The Herb in the backyard!
There is a popular proverb in Telugu – “inti mokka manduki panikiraadu - meaning the herb in the back yard is not considered for use as medicine. The reason being, as we all know, is its proximity, familiarity to us, and a feeling that it is “ours”; this feeling of ours makes us negligent of its value and use. It is really a very good reflective insight of peculiarity of human attitude.
In a similar way, we rarely recognize the value, ability, capabilities and use of a person around us. We normally quote and refer to great minds living or non-living to assert a point and many times to denounce our person near us. It is a human tendency that contemporaries rarely acknowledge the merits of the individual as he is alive and is not famous then. Many things are done to degrade or downgrade his capabilities, intentionally or unintentionally. It is a fashion, culture and civilization to eulogize “greatness” of the dead and already famous and popular.
There are many instances in every field of human endeavor, every society and every civilization when many persons who became “great” later after their death were never popular or famous as there were alive.
This is a peculiar thing common to all civilizations and societies. Why it happens is a thing not much clear. Very few people become famous and popular when they are alive. This can be because the great minds of the day do not accept the individuals or their works because of ego problems rather than intellectual reasons. The famous happening of Newton overshadowing Leibniz in the invention of Calculus is a case of interest. Tyagaraja also was not as popular as he was alive as he is today. He was criticized for addressing God as “eraa” “raaraa”, the endearing words used for a near and dear one; but the same words and Keertanas (lyrical songs) are now famous and are enjoyed.
Contemporaries will have some mental inhibitions which completely vanish in the next generation, and later people and intellectuals see the merit of the work and not the individual. And hence the individual gets recognition. We all prefer to quote Shakespeare, Keats or the like poets in comparing poetry and never the living poets who are not so popular. The same is true in all fields.
Mostly we ignore our people around us and always want to show our scholarship rather than our understanding of individuals and their work in our proximity and their abilities. This is a very interesting societal trait. Many individual have suffered non-recognition for their great works while they are alive. Even now we are interested in quoting Sankaraacharya or other great masters and not current commentators. We prefer to quote Einstein even though we understand little about theory of relativity. We go more by names than our understanding of their works.
Actually ancient Indian tradition informs us we have three pramanaas - the ways of knowing and accepting truth: pratyaksa, anumaana and sabda. Pratayksha is our knowing through sense organs; anumaana is by our inference; and sabda is by authority. We rely more on authority as we have faith and belief in the eminence of the great minds rather than our understanding of the subject. But we quote the authority to denounce any new and revolutionary contemporary innovation, invention or discovery or commentary and our denouncement mostly never based on our understanding of the significance and value of the work under consideration. But having faith on authority of famous seers, saints, scientists, philosophers, poets and the like eminent personalities saves us lot of stress and strain; our understanding of the intellectual subjects or aesthetic works may never happen because of our limited intellectual or aesthetic abilities and it is always better to accept what the greatest minds have said and revealed. But we must not use our faith in eminence to berate or criticize any current attempts to innovate, revolutionize or shape our understanding and insight about many concepts and subjects.
We must show the same respect we show to earlier great people. But somehow we rarely show grace in viewing contemporary works and mostly end up in non-recognition of the merit contained in the work. And our contemporary intellectuals, poets, philosophers, and the like suffer pain arising out of non-recognition as was the case since the start of the civilizations. After all every individual expects his or her work to be recognized and if possible commended after proper scrutiny and criticism. We must also give room for recognizing our near and dear in family, around us, or in proximity and connection with us as herb in the back yard also can be used as medicine.
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Dr. Varanasi Ramabrahmam
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