Illiteracy has literacy in it !

Disclaimer: This is no longer the Booker-winning material I’d promised πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ This post is just random ramblings of mine, after I lost faith in KSEB (Kerala State Electricity Board), my computer, my mind and my memory. πŸ˜€ This has been typed in less than 10 minutes. Saved before I log off / power goes off. Published before reading it even once, before checking for literary quality.

Title inspired by Suda’s post here. πŸ˜‰ Post inspired by my recent book-shopping experience! πŸ˜€

The plan had been on for almost 3 days. The first day, my friend ditched. The second day, my memory ditched. The third day, gmail ditched! πŸ˜€ (kept chatting and didn’t notice the time). Finally, I decided to get the mission accomplished, come rain or hail. Well, came rain! πŸ˜€ (Thank God dad let me take the car…er er…go with my bro in the car, I mean…I drive only in race courses πŸ˜€

Walked into Book Store 1 with a lot of joy…and stopped short when the door closed behind me! Have you people ever strolled into a room in the most casual way, expecting it to be deserted — only to find it milling with a lot of people? Well, something of the sort happened — only, it was the other way round! πŸ˜€ After squeezing my way through the eternally crowded Crosswords and Landmarks of Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore, entering a book store and finding it totally empty was like a punch on my face! Hehe…there was just me in there! And oh yes, the shopkeeper too! 😐

After getting over the shock (and the shocked expression of the surprised shopkeeper πŸ˜€ ), I went towards the first row of books…I had to find Namesake, and get it couriered asap to a friend! So I decided not to spend too much time browsing and ask the shopkeeper instead…and well, the poor guy also must be quite bored, considering the crowd in that place! πŸ˜€ My conversation with the shopkeeper (Sk) that followed:

Me (smiling): Hi…do you have this book called Namesake ?

Sk (blank stare, then enlightened smile): Aah, yes… (comes out from behind the counter)…Ummmm…Baby’s Day, right?

Me: What?! No no…Namesake (wondering if there is a book called Baby’s Day at all)

Sk (walking around 2 shelves): Mmmm…aha…uh uh…what’s the name of the book again?

Me (trying to be polite and helpful): Name. Sake. Namesake. Remember? It was made into a movie and all…with Tabu in it…

Sk: Who’s book is it? Author’s name?

Me (rolling eyes): Jhumpa Lahiri…Indian author.

Sk: Hehe…no lady…I’m asking for the author’s name!

Me (at the height of sarcasm): Ente ponnu maashe… ithrem budhimuttipichathil njaan athiyaayi khedikkunnu… thaangal avide poyi irunnolu tto… njaan thannathaane kandupidicholaam… please… onnu pokuo? (read as “Get lost, you duffer!”) πŸ˜€

I never found the book. I asked for 5 other books. He had heard of none. And it’s considered one of the best book stores here! “It’s out-of-stock”, he said sometime later. (Bah! He doesn’t even know which book he’s talking about!) 😐

Book Store 2 —

Me (smiling): Hi…do you have this book called Namesake ?

Sk (blank stare): What? Who is the author?

Me (pissed already; rolling eyes): Jhumpa Lahiri…

Sk: Enthu? Aaru?? Thelichu para koche!

Me (in my mind): Thelichu parayaan sowkaryamilledo… panna ma… ma… allenki athuvenda… mathanga thalaya ! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

I walked out!

Book Store 3 —

Me (with a grim face and no patience): Excuse me, there’s this Indian author called Jhumpa Lahiri…I’m looking for…”

Sk: Namesake ? I’m sorry, it’s sold out. We’ve ordered new stock, though! We do have her latest, Unaccustomed Earth. Would you like to buy that?

Me (highly impressed and satisfied; wouldn’t have cared if I died that instant): Oh! Yes, please! Thank you! πŸ™‚

I bought it though I didn’t want it!

They say Kerala is the most literate state in India — with a whopping 90+% literacy and all that…well, from what I see, literacy stops at being able to write, count and read basic stuff! There was an article I read recently which said those Keralites who were once honoured for attaining literacy now hardly knows how to write their very names! It spoke of this lady who was honoured high up on the stage before a thumping crowd of one lakh people and became an instant celebrity 11 years ago as a neo-literate. She now represents the nearly 12 lakh people who have lapsed back to illiteracy — and has trouble writing “Kerala” in Malayalam! Height of irony, I say!

Why blame poor Sk for not knowing ‘Namesake’ ? (I was frustrated that a book store owner doesn’t know the books’ and authors’ names. The poor thing’s out-of-touch with the literary world that does not exist anymore in the country’s most literate* state!) No one reads anything any more! From what I see, libraries will soon become burial grounds for the dying books in it! Book stores will close down and these spaces would be taken up for political party meetings and dharnas πŸ˜€

Dharnas and march pasts every other day! Hartal — a new right and a colossal decree that brings cities to standstill — the right of every citizen, the hatchet of every party. Active strikes that house itself in front of the state capital’s Secratariat for days together…students who throw their colleges/education to the devil and risk their lives for the various Student’s Party(s) that take birth everyday. There is no hope for Kerala…except for one —

The only hope Keralites can now have for this naturally beautiful place’s salvation is to leave it alone and go off to Bangalore like I did… (er er…I meant leave the State and go elsewhere! ) πŸ˜€

Kerala — God’s own country. Yet, God is on vacation elsewhere, playing with ‘yo-yo’s πŸ˜€

*About literacy, on 19 January 2007, DNA reported that β€œKerala still rules”. Wikipedia says β€œMizoram has topped the list with 91.1 % literacy. Kerala comes a close second with 90.8% literacy rate.” (This wiki-page was last updated on 10 August 2008…so couldn’t be too old an article. If it’s wrong information, please blame Wiki (and anyone who knows the correct figures, please update! πŸ˜€ )

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19 thoughts on “Illiteracy has literacy in it !

  1. @Nova
    Hehe…strange, yes! But like i said, the poor guy’s out of touch with th literary world!

    Hehe…am not too sure of their english-speaking capabilities, but i didnt try! I translated all those conversations, but for those which wud lose its essence when translated to English πŸ˜€

    And well, i’m not too sure they know english…they’re probably wondering why a person ‘reads’ a ‘book’ , yet ‘books’ a ‘ticket’ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜›


  2. @Vimal
    Thanks man! Thats only for the sake of my malayali readers πŸ˜‰
    I stand corrected (and it was a typo; thr’s a disclaimer tht says i hvent re-read it πŸ˜‰ :P) am correcting it right away πŸ˜€

    I know! Did get some books which I wasnt planning to buy — but bought on impulse…like Salman Rushdi’s ‘Midnight’s Children’ and A. Roy’s ‘God of Small Things’ πŸ™‚
    I’m right now engrossed in Midnight’s Children (loved every bit of what i’ve read so far!)


  3. A person is considered ‘literate’ if he/she studies at least till class 7, a minimum requirement… but this does not mean he/she is English literate! Most people make this common error… They may know how to read and write a particular language, but may not be english…
    But any man/woman who owns a bookstore and does not know the books in the store deserves to be flogged, stripped naked and paraded in front of monkeys…!! πŸ˜€
    Btw, can I add Namesake to my list? πŸ˜‰


  4. @Nikhil
    I did not talk about English literacy at all πŸ˜›
    Hehe…poor guy, tht Sk…after all that sarcasm, he still beamed at me! I was one ‘happy’ surprise for him, i guess!
    Yea yea, please do add it to your list! πŸ˜€


  5. In my city there was only one shop who used to keep novels and comics like asterix tintin other than school books!! Now there are two πŸ™‚ So u are lucky!

    Even Nikhil is worng. Being English literate is not considered equivalent to being “novel” literate in India. There are many people who consider reading anything other than text books and newspapers as bad habit!!!! And look down upon those who do!! Especially in my part of country. Whenever my colleagues see me reading a novel they r like – Why do u keep “studying” all the time?


  6. I am not sure about the literacy figures. But I know one thing, many shopkeepers have the faintest idea of what they have in their shop.
    Once I walked into spencer and asked if they have Chicken breast. He was taken aback with my question and asked “WHAT???”
    Chicken breast. I said.

    He called his colleague and said “This sir wants chicken broast”
    i Said its breast.

    He looked offended.


  7. @Keshi
    Yes, read it! Thanks! Read all other comments too…and i felt alien! πŸ˜›

    Yea! I dont even want to imagine! πŸ˜€ I only hope people here aren’t trying to be like them !

    Wo! Really?! Thanks!
    I kno! And these literacy statistic only says “being able to read/write in any one language”. My point was jus this: a book store owner should at least be familiar with names of famous books and authors! Whether the book is available is a different Q altogether!
    The way the guy stared at me when i said ‘Namesake’ is like the ‘chicken breast’ Xylene talks about ! πŸ˜€

    ROFL! Hehe…he must think yu’re a pervert! πŸ˜‰


  8. i remember the day i went to get a copy of kite runner…!!
    that was in Trichur… And no prize for guessing, i didnt get the copy…

    the shops i went had huge collections of books..but most of them malayalam stuff…
    and then i found lots of political books…world classics..translations..!!

    but, i was pretty satisfied with ernakulam…their stores in MG road and all stands at par with the ones i had frequented in Bombay and Pune..!!

    now coming to the literacy part.. its just ‘namesake’ πŸ˜‰
    if they are able to read ‘Mathrubhumi’ and Malayala Manorama’ or a ‘Mangalam’ or ‘Manorama’ they are said to be literate…(i was only referring the titles..not the contents..)..!!

    Once one of my cousin visited cross words over here and was shocked to see the collection..!!that was long time back..!!



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