The Three ‘R’s, Which Matter
by Pushpa Raghuram
I think I was ten or eleven years old when I had heard my father mentioning the guests, that even his daughters should be adept at the 3 ‘R’s. When I asked him what he meant by the 3 ‘R’s, he had said as a matter of fact, that it was an abbreviation for “Reading, (W) Riting, and (A) Rithmetic.“ I thought I understood what he was talking about. With out further queries I ran to my friends who were playing outside.
A few decades later I was in Singapore visiting my daughter. I was there for a short holiday. Family members were busy with their schedules. The second day of my holiday itself, I found Time hanging. My Son-in-Law, seeing me so disturbed, asked me what bothered me so much. When I told him about my problem, he took me to his bookshelves, threw the doors open and said “Look, all these books are waiting for you to read. Reading habit emancipates you and empowers you to deal with others. We men read, women too should. Pick up any one, and start reading.” Statement made he left me to his books and myself. Was it a statement leveled against the fair sex or was he pointing fingers at me alone?
Nevertheless, my eyes started scanning the titles/themes, authors and compilers. There were autobiographies, biographies, collections of Reader’s Digest publications, comics, criticisms, and dramas etcetera. My mind started working overtime. “Start reading”, when did I hear that first? Memories stared gushing out uncontrollably.
Immediately after becoming a graduate and acquiring a professional skill, I had started Job-hunting. My C.V. was lying on the centre table in our living room. My paternal uncle had dropped in for a visit. My C.V. caught his attention. Especially, the hobby part. He exclaimed, “Writing is your Hobby! Very interesting. Why have you not mentioned that as reading and writing’? No house can be constructed without a foundation and supporting columns. Start reading, Classical literature, Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy for eg.” He started sipping his Coffee. I did not tell him that some of their works were my textbooks and I had got just passing marks in English.
My co-borns had tried in jest and in earnest to introduce me to sports columns, editorials and Wodehouse. “Start reading”, they told me, when I was alone or with my friends. I was not in to sports. Editorials were boring. Wooster did not woo me in to reading. They gave up their attempts, to maintain family relationship.
My boss was the next one to comment on my writing effort after reading an article of mine in the House Magazine. He had commented in red ink, “Nothing brilliantly new. But effort appreciable. I suggest you take to reading before attempting to write further”. With this remark I had turned to my colleague, who was a ghostwriter for the branch manager, for consolation. He had only added fuel to the fire. His placid reaction was “I agree with our boss. Take his advice”. I resented the male Chauvinists for their remarks.
I forgave them all, as time passed. But I could not forget their remarks or comments.
I continued to write, without paying heed to the words of my well wishers. I even approached the Editor of a very
popular vernacular language, with one of my write–ups for considering it for printing in his magazine. Without even throwing a glance at my writing, he told me to collect 100 rejection letters and then meet him. The Egoist had pierced my ego. I thought I could never forgive him for his rudeness. I went in to such a rage that I took my C.V. copy and erased the Hobby part.
However my father’s “3 R s” concept kept ringing in my ears periodically. In retrospect I reviewed them again. I had dodged the first ‘R’; I had dabbled with the second one intermittently. How about the third one? I held on to it, as if it is my life jacket. Rrithmetic was one of the subjects in the school, but during my college education, it was an elective. Although I had not embraced it professionally, I dealt with it at home, meticulously maintaining the income and expenditure accounts, although they were at times loggerheads with each. Thus I thought that I had at least achieved 33.33% of what my father desired from his children.
Going down memory lane chronologically, I still stood in front of the bookshelves. My eyes were still staring at the books without really seeing them. The surreal meaning of 3 R’s appeared to me in a flash.
With that there was a paradigm shift about the three “R”s. A mature interpretation of the same came to my mind. Reading, writing and arithmetic are not something one should pick-up, loose somewhere on the way while moving on in life. They should be like bosom buddies, from cradle to grave, accompanying us gracefully and quietly.
Reading should continue till the last day of the life’s journey. Writing should be undertaken, only when the life’s experience, disappointments, successes, passions, are the personification of the characters, which we create. Writing should be either mind- boggling or soul searching. It should be the sum and substance of what the writer believes in, what he is talking about and what he is doing. The thoughts should percolate from the sub conscious to the conscious levels. They should erase the boundaries of time and space, rise to the celestial level, and reach the God or the chosen Guru. The author should transcend to a level where his body, mind and the soul get connected. His soul should reflect its thoughts to the mind. Only then it can stand the test of time.
How about the arithmetic part of the dictum? It is advisable to make a value addition to the posterity and not become just a number, which needs to be subtracted when one exits from the world. It is advisable to ruminate on what one can give others, which only multiplies by giving. Undivided attention is what one can shower on others, with whom one is interacting at the moment. All these things should be achieved, without entering in to any number game.
My daughter came in to the room and shook me out of my reveries, bringing me back to the present. I picked up a book from the bookshelf and went out to the garden with an exalted feeling that I had understood what my father meant by “3 R”s, at least after a few decades. Better late than never. ***