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I just returned after a three day sojourn in a remote village in Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu, India. For three days, I was without my blackberry and laptop. It was a strange feeling, the first emotion was panic, what will happen if I am not connected. I realised that my uncle who lived here had never used a mobile phone.
My uncle’s family had one land line telephone, no television, no washing machine, no fans, no gas, no shower, no western toilet, no dining table, no automobile. What did they use, a bicycle, chimney, firewood, coal, plantain leaves, freshly plucked vegetables, fresh milk from the cow yonder on the backside, thick curd or yoghurt, healthy outdoor living, with lot of menial and physical labour.
I looked at my uncle who is about 60 years old, strong and sturdily built, gentle in nature, affable personality, ever smiling, ready to help others. A life of hardship spent outdoor in the fields, toiling and sweating. Patience is an ornament which he wore very comfortably, peace was his nature, tranquility his possession. While he was predictable, there was a stability.
My consternation at the lack of amenities, connectivity, comforts I was used to, in the first few hours of my arrival were slowly replaced by positive feelings, thanks to the magnificent calmness, the quietude, time stood still, the heartbeat and pulse slowed down. The air was pure, invigorating aroma of flowers, leaves, the gentle flow of the river in the backyard of the house, the green cover all around, chirping of a variety of birds, was music to the ears.
I decided to go with my uncle to the field. After a delicious and sumptuous breakfast, we decided to leave for the day’s work. We started walking, my uncle with a dhoti, sickle in hand, bare footed, myself in gum boots, sling bag, sun glasses, jeans, cotton shirt, mineral water bottle etc.,We should have walked about 20 minutes through a thick forest area with dense foliage, my uncle continuously updating me on the various activities, I was sweating profusely and feeling uncomfortable with my gum boots.
We reached the lush green fields, my uncle called out to his agricultural farm hands and they discussed the strategy for the day, after issuing the necessary directions to each and every one, my uncle removed his shirt, hung it on a tree, fixed his dhoti in such a way so that he could get into the field and do the work with them. I was lying on a hammock and looking at the activities. The next three hours saw strenuous menial and hard labour in the fields. Every one of them working furiously under the merciless sun, I under the cool confines of a huge banyan tree sipping coconut water.
Come lunch time, all the farm hands moved towards the tree, after washing their hands and feet in a nearby rivulet, they all settled down to a simple and hearty meal of rice gruel with green chillies. I barely had any appetite for I had not done anything. I then realized that in our corporate life where we step out of the home into an car, work in air-conditioned offices, sit at laptops, meetings, discussions, brainstorming, grab sandwiches, drink endless cups of tea or coffee, on the way home eat some more junk food and finally after being mentally exhausted drop into the bed and sleep.
The three days, taught me the value of hard work, simplicity, humility, tolerance, patience, forbearance, cooperation, acceptance of nature’s all pervasiveness, contentment with status-quo, tranquility, peace of mind and an inner joy. I am still trying to retain it, as I am heading for the office in the car…
write by Thomas Kyles