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Vikas Kamat
 Vikas Kamat is a programmer- entrepreneur living in Birmingham AL. This blog is a complex mix of Indian culture, life in southern USA, computer sciences, and sports. Opinions are his own.
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Understanding the Illiterates Durable Link to this BLOG
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

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