“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Giving Away

Take it from me, a miserly hoarder of junk. Nothing equals the pleasure of giving away unwanted things. Like the slogan of the Indian Railways – ‘Less luggage, more comfort’!

Maybe it is that I am getting older and stupid, but I want to lighten down. The best way I spend my weekends (us poor bankers have only a Sunday) is cleaning the cupboards and stuff. As my house is ancient (built in the 1930s) and the 4th generation inhabiting it, there is awful lot of junk lying around. Other than the loft where people fear to tread, we even have a room that we call the Junk Room!

A digression. My son’s name is Nachiketh – for Nachikethus, a character from the ancient holy books called Upanishads – the particular one is Katha-Upanishad. The name Nachiketh is unheard of in Kerala, but in the North, though not common, not unknown either. There was a time in my youth I had an inclination for spiritual life (Now don’t you dare smirk, ANIL!) and used to read up a lot of philosophical works, including the Upanishads. OK, as the story goes, Nachiketh’s father performed a ritual sacrifice in which he was supposed to give away all his wealth to the poor, for eg., his cows. But Vajashravas kept the good cows for himself and gave away only the old and sick cows. The motive was to gain entry into heaven in later life, blah blah. I gave my son the name Nachiketh, ignoring the raised eyebrows and frowns for the reasons 1) I didn’t want to give him a God’s name (most Hindu names can be traced to some God or the other) and 2) Nachiketa’s life was a quest for knowledge. He spurned the offers of goodies from Lord Yama, (the lord of death) instead of disclosing to him the ultimate truth of life. Nachiketh asked,- ‘ If all the wealth in the world cannot let me escape death, what is it’s use?’ I thought, well, I was a moron, at least let the name of my son be Nachiketa, perhaps that will inspire him in the quest for knowledge. A name, you see, is a symbol, not for what it is, but what it aspires to be.

To come back to the junk. Just as I began delving into P’s stuff, I was met with vehement opposition. Retreating, I thought I will start with my stuff. As the first round of cleaning came to an end, “Whew!”, said the house. Then, with no motive of elevation to the heavens, I put my hands onto the most precious of possessions, my books. This is my humble savings over my entire life, these lead-spread papers, not to mention the millions in the bank vaults. Of course, I cannot give away my much loved of them, or those I refer to frequently. But there were books, though good, I knew I had overgrown. Many detective novels, books on science, philosophy etc.

Yesterday I lugged 45 of the books in the saddlebags of my bike and donated them to an impoverished library (the one mentioned in the previous post). The libararian’s emaciated face glowed with gratitude. He said – ‘Sir, I myself will write your name in every one of them – ‘Donated by Sri. Balachandran V’ etc etc”. I was perplexed. I emphatically said, “NO!” The poor man looked confused. “Sir, but how else people would know you gave these books?” I said - “If my name is written on the books, how it could be a donation? I would be still attached to them.”

Outside the old library, I stood beneath the huge shady tree. It was dusk and crows were coming in to roost. The street thronged with vehicles and people were rushing about. Relieved of the weight, the thumping of my motorcycle sounded like a schoolgirl’s giggle, as I rode home to P and Sancho.

******* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 21.10.2010

PS. Those who would like to read the story of Nachiketa, here is a simple and beautiful version: http://www.swamij.com/swami-rama-nachiketas-choice.htm


  1. Knowing you , no comments - just understanding!

  2. Thats a wonderful gesture Bala. I feel I would never be able to treasure my books! :-( People borrow and never return.

    Nachiketh is a nice name. Our names has a story and history behind it; mythological ones. Its nice to explain the meaning behind one's name.

    I agree that there is no greater joy than sharing. :-)

    I envy you for having a home built in 1930s. Thats a legacy!

  3. I confess, I only have read " Thathwamasi" By Sukumar Azheekodu and my knowledge is limited. I havent heard of Nachiketh before.

    It was generous of you to donate the books,and you did the right thing in not writing your name.The Bible says,if you had done so,you already received your rewards.

    I expected your bike to produce a more masculine sound.You are forgiven,but change the muffler.

  4. @Doc: :D :D :D. I apologize to my Budubudu bike! I mistook the gurgling happiness in my mind as that of my old Bull!

  5. Great piece.

    I was at home last week and during that time my parents planned to get the home painted, preparations for Deepawali. In that process me, my father and brother were all set to clean up the junk, which my Mom and Grand Mom had been collecting for decades.We had tough time though :-) since the two ladies never believed in giving away things rather they are habitual of collecting them for ever and ever.

    Once I came back to Delhi, I realized even I had developed the same habit, so this weekend (coincidentally)I also cleaned up my cupboards the same way as you did it.

  6. Heard of Nachikethus earlier, but couldn’t recollect. Thanks for sharing.

    There is a YMCA library at a place called Cheruvarakonam near Parassala (bordering Tamil Nadu). My mother is a member and to my knowledge there are hardly more than 25 members. I use to visit there under the guise of dropping her to the library and browse through the collections. Old editions of some books available there, just like the ones you donated. Needless to say it has helped me a lot. Donating books is a wonderful gesture; Let your tribe increase.

  7. @Insignia:That's one rule I have stuck to my entire life, get the lent books back! I keep a little notebook with the all the details!But even then, I have missed some, missed some forever!:(
    Hope you read the story ( see the link) and liked it.

    @Kalpana: Aah, the female of the species! :D Good that you at least are different!

    @Sreejith: Hope you read the story using the link given. If there is one character worth emulating in our holy books, that's Nachiketh!

  8. my parents are chornic hoarders.. its like a disease. .they just cant throw away things.. even those they no longer use.. when i get home, its my job .. to chuck away junk met with huge protests! :) ure post reminded me of that.. i used to collect sentimental junk but for some years now, i am trying to change for the better. another thing we hoard is clothes.. so many clothes that my expanded mother hood frame doesnt fit in! finally gave up a ton of them and i felt so good! now ther e is space for more clothes... new clothes that fit:D books? cant imagine parting with them.. not until much later.. after anya is done with them too...

  9. have to read the story.

  10. @K: My criterion is - if you haven't used a dress for more than 1 year, dispose it off. Likewise for the utensils- whew! I can understand the old china, but the feeding bottle my son drank milk from - 18 years ago? All his cho-chweet socks? Our first pressure cooker? I am a sentimental fool, but even I have a limit! :)

  11. Balan,
    discarding cho-chweets is onething and parting with books, however trash they could be, is something else altogether. Your 'giving away' is a great gesture. Sometime back wannabe has also posted something on similar lines.

  12. “If my name is written on the books, how it could be a donation? I would be still attached to them.”
    It is hard to meet people who do service under anonymity.Most people donate to charity just for the sake of fame- but you chose to be different.
    Great one, sir! Happy blogging.

  13. loved the blog - mebbe cos i could relate.
    spring cleaning - is smething i love and hate to do. every object causes dilemma -keep it or throw it?
    but of late i've leaarnt to throw away and give away. like u said, it's something to do with growing wise with age.

  14. You are big hearted - its a wonderful thing to do !I don't believe in storing things that we don't use any longer.Old clothes ,utensils,footwear,kitchen gadgets and other appliances.BUT ,i just can't part with my books - back at my mom's house they are planning to donate my dad's library books to a community library and here my heart is almost torn apart.I was ashamed but i asked my mom to keep back certain specific books for me.
    I first heard Nachiketa's story from my Amma (grandmother).Later my parents bought an Amarchitra Katha of the same.

  15. Came upon your blog by a circuitous route. I really enjoy your writing.
    Cleaning up clutter, giving away to the right people, tussle with sentiment - can I really give this away? - all strike a chord within all of us.
    Thank you for the story of Nachiketa


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