Poet, Author, Editor, Creative Writing Consultant

Monday, February 23, 2009

Indigenous Intelligence

The other day, on a ride to Panchsheel Park [which is in South Delhi and considered a posher place than others] in an auto, the auto driver said to me, “Madam, I only drive in South Delhi.” He was being posh.
I said, “Oo…kay,” and he said, “Thank you, Welcome,” both words together to me in English.He was being more posh.

Yes, driving in South Delhi and only in South Delhi and speaking English are claims to poshness/snootiness. It is another matter that I had hired his auto from East Delhi. He must have strayed there somehow(?).

Having established his credentials with me,he set forth.There was no stopping him. He told me that he did not know how to read and write, was an “agoontha chaap” (one who uses a thumbprint instead of signature) but considered himself as good as anyone else. He was in his late fifties perhaps, and said he used to be a chauffeur earlier. He worked for the American Embassy.

Then he began to drop names of the people he had worked for, and what kind of life they lived— their ways and their world. He was the fund of funds as far as these tales went. I listened with a bemused smile.

He continued. Before being a driver, he had worked in a factory, then an export house and then a…The list was endless. However, the point was that he claimed that he could teach anyone anything, because though he was not literate, he was more intelligent than most. I would go along with this claim, for I have seen it in people. So what if one has not had a formal education, many have a great degree of native intelligence that far surpasses that of those who have been ‘educated’.

I have an immediate example to prove this. As a part of an experiment for some work they were doing, my father- in- law and husband went to shops all over town with a two types of jaali and a prototype of what they wanted made, but there was no one willing/or who understood what was required. Eventually, our servant, who is a landed farmer in his village in Bihar, understood and constructed what was required, at home. Well, he can read and write but its limited to basics, yet he can understand and remember and do many things which you and I will fail at. He has intelligence far worthy of appreciation.

The auto rickshaw man, content that he had seen the high life through borrowed space, as a driver on the sides, and proud to have been a part of high society, took a long drag on his bidi. He said to me, “Anyone wants to know how to get a visa made (yes), or how to set up an export house (sure thing!), or undertake any kind of entrepreneurship (believe it!), he could tell them how do it.

There was no waver in his voice, the conviction was heartening.