Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

97. Wisdom

Now –a - days we all are surrounded by sick people.
Move to any group, and there will be a talk about Blood Pressure, Sugar, Back pain etc.
Even younger generation talks about weakness, fatigue, insomnia, hair loss and stress.

So, when I asked 66 year old Basavannappa (it is funny that he is both Anna and Appa) about his health (just as courtesy), I was surprised by his answer. He suffers from nothing, absolutely nothing. No physical health issues, no mental stress and no social traumas.

Basavannappa is a farmer. He studied only up to fourth standard. He has five daughters, and a son, all happily married now. He owns a small piece of land. No, Basavannappa does not live in isolation. He is not a millionaire; he actually lived Below Poverty Line for most of his life. He is a simple village man but like all simple people he has a philosophy of his own. Importantly he lives according to his philosophy.

Here I have to meet two Self Help Groups (SHGs). When the first group arrives, with welcome and a song the meeting starts. I generally try to understand the context of people’s life. So, I ask various questions pertaining to the village. That generally works as an ice breaker. From easy questions, we will move to more difficult questions – why, how, what results etc.

Surshettikoppa is a village of about 600 families near Hubali in Karnataka. There are different stories about why the village is named Surshettikoppa. According to Basavannappa, earlier (long back in the history) there was a family of Suran Gauda, and then the Shettis came to the village. Both the family grew and lived together in a group (koppa) – hence the village is named as Surshettikoppa.

Somashekhar, a graduate from the village readily disagrees with Basavannappa. However all this disagreement is happening in a very friendly atmosphere. Somashekhar explains that Sur means God and Shetty means firm – the village is a place where Gods have stayed firmly for ages.

There is another story. Some pilgrimagers were going to Valvai to meet the Saint Channa Basaweshwar. They were carrying their luggage on bullock backs. The luggage hanged on both sides of the bullock back. To maintain balance, they had put some stones (this seems to be absurd). When they camped here, they put the stones on the ground. Next morning, when devotees tried to pull the stones back, they could not remove the stones. The stones were firmly rooted in the ground. As a proof of the story, people showed me temple of Brahmalinga, which of course is renovated and is bit modern.

Before the meeting started, Basavannappa anxiously asked, “When will I get time to talk to Madam? I want to give her full information about the work of Federation.” I smiled. I said, “Once this meeting is over, when women go home, I will spend some time with you. Is that alright for you?” He too smiled and accepted.

By the time (after about two hours) the first meeting was over, women from second SHG gathered. Looking at the crowd and their eager faces, Basavannappa asked me, “Madam when are you leaving?”
“Tomorrow evening. Tomorrow morning I am going to Haveri district.” I informed him.
“Alright, I will come today evening at 7.00. Please keep one hour free for me,” he requested and went off.

Evening 7.00 and Basavannapaa is present in the campus. He tries to speak in Hindi initially but turns to Kannada when he has to express his deeper ideas. I have translators with me and anyway, when one speaks from heart, other hardly finds it difficult to understand.

I ask many questions about his Federation – the process, the activities, the challenges, the vision, people’s participation, financial position, the strategies, organizational management and all the usual stuff – usual for me! May be those questions were unusual for Basavannappa. He paused, thought, smiled, frowned, talked, and listened. Both of us clearly enjoyed the discussion.

At the end of the conversation I asked him how his health was. As expressed earlier, he is a healthy man – physically, mentally and socially.

“What is the secret?” I asked seriously.
“The secret Madam is I do everything not from the heart but from a palm-ful* distance,” Basavannappa answered spontaneously.
I was confused.
“Can you explain it? I am unable to understand what you said,” I requested him.
“See Madam, one has to do many things in everyday life. Each one of us has to keep contact with many people. We as human beings have limitations – we like certain things and we don’t like certain things. We are tempted, we get angry, we feel jealous sometimes, and we feel insulted. We have to face situations which we are not ready for. Is it right? Do you agree with me?” he asks.
“Yes, certainly” I fully agree.
“So, I do not do any of these things from the root of my heart. I keep all the things at palm-ful distance – both the joy and the sorrow. It does affect me but very superficially and temporarily. It never affects me to the core. That is why I am a happy person.” Basavannappa was telling the simplest of the truths.

I saluted Basavannappa – not from palm-ful distance, I could not follow his teachings immediately.

Those were the wisest words I have heard so far.

Wisdom can approach you from any corner, only question is whether we are ready for it?
* palm-ful may not be the right English word. If you have anything to suggest, kindly write to me.


  1. Its a wise man's way of doing Nishkaam Karma. The work is important, and anything that hinders that must be kept away. And so he doesnt do things from the bottom of his heart, as he says. But he certainly does a wonderful application of a simple decisive mind.

    I have seen so many simple elderly folks who thrive on this kind of balance and it shows in their very balanced health.

    Very perceptive and educative post.

  2. What a wise man. And in answer to your query ... I guess the right phrase would be "at an arm's length"

  3. such wonderful thoughts rests in simple minds with grand souls ! Inspiring !

    Thanks for sharing !

  4. wow!
    native wisdom at its best!

  5. Ugich Konitari, I agree that is the wise man's way of doing 'NiShkam Karma'. And even modern science tells us about the connection between body and mind.

    Ritu, thanks. But somehow 'arms' length' shows more distance than the what the man was saying...

    Thanks Kavi .. for visiting after a long time...

    magiceye.. 'native wisdom'? I am not sure about the term..

  6. @aativas
    by native wisdom i mean wisdom that is acquired traditionally through people contact and experience,not through formal education (taught in classes via quotations).

  7. Thanks magiceye for clarification. I was wondering whether you were trying to differentiate between 'native' wisdom and 'urban/modern' wisdom. Wisdom is timeless and space less for me. But now I see that we agree on this :-)


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