Posts Tagged ‘ignorance’


October 25, 2011

The Betel Leaf

Once a well educated botanist approached Kanchi Maha Periyava and out of ignorance,
asked ‘Why is betel leaf called ‘Vettrilai’ in Tamizh.

Maha Periyava non-challantly replied, ‘The betel vine does not have flowers, nor does it
bear fruits. It has merely leaves (’verum ilai’) and so is the name ‘vettrilai’ !

The botanist hung his head as he did not even realize this simple fact!

Did you read the story? OK, good!

Now…what struck me about this story was the extreme schadenfreude of it. When we see someone learned, or rich, or otherwise endowed with breeding or looks, we seem to take great pleasure in somehow bringing them down. We need to somehow know that they are not as learned or wealthy or handsome or well-bred…that they have their weak points.

But truly…is it possible for everyone to know every thing? Why is it a matter of shame that a “well-educated botanist” does not know the meaning of the name “vettrilai”? After all, he didn’t know, and he asked his spiritual guru about it. What is the shameful thing about this, and why is so pleasing to us that he should hang his head in shame? There may be several (million) “simple facts” that the very learned may not know….is ignorance, by itself, a matter of shame? Does our respect for learning have to be tinged with scorn for not knowing something?

When one does not *want* to learn, that, I feel, might be a matter for shame or scorn (though I would even disagree with that. I don’t want to learn quantum physics, or the details of grafting plants, for example…and I am not ashamed of this!) ..or if one claims to know something and then displays ignorance of it, perhaps that is shameful…but to crow over the momentary lapse of a noted person is surely, to me, a mark of mean-mindedness and intolerance….a form of a “superiority complex” which places ourselves, for that moment, above the knowledge of that particular learned person, or that plutocrat, or that film star….I am uncomfortable with this need to drag down our eminent people to below our level.

How many people (who are not TamBrams or Tamil Brahmins) know that the “Kanchi Maha Periyava” referred to above, is, to be precise, Shri Chandrashekarendra Saraswathi, erstwhile pontiff of the Kanchipuram Peetam of Shankaracharya? And if they don’t know “even this simple fact”, is it a matter of shame?

Well…what do you think? I feel ignorance, in itself, is NOT a matter of shame. It only means…there is something more to be learnt. And surely that is true for all of us, all the days of our lives.

Diapers…Maturity…Wisdom….Lots of Each Required….

April 7, 2009

I am absolutely *petrified*…just barely able to move my fingers to type this post of my fears….

I made do with cloth diapers all through my daughter’s infancy; there were no alternatives then. I was envious when the disposable diapers came into being, and wished they had been there when I had my baby. Never mind, I thought, one day, as a grandmother, perhaps I will benefit from the convenience they represent.


I reckoned without the “what goes around comes around” factor. Now, disposable diapers are a big ecological no-no, and cloth diapers are the green (er, sometimes literally, if the baby is having loose motions!) and responsible way to go.

So I am back to the prospect of diapers, diaper pails, washing, drying, folding…oh, the works, that I was SO glad to get away from all those years ago….

I have not yet come to stuff like baby formula, pacifiers, humidifiers or the millions of other details….

I realized that I had forgotten some of my diaper-origami (more precisely, how to fold a diaper so that there is a pad of cloth down the centre.) And I found myself googlind nappy-folding sites….

Oh my goodness, I am overwhelmed. How on earth am I going to come by the store of knowledge and wisdom and maturity and patience and expertise that I am supposed to have as a grandmother? I am a TOTAL ignoramus. My daughter and son-in-law, I think, are going to send me home in disgrace in just a short while. And this, if I am successful in not dropping the baby….

Well, everything is on the internet these days, so I am probably be going to be holding The Baby in one hand and the mouse in the other.

Must email Nirmala, a friend of mine who recenly became a grandmother, and is doing a great job with her grandson, about lots of details….

For a long time now, the word “nappy” stood, in my vocabulary, for a short form of the name “Napoleon”…that’s about to change soon.

Also…with my baby, it was MY baby, and I did what I wanted to do…but with The Baby, it’s someone else’s baby, and I must do what the parents want, which may not be the same thing as what I want! For example, they may not want me to take a short cut to peace and quiet with a pacifier (I did that with my baby, until she started having one pacifier in her mouth, one in each hand, and also started dropping one, or all, of them and demanding instant replacement…at one time I was buying pacifiers by the dozen!)

If you lot read a news item in a few months about “grandmother banished back in disgrace from the US by disgusted parents of infant”…that would be…ME!

Is this helpless little one going to be, one day, the kind of confident and self-assured young woman that my daughter is today? I look back and realize what a miracle has been achieved!

Invented a word

October 16, 2007

…after the last post, I invented a word.Remember you saw it here first.

Ignoscenti, n.(pl.) those who are ignorant about something and quite happy to be in that state; (opp, cognoscenti.)

Well, actually, I shouldn’t be giving the definition of the word, if I am an ignoscentus…!I should be ignorant of it…