Skip to main content

Learner to the last

I was immensely fascinated by an interview published in a recent edition of a Malayalam weekly. ‘I’m a little grain of sand in this world’ is the title of the interview. And that is spoken by the interviewee who is M K Sanu, well-known Malayalam writer, orator, social activist and a retired professor. Right in the beginning of the interview, the 95-year-old man says that he is a contented person. The humility in the titular quote and the sense of contentment that was palpable in the man’s words kept me glued to the interview to the last word. Here I wish to focus on that contentment which is something I would love to acquire as I’m moving rapidly towards the last stage of a person’s psychological development in Erikson’s theory.

Psychologist Erik Erikson would certainly approve of Prof Sanu who, at the age of 95, can confidently claim that he is contented with what he has done in his life. Sanu thinks that what really made his life worthwhile is the service he did for fellow human beings as another human being. That sense of contentment is what makes old age graceful. By around the age of 65, people begin to examine their own lives. How worthwhile has it been? Have I achieved what I wanted to? Have I learnt the essential lessons? Those who can answer affirmatively to those questions, like Prof Sanu does, are people who have acquired wisdom which rounds off life happily. Those who haven’t arrived even at the periphery of that wisdom are likely to be bitter about life.

Prof Sanu’s has been an ‘abundant’ life. He wrote, taught, spoke to huge audiences, and helped people. He has reasons to be contented. Not all are thus blessed. Forget all, not many are. Most of us have grappled with the inevitable horrors of life. The horrors may be caused by diverse factors. In my case, my own genes were my horrors. I was my own enemy. “There’s another man within me that’s angry with me,” as Thomas Browne put it.

Most of my life was a struggle to come to terms with that hateful man within me. A day before I stumbled upon the Sanu interview, I told Maggie during our evening walk that the futility of my life fills me with a sense of emptiness. The sun had painted the sky in front of us all crimson as it sank steadily. Maggie consoled me by listing a few of my achievements. Hmm, something.

When I read the interview the next day, I realised that I lacked the humility of “the little grain of sand.”

Humility was never my strong point. None of those great virtues of catechism classes were, in fact. But as I trundle along towards Erikson’s last phase, I see the fragments of my life struggling to gather together into a mosaic striving to make sense at least to me.

“Who hasn’t committed blunders?” Maggie’s question helps. If Prof Sanu is a little grain of sand, I’m not even a tiny atom of that grain. A tiny creature that failed again and again before the inevitable horrors of life. That’s okay. I hope I learnt at least some of the lessons those failures wanted me to learn.

I have never changed my self-description in my WhatsApp profile from the time I put it there years ago: “At school – always learning.” Some are destined to be endless learners. Prof Sanu belongs to the more fortunate lot. They teach. To Erikson’s surprise, I choose to discover grace in learning from them. To the last breath.



  1. Hari OM
    This post itself serves to the purpose of that attempt within you to reach a state of balance... bravo!!! YAM xx

    1. Thank you. Your regular presence in this space has contributed something valuable towards the creation of that balance.

  2. That's such an important life lesson.

  3. That is such an important life lesson

  4. I still remember the time when my results were on the web. I ran towards your class, you were teaching,I asked if you could come out.

    When you did, I was like

    "Sir, can I give you a hug."

    Your face was lit and then I saw you spreading your arms, all ready to give me that hug... I was very happy that day. It's not like you get to be hugged by a great teacher everyday.

    1. I remember the incident. Your joy was palpable that day. I was happy for you. And I was happy for more reasons - your batch gave me the best results in my entire history.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Advani and Modi

Cartoon from Deepika This morning's Malayalam newspaper, Deepika, delighted readers with the above cartoon on the front page. Modi is portrayed as Bhima in quest of the Sougandhika flower.  He encounters Hanuman on the way and is unable to meet the challenge posed by Hanuman.  Finally Bhima will understand the real power of his interceptor and seek his blessings. Fabulous cartoon, I mused.  It depicts the present situation tersely.  And there's a deep irony too in it. Neither Modi nor Advani is worthy of any comparison with the epic characters.  Both have acted from selfish motives thus far and continue to do so. But the nature of the Kurukshetra has changed too today.  Today our heroes are no better than these characters.   

The Ugly Duckling

Source: Acting Company A. A. Milne’s one-act play, The Ugly Duckling , acquired a classical status because of the hearty humour used to present a profound theme. The King and the Queen are worried because their daughter Camilla is too ugly to get a suitor. In spite of all the devious strategies employed by the King and his Chancellor, the princess remained unmarried. Camilla was blessed with a unique beauty by her two godmothers but no one could see any beauty in her physical appearance. She has an exquisitely beautiful character. What use is character? The King asks. The play is an answer to that question. Character plays the most crucial role in our moral science books and traditional rhetoric, religious scriptures and homilies. When it comes to practical life, we look for other things such as wealth, social rank, physical looks, and so on. As the King says in this play, “If a girl is beautiful, it is easy to assume that she has, tucked away inside her, an equally beauti

Reading Comprehension for Senior Students

 Let me present the reading comprehension test I gave to my 12th graders recently.  1.        Read the passage and answer the questions that follow .                      1x10 = 10 1.     On 1 Oct, India launched 5G services. It was a low-key affair even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi was launching it. Natural, perhaps, since it came after 70-odd countries had deployed it in close to 2000 cities since 2019 when South Korea kicked off the new era of connectivity. 2.     Attempts to get 5G going in India have been botched by muddled policies. The biggest bottleneck was the high reserve prices for airwave sales. The 700-megahertz band, which is needed for 5G technology, was priced so high that it did not receive any bids in the March auction and even in the recent auction, only one company, market leader Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio, has been able to cough up the asking price despite a scaling down of rates by the government. Telecom companies are bleeding after the cutthroat tar

To a friend

Vincent van Gogh - self-portrait of a man who suffered much This post is dedicated to a person who was very dear to me for quite some time. We were good friends. But certain situations affected that friendship adversely. Years later, he contacted me recently. There is a lot of frustration, anger, sadness and rebellion in his psyche, as I sense it. Dear Friend, Your present situation grieves me as much as it worries me. I knew you as a benevolent individual who went out of his way to help friends. I received much help from you for many years. You were an inspiration for me in more ways than you might have ever imagined. What happened to our friendship was inevitable to some extent because I was passing through a painful phase of personality deterioration and your efforts to assist turned out to be counterproductive. It was not your fault at all. You meant well, I know. I knew it at that time too but my psychological condition made it impossible for me to continue our friendship. I n