Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tomato Inspector

Scientists define memory as an organism's ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences.  Psychologists have been studying this aspect and efforts have been made since a long time to enhance memory in human beings.  A new branch of neurology called "Cognitive Neuroscience" has come into existence and many studies are being conducted to analyze human brain and interpret the concept.

We often hear people telling that somebody has a good memory or someone has a poor memory.  Which is good?  To have a good memory or poor memory?  People with poor memory envy those with good memory. Because poor memory puts them into many awkward situations. People with good memory are envious of people with bad memory. Surprised?  People with bad memory can get away with a lot of things blaming the things on their bad memory.  Persons with good memory do not have this luxury.  They have to bear the burden of their good memory.  Nobody accepts their mini blunders even if it is due to occasional bout of bad memory.

My firm and considered opinion is that memory is like blood pressure.  High blood pressure is a source of concern.  Low blood pressure is even more worrisome. Nil blood pressure is certain death.  Blood Pressure in the required limits is an indication of good health.  What is the required zone for memory?  Difficult to say.  Certain things are better forgotten.   The more you remember them, the more you suffer.  Certain things are better remembered.  If forgotten, they land us in trouble.  And of course, we know many instances where people make a long narration of how somebody ill-treated them  and yet how graciously they have forgiven and forgotten that.  And each time they narrate the issue, they always end it by saying how they have forgotten it!   And of course, conveniently forgetting things is a very fine art.  We can all identify many such veterans around us.  May be, we can even find the names in each others list. 

My earliest memory is of when I was about six years old.  We lived in a place called Singasandra, a small village between Ramanagaram and Kanakapura,  60 Kilometers from Bangalore.  The village was about ten minutes walk from the banks of the river Arkavati.  To catch a bus to either of the two towns one had to cross the river and go to the Ramanagaram-Kanakapura road.  There were only two buses making a total of four trips.  If a bus is missed, you have to wait for 3 or 4 hours.  Bicycle was a luxury and only few people had them.  Walking was the most common mode of transport as everybody had legs, except the few lame fellows.  People were comfortable walking six or eight miles without a murmur.  No surprise, most of the people were healthy and happy with this arrangement.

My father was the head master of the village school.  The school was situate outside the village and had a small area in front of the school building, say 80 feet by 100 feet, and was used by the children as play ground.  Next to the school building was a large area of uneven, rocky land with wild growth of bushes and ant hills.  Snakes were often found in this area.  My father was from an agricultural background and always interested in gardening. He met the local village leaders and impressed on them to clean the adjoining waste land and allow children to use it as a play ground.  This would give them access to a bigger play ground as well as remove the fear of wild growth and snakes in the adjoining land.  The area in front of the school can be converted to a garden and children could also be taught horticulture, in a practical way.  His approach convinced the local people and they agreed to the arrangement.  One Sunday was fixed for the cleaning work.  All the villagers came with pickaxes, crowbars and sickles.  It became a mass program and by evening the new playground was ready.  Decks were cleared for the garden in front of the school building.

My father was often assisting the local farmers in their interaction with government authorities, especially revenue department as there were no educated persons in the village.  He was also conducting evening classes for the illiterate under "Adult Literacy Programme". He was able to procure good quality seeds and manure for the school garden.  Water was arranged from the nearby agriculture fields.  A beautiful garden came up with many short term vegetables crops and papaya trees with in a year. There was good supply of Brinjal, Beans, Radish and Greens.  Pumpkins and Bitter Gourd were also there. This exercise became quite famous in the entire taluk and was quoted as an example of practical and fruitful education to children.

After two years my father was transferred to a bigger school on the main road, about two miles away, and we shifted to the bigger village.  Three days after  our moving to the new place, one evening an Inspector came to our house.  In those days the highest official of the Education department in the taluk or tehsil was called "Inspector of Schools".  It seems he went to inspect the school in Singasandra and reached late.  The school was closed and he could only see the garden. He walked to the main road and was told that the last bus had gone and he has to wait till the next morning.  There was no concept of hotels or lodge in the villages.  He inquired with the villagers and ended up at our house by late evening.  My  mother and father had a quiet discussion about the guest. It was difficult to keep a senior official overnight with us due to lack of amenities in the small village house.  My mother made quick Uppittu (Upma) and served him with slices of large Tomatoes brought from the village school garden which were still available after three days.  He probably did not have anything to eat since morning and relished the Upma and tomatoes very much.  He asked for some more slices of tomato and praised the school garden and tomatoes.

The problem of keeping him overnight remained.  My father thought of an idea.  There was an express bus by name "Rajalakshmi Bus Service" running between Tumkur and Kanakapura passing through our village around 9 PM.  This bus was not stopping in the village.  My father was helping the Bus Owner in tax matters and RTO issues and the Bus owner had issued instructions to all his bus drivers and conductors that my father should be allowed free travel in all his buses and should be given a seat at all times.  He took the Inspector to the main road, waited for the bus and stood in the middle of the road as the bus approached the village.  The driver stopped the bus and shouted at the person standing in the middle of the road.  Then he identified the person and expressed his regrets.  The inspector was put on the bus and proceeded to Kanakapura.

Whenever the Inspector met my father thereafter, he would sing praises of the Uppittu and Tomatoes.  Though he was an "Inspector of Schools", because of his love for Tomatoes and often praising them, he came to be known in our household as "Tomato Inspector".


  1. Your thoughts , please, on two other aspecs related to memory:
    * Convenient memory and Forgive but not forget

  2. vey nice one indeed to have such memories

  3. Just having good memory is not enough narrating so well needs a special talent, you have that.

  4. kudos for the excellent narration!

  5. Now we know about Tomato Inspector, probably
    whenever we see a tomato we might be reminded
    of this well narrated real experience from good memory. Thanks. (UR)