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"The Tinker, The MBA And The Upholsterer" by Varalotti Rengasamy

Discussion in 'Varalotti Rengasamy's Short & Serial Stories' started by Induslady, Dec 21, 2005.

  1. Induslady

    Induslady Administrator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    The place was silent but for the distant humming of birds and the occasional sound of a hammer hitting the sheet-metal of a car. It was my friend's garage and a freelance tinker had been summoned by him to repair his vintage Benz whose body was smashed beyond recognition in a road accident.

    The tinker was in his fifties and was working all alone. It looked as if he was savouring every strike of his hammer on the metal. He was not actually striking with his hammer; he was gently sculpting the metal. Every blow was just of the required force and was applied at the exact point where the blow was needed. There was an intense concentration in his eyes. His face was aglow with the creative fire. What was unformed marble to Michael Angelo was the car's body to him. He was deeply in love with the metal and it reciprocated the love by bending and turning itself in whatever way he ordered it with his small hammer. He seemed to have the same policy as that of the painter Nicholas Poussin "Whatever was worth doing at all was worth doing well."

    A week later I had to meet another friend of mine, an MBA who was the CEO of a middle-sized company. He was in his thirties a product of a premier business school, a corporate high-flier who had made his millions pretty early. He was fuming and fretting when I went to his room. Obviously someone had messed up some thing and he was shouting at everyone who came in contact with him. He was trying to focus his attention on a 'very important paper' when his phone rang. As he was shouting to someone in the phone, his mobile also rang which he picked up to shout at someone else. It was 7 PM and he said that he would have to stay back at least till Ten every night to catch up with the work on hand.

    Just then his secretary entered the room to remind him of his tablets. 'The price of success' he told me with a wink before he downed half a dozen tablets. After a while I could not bear his tension any longer and with some lame excuse virtually fled the scene.

    I could not help contrasting the tinker and the MBA. Both were doing some honest work and both were sincere in their approach. Both delivered goods and thus contributed to the society. But what a difference! The MBA was just making a living but the tinker was living a life, and a quality life at that, a life overflowing with feelings of creative joy and fulfilment. The MBA had every thing material in life - a posh bungalow filled with all the latest electric and electronic gadgetry, the latest automobile, air-conditioned office, and a huge bank balance to assure these comforts for a long time. The tinker commuted in an old bicycle and lived in a humble dwelling which did not even have a phone connection. While the MBA had all the luxuries of life it was the tinker who was living a luxurious life. The latter was a master of his own time and was not enslaved by an impossible work schedule or brutal competition. He lived one day at a time and did one thing at a time and that was done well. Persons working like the MBA are a common sight; but the likes of the tinker are rare to come by. And I met one of the tinker's tribe in a small upholsterer to whom I had gone for buying a new cushioned seat for my bike. Like the tinker he had made an art of upholstery. He measured the seat base and started cutting the rexine and the sponge. He wielded the scissors like a gifted painter wielding his brush. With a quick movement he cut across the hard rexine cloth and glued the sponge neatly to it. It was a wonderful sight to see him stitching in the sewing machine while remaining in a standing position. Then he temporarily fixed the seat on to the vehicle and asked me to try it. It was a whole lot more comfortable than my old one; but my ego prevented me from accepting his work on the first go. I said that a little more sponge will do better. He promptly cut a wafer-thin sponge sheet and remade the seat. The whole process took twenty minutes and I had a feeling that a good movie was ending rather too soon.

    When I sat on my newly upholstered bike, it was a pleasant experience. I had a strange thought. I had paid the upholsterer the price of the seat. I wanted to make one more gift to him - a gift befitting his superior workmanship. "Why don't you come for a ride with me in my bike? The seat you have made is so good that sentimentally I want to enjoy the comfort for the first time with you on the back. We will go round the street corner and come back. Come, get on to the pillion. " The upholsterer smiled sheepishly and refused my offer. But I insisted and almost dragged him to my bike. It was then he said, "Not that I don't want to go for a ride with a nice person like you. But I can't sit. I have been suffering from piles for the past two years. In spite of two surgeries and a lot of medicines I am still not able to sit anywhere. That's why you saw me standing even while on the sewing machine. So please understand..."

    My God! A person who is in the business of seating everybody comfortably on their bikes and cars cannot sit himself! And that does not prevent him from turning out wonderful work. O God, your ways are inscrutable!

    (Published in DECCAN HERALD)
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  2. meenaprakash

    meenaprakash Silver IL'ite

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    That was a beautiful article.

    Beautiful comparison of the tinker, MBA & upholsterer.

    Whenever I come across the creative bunch of our society, the potter, fabric designer, painter, tailor – I enjoy seeing them work but I do wonder if they really enjoy doing it OR is it a way of life for them?? Wonder what might be their thoughts when they see us????????

    Whenever I visit handicrafts exhibitions, I do purchase few things just keeping in mind the kind of effort put in by the artist; hoping that would encourage him – a small push from my side.

    Once while traveling in the interiors of kerala, the backwaters to be precise, our car was passing by a bridge and I saw a man setting the nets fishing; it was a beautiful sight that I got out the car and spend nearly half-an-hour just watching him spread the net. He smiled at me and continued his job; would have thought how silly I am.

    Sometimes, I do wonder who taught farmers to grow the crops in a line. How long a scale does he need to use if he has to draw a straight line to sow the seeds in a line?

    But the quality of life of these people who make a major difference in our lives is poor.

    The farmer whose effort gives us food, starve.

    The daily workers who spend all their lives constructing huge houses, and bungalows, lives in a hut…

    God’s ways are really inscrutable!

    Nice article, Sridhar.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 21, 2005
  3. varalotti

    varalotti Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Thanks Meena!

    Thanks Meena for your kind and perceptive words. I appreciate your liveliness and concern for these people. But I want to point out a difference. The quality of life for these people - the person who passionately loves what he is doing - like the tinker and the upholsterer in my article or the fisherman in your reply - is very good. Only thing is that the standard of living is poor. I have also seen a few bike mechanics like that. When you take your faulty vehicle to them and you are finished with your complaints, the way the mechanics examine the vehicle as if in a state of penance - its' quite absorbing. Robert M.Pirsig has described this in his classical book Zen and The Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance.
    thanks Meena for the nice words. Next time when you see some one who is fully absorbed in his work, try to observe him without his noticing you. This exercise will give us some much-need life's lessons. And if you have such experience, do write about it in IL.
    regards,
    sridhar
     
  4. rvnachar

    rvnachar Silver IL'ite

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    Tinker and the MBA

    That was a wonderful observation Sridhar. I missed this article in DH. By the way, I am now getting my house renovated and I too was just thinking on similar lines, as I observed an old Muslim man very painstakingly laying random stone cladding on my wall. He enjoys every bit of the work and is totally immersed in the job. He lays stones of irregular shapes in some pattern and the final outcome is a posh looking artwork. As you say, for this simple man, the greatest achievement is the fine finish of a single wall, at a time. Who remembers such great craftsmen while looking at wonderful buildings? All the praise goes to the owner of the building, who only suggested and invested. People praise Shah Jahaan for the wonderful Taj Mahal but rarely do we appreciate the thousands of craftsmen who have created that marvelous piece of art. This is very sad.

    Congrats!
     
  5. varalotti

    varalotti Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Thanks Sudha

    Dear Sudha,
    I am very happy that almost all those who read this article are in concurrence with the ideas. These are the days we praise the money and other appendages - large car, huge office, working in US etc - and we forget the inherent satisfaction we derive from the work. This wrong prioritisation results in diseases, primarily of the soul, then of the mind and also the body. What we gain by doing soulless work we fritter away in medical expenses and live a life with a false sense of security.
    Even if person about to decide on his career takes heed from these words and chooses to do what he loves and not what he ought to then my work would not have gone in vain.
    Thanks for bringing in the nice example of the old man laying wall-tiles. People like him and my tinker are endangered species. And if they become extinct that means disaster to the world.
    sridhar
     
  6. Varloo

    Varloo Gold IL'ite

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    The tinker, the MBA and the Upholsterer

    Dear Varalotti,
    It is sad that nowadays success is measured only in wealth. Many people think that wealthy people are happy or contended. But I have met many people who are financially not well off but who lead a very happy, contended and peaceful life. Whatever we may say, ultimately everyone wants their children to get a good job, get married to nice people and have children and live peacefully. The materials like costly and latest gadgets are useless after a while. I used to listen to old film songs in our transistor and enjoy them till 11 in the night. Now I have a CD player, 2 transisters, one 2-in-1, computer, cd walkman, cassette walkman with radio and lots of old film song cds and cassettes. But now I do not have time to listen. I always remember about the I spent with my close friends talking and singing when the power was not there. Sometimes all this see worthless.
    This applies to humans also. An ordinary man may be very worldly wise than a very learned man. I always make it a point to talk to all types of people irrespective of their status.
    Varloo
     
  7. varalotti

    varalotti Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Thanks for the response, Varloo!

    What you have said is correct but with the following modification. It's not that rich people are neccessarily sad and the poor, happy. It depends on what you do for a living and how you love it. A poor potter who loves his work just gets barely enough to sustain will have a luxurious life. A rich businessman who has everything in life but doesn't like what he does will be unhappy. Ultimately it depends on what we do for a career. Whether we choose what we love to do or choose something for money.
    When it comes to technical gadgets the happiness they give us depend on how we have assimlated them into our lives. It is fairly easy to assimlate a simple gadget like a transistor but very complex when it comes to a 8-speaker 200 watts audio system with graphical equaliser and karoke facility. It may take some time for assimlation and once the assimlation is complete then the gadgets will start giving us happiness.
    By assimlation I mean our complete mastery over the gadgets.
    thanks for the response, varloo.
    varalotti
     
  8. ambika ananth

    ambika ananth Bronze IL'ite

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    heart-warming piece...

    Lovely piece Sridhar...

    A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness and sincerity to put one's heart and soul into it makes it a very big thing...thats why those two sincere, zealous men touched your heart and spurred you on to write a wonderful piece like this....to be able to appreciate these things one needs to have 'empathy', and you seem to have that in abundance. I particularly liked your gesture of offering to take the man on the bike for a small ride, whether he came or not is immaterial ( he has a strong and sad reason not to..) YOU OFFERED TO TAKE HIM..thats what matters..!! Experience does all her testing backwards they say, she gives a test before explaining a lesson....you seem to have passed the test with flying colours while observing these men and learning a lesson of life- that when one puts one's 'energy and love' in things one does, it makes everything excellent and inspiring..

    Thank you for this heart-warming article..

    ambika
     
  9. Sharada

    Sharada Senior IL'ite

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    true and touching

    Simple and well expressed. We have a lot to learn from those around us. Varalotti is very observant - from his gleanings we at IL will surely benefit. No one's life is perfect - but we must play the best hand possible with the cards dealt to us. We must tinker away the negativity and upholster our lives to bring harmony into our surroundings. Mere degrees are not enough to guarantee happiness.
    This article can also be linked to Varalotti's lessons on beauty. In that he wrote about internal beauty outshining external perfection. Just as beauty does not come packaged in a bottle, expertise and creativity do not necessarily come with a degree.

    I wish for all IL members 3 Aces! Because all of you are winners in the journey of life.
    Sharada
     
  10. varalotti

    varalotti Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Uplifting Words Ambika and Sharada!

    Reading your replies I feel all of a sudden that all my efforts in writing, the wary hours spent late nights before the system were not in vain. To be appreciated by no less than Ambika and Sharada - I am honoured, privileged, moved and touched.
    And Ambika true to your nature you picked the act of offering a ride to the upholsterer to be appreciated. After living in this planet for 47 years I am now convinced that I am not going to invent a faster computer, nor find out an alternative fuel or formulate an unified theory in physics. But what I can surely do is at least recognise those who do favours for me, whether they get paid or not, is a different thing. And in this there's the strongest sense of selfishness for once you see these people happy then you feel so tremendously happy that it becomes an addiction worse than cocaine. I think I told you this. Long back when I was going in my bike there were sudden rains and I had to take shelter in a petrol pump. It had a huge canopy and there were 50 bikes with their riders in there. Within five minutes the rains stopped and in the next 5 seconds the pump was empty. I parked my bike went in and met the attendant who was busy in preparing some bills. I told him that for five minutes he satisfied one of my fundamental needs - shelter. I thanked him. He was to put it mildly shocked. And then he almost burst into tears. I had to run away from the scene. If you let me have my way I would designate this as a highlight of my life, not when I threw a large party to my friends or when I had an expensive holiday.
    Sharada, your prowess with words really shows. "We must tinker away the negativity and upholster our lives to bring harmony into our surroundings" I loved the sentence so much that I kept on reading it several times.
    As you rightly said degrees have nothing to do with creativity except in the reverse direction. Once a factory manager told me that they had a nasty problem with their white thread getting sullied by some spinning process. They had summoned experts from Mumbai and Kolkatta. These guys stayed in star hotels and travelled in ac cars and with their ubiquitous laptos and hi-tech mobiles, they could offer no decent solution. A casual labourer working there in the mills suggested to just change the order of the processes and the problem disappeared. The Mills gracefully offered an extra cup of Tea to the labourer and a royal increment of Rs.50 in his monthly wages.
    But I am sure the person would have gone home much happier than the so-called experts. That's life for you.
    Thanks my dear friends for the nice, inspiring, stimulating replies.
    sridhar
     

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