| Understanding the Illiterates|
Context: A couple of days ago I wondered how the
people in India who cannot read or write, compute
and conduct business.
Many years ago, Saver Fernandes was an employee (we called him a servant then,
but that's another story) in my family's cloth shop in rural India.
One day Saver showed me the label of a garment and asked me to read the brand name, which I did
and asked him why he had asked me to read.
He smiled and told me that he didn't know how to read!
It blew my mind. Saver had been with us many many years and constantly
had to deal with brand names, product names, sizes, and reading of packaging (without
opening them). There's no way he could do his job without being able to
read. But amazingly, he was able to cope up with the job without anyone
ever suspecting! I then asked him how he distinguished a Bombay Dyeing suit
from a Raymonds Suit (or size 8 from size 6 for that matter). He told me that it was
all intuition and experience.
At that time I thought that he was kidding me and had asked him to read numerous printed matter in the
shop (brand names mostly), which he could, but could not read the newspaper except
for the name of the newspaper.
Few days after this incident, we received a large consignment of undergarments from
Erode in Tamil Nadu (topics), all of them packaged with instructions (product names, sizes)
in Tamil language. What was the supplier thinking? No one can read Tamil
in the town of Honavar!
But see, for an illiterate, Tamil language is same as English or any other language!
Saver had no problems whatsoever in dealing with the different
product names or sizes. It was only then I believed that he couldn't read.
BTW, in the later years Saver did banking errands (he used a thumb-print instead
of a signature) for the shop. He also could measure (length of the cloth) and compute (how much it
will cost for 70 centimeters -- the cloth required for a typical blouse worn
by Indian women -- of cloth that sells for 16.50 a meter etc.), without being able to read or write.
Education and intelligence are two different, unrelated entities.
See also: The Bengali Dhobi
-- Righteousness and education are two different, unrelated entities.
|(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)||First Written: Wednesday, December 19, 2001|
Last Modified: 11/27/2003
Tags: desitale, honavar