enjoy the view of nature and also have the pleasure of meeting various kinds of people.

I boarded the train at 2.30 p.m. in Bangalore and was supposed to reach Hubli by 10 p.m. I was alone and was tired after having worked almost continuously on a project for the previous two days. Rest was what I needed most at that time.

I occupied a window seat, stretched my legs and settled down to doze. Just then, someone entered the compartment and sat down beside me. It was a young woman, about twenty-five years old, dressed in a cotton sari. Probably she had come at the eleventh hour and had to run to catch the train, for she was perspiring. She wore no ornaments or any other adornment. She was evidently from an average middle-class family.

She settled down, took out a handkerchief and started wiping her face, looking into the mirror attached to her purse. She drank some water and then looked at me. She reminded me of an enthusiastic, well-prepared student going for an examination. She smiled at me in a friendly way. She seemed ready to start a

 

conversation.

The inevitable opening question came first. ‘Where are you going?’ ‘Hubli,’ I said

‘Where in Hubli?’

I was hesitant to give her any details, but I found myself replying, ‘Vishweshwaranagar. Do you know where that is?’

‘Sort of,’ she said casually.

‘I am going to the Shanti Colony.’

‘Where in Shanti Colony?’ she wanted to know. ‘Because there are two Shanti Colonies.’

I was taken aback by her knowledge of the area. ‘Near the railway lines.’ ‘Both are near railway lines. Is it north or south?’

‘North,’ I clarified.

I thought I had satisfied her curiosity and that there would be no further questions. Now I looked forward to some rest. I am by nature a friendly and outgoing person, and I love talking to different people, but in the train that day I was tired and wasn’t in the mood for conversation. But the girl did not think the conversation was over.

‘Do you work?’ she began again.

Expecting further probing, I decided to give her all the details right away. ‘Yes, I work in a college and now I have holidays. I belong to Hubli so I am going there.’

If I thought that would satisfy her, I was mistaken. She smiled and said, ‘Oh, I see! So you are a professor. What subjects do you teach?’

People who are fond of talking can raise a conversation out of nothing.

Introverts, on the other hand, can answer in monosyllables and end a conversation quickly. Some people use conversation to gather a great deal of information about others without divulging any information about themselves. I realized that this young woman belonged to such a category. My sleep and irritation disappeared. I decided to play this game and find out how many questions she could generate.

‘I teach computer science at Christ College.’

‘Oh, computers! There is no place without a computer nowadays. A day may come when we might be called illiterate if we do not know computers. What do you say?’

 

I had begun to appreciate her ability to invent questions and pull me into the conversation.

‘It depends on how you interpret the concept of literacy,’ I answered like a management consultant.

She responded with a comment, ‘I strongly believe that there is a great difference between being literate and being educated. Literacy means having the basic knowledge, being educated means understanding what you know. What do you think about this definition?’

I was in a fix to understand this woman. By this time, the train had crossed Bangalore city limits and was heading towards Tumkur. I could see the beautiful landscape passing by. It was just after the monsoon, so the lakes were full and the land was green. The weather was pleasant and no air conditioning or fans were required. Men and women were working in the fields. Cattle were grazing. Hills loomed majestically against the sky. Though it was late afternoon, the sun was not hot.

I thought that if this lady were to go on talking, then it would be impossible to bear the six to seven hours that were left of my journey. One way to save the situation was to tell her politely but firmly that I wanted to rest and would prefer to be left alone. But somehow I was unable to be frank with her. She looked so innocent. She was bubbling with energy. Her face had an open and curious expression. She looked just like one of my eager students in class. As a teacher, I did not have the heart to rebuff her by saying what was on my mind. So, I smiled.

‘Smiling is good for health,’ the young girl filled the silence promptly. ‘When you smile the world smiles with you. But when you weep you have to weep alone. Isn’t that true?’

‘It’s a good quotation,’ I said, now resigned to my fate.

‘But it’s not my statement. This is one of Amitabh Bachchan’s dialogues. Do you like Amitabh?’

I thought I would surprise her. ‘No, I like Hrithik Roshan.’

‘Yes, he is extremely handsome,’ she agreed, switching her loyalty from Amitabh to Hrithik in a matter of seconds. ‘Hrithik looks handsome because there is a shade of shyness on his face. When there is no shyness on a young boy

 

or girl’s face, they look rather bland. Don’t you think Akshaye also has a similar shyness?’

‘Which Akshay?’ All this time, I was answering her questions. Now, I found myself asking a question. I was getting drawn into a conversation without even realizing it. Conversation is like a whirlpool. You can get sucked into it unwittingly.

‘Don’t you know Akshaye? I mean, Akshaye Khanna, not Akshay Kumar.

Akshaye Khanna is the son of Vinod Khanna by his first marriage. He has acted in Taal opposite Aishwarya Rai. Akshay Kumar is the one who recently got married to actress Twinkle Khanna.’

Her knowledge of the film industry was extensive.

A slight headache, which I had had since that morning, began to recur now.

Was it the incessant talking? If one question from me could bring forth so much by way of an answer, then by the time we reached Hubli, I would be too exhausted to do any work. For a full hour and a half, she had been asking questions or talking nonstop. My headache bore witness to it.

Enough was enough, I thought. I decided to be frank with her and tell her that I wanted to catch up on my sleep. My head was throbbing by now and my hands went instinctively to my forehead to massage it.

‘Are you not feeling well?’ she asked with concern when she noticed this. ‘Well, I had a headache in the morning,’ I said. I didn’t tell her that it had

increased due to her incessant questions.

‘Do you have any medicine with you?’ she enquired. ‘No.’

She opened her handbag and gave me a bottle of balm. ‘This is a new product

—Neeranjana Balm. It is extremely good for headaches. You will feel fresh and nice after using it. It is scented and also removes all body aches. It is a non- greasy ayurvedic preparation. Less expensive than branded balms but more effective. If you buy it in bulk there is a discount. This is a sample piece.’

Now it was my turn to be curious. ‘Where are you working?’ I asked. ‘I am a salesgirl for Neeranjana Balm,’ she smiled.

Yes, smiling is indeed good for one’s health.