The power of the commonplace… Pritish Nandy

Let me confess at the start that this is not exactly an original thought. It’s often attributed to Charlie Schulz, creator of Peanuts, a hugely popular comic strip in my time. But it’s a thought we often lose sight of. It may be a good idea to look at it afresh simply because it shows you the power of the commonplace. It shows you that the commonplace is never really as commonplace as we think it is.

Ask yourself the following ten questions. No, no, relax. This is not a quiz. You don’t have to actually answer every question but if you read through them, you will get the general drift of what is often called the Schulz Theory. Let’s start.

1. Name the five richest people in the world. (Yes, Bill Gates is one of them. So is Mukesh Ambani. We all know that. Who are the rest?)

2. Name the Miss Indias over the last five years. (There are three Miss Indias selected every year. You can name any one of them. One per year over the past five years.)

3. Name the last five Bharat Ratnas. (If you have a problem with that, name any five. No, don’t be silly. Mahatma Gandhi never got it. There were 41 others who did.)

4. Name the five greatest batsmen of all time and the five greatest bowlers. (Yes, I know Bradman and Sachin are part of the first five. Try naming the remaining eight. No, I am not asking for your choice. What do statistics say?)

5. Name the best actor, male and the best actor, female in the National Awards over the past five years. (You are wrong! Shah Rukh, Aamir and Rajnikant are not among them.)

6. Name five Nobel Prize winners over the past five years, one from every year. (There are several winners every year. So this should be easy. Yes, you are right. Barack Obama was one of them, a curious choice because he got the Nobel Prize for Peace in the year he was elected, even before he did anything. Any other names you can recall?)

7. Name the five people who invented the motor car, the computer, the TV, the cell phone, the iPad. (Yes, you got the last one right. Steve Jobs. What about the rest?)

8. Name the last five Presidents of India. (I beg your pardon? You mean you can’t remember a single one! That’s awful.)

9. Name five Cabinet ministers in the Union Government and five in the State Government. (Remember there are 77 ministers at the Centre, 34 of them full fledged ones. And 40 in the State. Come on, try.)

Tired already? Bored? Fine, I won’t ask the tenth question. The only point I was trying to make is that headline grabbers are quickly forgotten, however important they may be. Some of them are the best at what they do and no, I am not asking you about molecular biologists or archaeologists, computer scientists or cancer researchers. I am talking about people constantly in the forefront of news. But once the applause dies down, all achievements are forgotten. Awards lie on shelves, covered with dust. Some of the most brilliant, most successful people are forgotten in their own lifetime. That’s the problem with fame, power, success, money. They don’t stay you in the hearts and minds of people.

Now let’s try again. This time, let me give you another set of questions. See how you fare with them.

1. Name a few teachers who helped you along during your growing up years in school and college.

2. Name some friends who saw you through your difficult days.

3. Name a few people you loved and who loved you. (They may no longer be part of your life.)

4. Think of some people who made you feel appreciated and special.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

Now, wasn’t that much easier? Much simpler?

Moral of the story? People who make a difference to your life are not the ones with the best credentials, the most money or the most awards. You admire them I know. But they never impact your life in the way those close to you. We tend to forget this. We believe the rich, the famous, the successful inspire us. Yes, they do. But the ones who we actually cherish are those who touch our lives, even if they move on. So next time you tweet or sms me saying how much you admired my column, just pause and think about the person who taught you how to appreciate what others write. Trust me, he or she is far more important than I.


44 Responses to “The power of the commonplace… Pritish Nandy”

  1. Muraliraja Says:

    Totally in agreement with the last line!

  2. I agree Murali, quite a nicely written blog, refreshingly different.

  3. Aishwarya Says:

    I wonder if it’s just me, but when I think of friends, the faces that spring up in mind are from school – beautiful fleeting images of fun and laughter, happy grubby faces, tears, fights, pranks, smiles and hugs – all through school. Wonderful friends who knew me. Who understood even my silence. They accepted imperfect me, as I am. And I loved them as they were.

    I have made many acquaintances since, like commensals or symbiosis. Relationships born out of want, rather than need. They don’t know ‘me’. They never cared to know and I never felt the need to ‘be known’. The few instances that I did feel it worthwhile to try, it backfired, unfortunately.

    So, thanks to PN for reminding me of the people who matter. About the rest – doesn’t matter…

  4. Thats curious. I can’t bring up ‘cherished’ memories of anyone except my mother, father, brothers, sisters and school teachers. No friends.

    I remember friends by context, as part of some event. The world outside the house was always something to observe and test.

    Even at home, any misdemeanor, for whatever reason, evoked a radical reaction from me. I would leave the house and sleep overnight in public places like bus stations, gardens, even in Osho’s ashram once. Mother would send both the brothers to search for me.

    Result: Any discussion, conflict or dispute had to be settled rationally, before it became metaphysical.

    Ofcourse, the rational part allowed physical fights amongst the siblings. Like, my sister cut my elder brother’s leg with a blade once, and I threw her from the roof of the house into the guave tree; she tumbled down from branch to branch and hit the ground at terminal velocity!

    Well, that was permitted.

    But if debates began to lead to character assassinations, I quit.

    For example, mother was in a foul mood one day. She kept grumbling all through the cooking and dumped the food on the dining table where everyone was seated.

    “Eat! Hogs!” she said.

    I left the table quietly without touching the plate; took my bicycle and rode 10 Kms to the lake in the National Defense Academy at Khadakwasla; spent all the day chasing and scaring peacocks and collecting the feathers as they shook them off and flew overhead. By evening I had about 50 or more long feathers, tied them up like a buddhist headgear. Later in the evening, while I was swimming in the lake, I saw my elder brother yelling at me from the bank.

    “Idiot!” he shouted, picking up my clothes.

    “Hey!” I said

    “I am taking the clothes home. Every one is waiting!”

    “Wait na!” I said, swimming to the bank.

    We went home. There was a general silence. Food was served. Everyone ate quietly.

    I put the conical peacock feather cap on my sister’s head.

    “Saadhu Jayashree!” I said. She didn’t mind.

    Everyone laughed, and peace prevailed.

  5. Aishwarya Says:

    When my sister was doing her internship at KMC and I my I MBBS at CMC, I felt adventurous and decided to make a trip to Mangalore to visit her. I had all of 400 rupees in hand and felt loaded!

    As we gallivanted together, I bought a pretty salwar that was on display, several tiny pieces of jewelry and trinkets that I HAD to have, tried every flavor of icecream, chef’s specials on the restaurant’s menu, and bought a truckload of books to keep me company while I sat waiting for her casualty duty to get over, looking up at times from my book with a particularly bored look as she meticulously sutured a patient’s chin.

    When I reached Coimbatore, mom called to ask if I had had the money to make that trip and I promptly replied, “Ya, of course, I had 400 rupees, no?”

    I have never asked how much my sister splurged on me from her stipend that holiday. She never mentioned. I am her baby sister and it was okay to be pampered. Recently though, when we were to go shopping, she pulls my leg, “Hey Aish, ready? Got your 400 rupees with you?!”

    I wont’ say I love my sis. That would be insulting the relationship, and an understatement. Some relationships are best felt. Like God’s blessings.

    • Muraliraja Says:

      Coimbatore! One word which always make me jump in joy. A simple mention of this word is enough to make me smile 🙂 I was born & brought up in Coimbatore & the feeling comes naturally. Don’t mind 😉

      • Aishwarya Says:

        Love the place and the people, Murali…
        Miss watching movies at KG theater, the temples at Perur and Maruthamalai, shopping at R.S. Puram and TownHall, the food at Annapoorna Gowrishankar, hanging out with friends at the juice shop next by and at JM& Sons, the breathtaking getaways at TopSlip, Aliyar, Ooty…and so much more…beautiful memories…beautiful place…
        Happy to know you are a Coimbatorean…


      • So when do I get Shri Krishna Mysore Paak?

    • I came to know coimbatore in the second half of my life. My boss is from Gandhipuram; one of the secretaries is from the same area. My personal banker is from Coimbatore. A large number of engineered goods suppliers are from Coimbatore. The estate agents in Ooty are from Coimbatore. I came to know later that the Brits had their secretariat in Coimbatore and settlers in Ooty, Wayanad, etc got their funds from the Coimbatore collectorate. The first weaving machines were brought from Manchester and installed in Coimbatore. The first factory in southern India for manufacturing water pumps was located in Coimbatore. This place has a history that is very similar to Pune.

      • Aishwarya Says:

        Interestingly also, many of the entrepreneurs are of Telugu origin – owner of Lakshmi Mills, PSG Colleges, K.G. Hospital and Theater, Kuppusamy Naidu Hospital…making the city a major industrial hub, but quaintly, never losing its warmth and hospitality with the pace.

        How is the history similar to that of Pune?

        P.S. I wonder why ‘personal’ is prefixed with secretaries and bankers. If they were balding and potbellied, the ‘personal’ would have been politely skipped…na?


      • Pune was developed on similar lines, except the deployment of migrants. Pune was already the capital of the state because Mumbai was a state by itself.

        Pune is for ordnance and armed forces what Coimbatore is for textiles. The ammunition and high explosives factories were established in Pune by the Brits, technology brought from Sweden. The factories produce composition compunds, detonaters, RDX, canon shells, bullets. Basically all the explosives. Guns and cordite are manufactured in Kanpur and Ooty respectively.

        Pune was also the detination for universities and research, same as Coimbatore.

        The industrial estate in Pune is the largest in Asia with a turnaround of over 30,000 crores an year. All are basic, blue chip industries. Tata foundry, trucks, cars etc bikes. Daimler Mercedez, GM, Toyota, Ball Bearings, Electrical Cables, Rubber products, Steel, Motors, Pumps, Machinery, LPG, Wipro, Infosys, TCS etc. Companies are mostly Indo-American joint ventures. Tata, Bajaj, Honeywell, etc.


        Personal secretary is of no use. They only manage paper and communication. I wish someone would get personal to the extent of doing things that I am supposed to do myself. Like taking bath, brushing my teeth etc. That would be personal.

        Personal banker is a good thing, specially if she feels that her good looks are saving her job!

      • Aishwarya Says:

        OMG Reader…that’s a staggering list of industries!


        A banker banking on good looks, so clients don’t lose interest…smart!

        A ‘bather’ (village style)…the man sits on an inverted bucket by the well, the lady draws water and pours it over him, soaps, oils…the works…and when she is in a sour mood, bangs the bucket on his head…smart too!

      • Hmm.. you got me wrong. I mean an ideal personal secretary would do what I am supposed to do. Which means, she’ll bathe instead of me. I’ll sit in the couch and watch TV.

      • Aishwarya Says:

        Duh…holding my breath on that thought…

        Have a safe trip…

      • Muraliraja Says:

        Glad to hear that. All the landmark you mentioned remains same. KG has become BIG KG Cinemas & in the age of PVR & IMAX it still lacks behind. Nevertheless still CBE people have less option so the theater survives. The food taste in Annapoorna remains same though 2 years back it went bad & now back to form.
        JM & sons still retains its position as the best cake shop though I’m pushing my friend to start one to compete 😉 Perur & MM remains are still glorious & climbing MM is still a pleasure. BTW the road in front of your collage is totally different due to the arrival of TIDAL behind CMC & traffic. Nevertheless it looks great. The stretch from Niligris to KMCH on Avinashi road is splendid now & it is a pleasure to drive in that road. I’m surprised you have not mentioned about climate & water which normally everyone mentions about CBE. Like other things that too still remains same. And particularly monsoon & winter in CBE is heaven on earth for me.

      • Muraliraja Says:

        When you give a mailing address!

        Manchester of South India is heavily industrialized thanks to its entrepreneurial spirit. Coimbatore has a fantastic educational infrastructure with 7 Universities, 2 medical colleges and over 54 Engineering Colleges and 70 Arts and Science colleges. (Wiki). Also now it is emerging as medical tourism destination with many super specialty hospitals and as many as 750 hospitals and medical centers in total.

        Guys, When you are in Coimbatore/Chennai & need of any help, I would be glad to do so.

      • Aishwarya, Muraliraja, Sharmila,

        Firstly, about the Mysore Paak. You’ll have to send it through the airline catering staff to deliver it to her. She is normally on a flight midair between HK, Singapore and BLR.

        There are a few places that I want to discover in detail:

        1. Coimbatore (Near Ooty)

        2. Hosur (Near BLR)

        3. Joshi Math (Near Hardwar)

        4. Rohtang (Near Simla)

        5. Gangtok (Sikkim)

        6. Tangmarg (Near Gulmarg)

        Places I would like to visit before I retire for good:

        1. Almati (Kazhakasthan)

        2. Shri Ram’s tomb in Uzbekistan

        3. The Volga (Urals)

        4. Trivandrum

        5. Hong Kong

        6. Chennai

        7. The Alps

      • Aishwarya Says:


        You are welcome to TVM anytime…to take me sightseeing to all those beautiful places you have mentioned…

        😛 🙂

      • Aishwarya Says:


        Siruvani water is the best! How could I forget that?
        I didn’t give the climate special mention because it’s the same as in Kerala…as are the monsoons… Felt like home… 🙂
        The long walks with friends from college to Sitra and the airport were lovely…glad I am ‘pre-Tidel’… 🙂
        Good luck for the potti with JM&Sons!

      • Muraliraja Says:

        I can help you discover Coimbatore, Chennai & Hosur. Before moving to Chennai I lived in Hosur for 4.5 years(Spent weekdays in Hosur & weekends in Bangalore). I got some friends over there who are living there for more than 3 decades.

      • Aishwarya,

        Deal. You take me to all the places I want to see in TVM and I’ll take you to Sanjauli near Simla.

        Sanjauli is a small hamlet on the himalayan slopes adorned by tall deodar trees and a veil of permanent mist. Depending on the shade of a person’s skin, the freezing cold turns it pink or purple.

        In TVM, I would like to see the places that Parshuram established. Ram, Laxman and Sita were welcomed and treated with grace by the villagers when Ramayan was happening.

      • MuraliRaja,

        Can I just call you Murali? The Raja at the end switches me into 2G mode! 🙂

        Hosur is going to be a busy place in the next decade. My plot is right in the middle of an SEZ. A large portion is given to the airline industry for building maintenance yards. The BLR airport is exactly 15 minutes by the expressway.

        Coimbatore seems to have a romantic refrain, going by yours and Aishwarya’s descriptions.

      • Aishwarya Says:


        We’ll start with the 2000-year old Sree Parashuram temple at Thiruvallam, and go from there… It’ll be fun!

        Sanjauli sounds magical! I’ll pack pink and purple…to color coordinate with the skin!


    • Muraliraja Says:

      I came to TVM in 2005, stayed in Kovalam & visited Kannyakumari from there. On my way back to TVM, I was taken to a very old Lord Shiva temple. I forgot the name. Old, big temple with lot of pillar & men are not allowed to wear shirt inside the temple. I like to know the name. Your help would be appreciated.

      • Muraliraja Says:

        Murali is fine 🙂 I agree with you fully that Hosur is going to be a busy place. Already it is happening place because of close proximity Electronic City & 3 Industrial area in south Bangalroe. Apart from this it has a good set of Auto industries like TVS, SFL, Caterpillar etc. And the road to Blore has been widened so access has become easy. I guess your place must be near to Taneja Aerospace company.

      • I had no idea you were in Hosur too. The road to Hosur over the elevated expressway is pretty good now. They have completed the flyovers in those critical junctions as well.

      • Aishwarya Says:


        From the location and description, the Parassala Sree Mahadeva Temple. The sandstone architecture is awe-inspiring…

      • Muraliraja Says:

        Yes! The sandstone architecture were amazing in that temple, one of the reason I want to visit the temple again. Thank you 🙂

      • Murali,

        There is an immense input of energy in mechanical engineering. Two places that have awestruck me by their ingenuity are Bharuch in Gujarat and Ludhiana in Punjab. From small mechanical hand held equipments for making tools, buttons, scissors, nail cutters etc to very large machines like earth movers, cranes, gantry girders etc practically everything was made in these two places. Gujarat specially is great for making plastic products from ordinary toys to gadgets and heavy engineering.

        Most of these small machines can be operated at home on a 240V power line! Thats one of the reasons why very few Gujjus and Punjabis are employees!

        I am planning to get those small equipment and distribute them in some of these villages!

        I’ll begin with the tribes in and around Ooty.

      • Muraliraja Says:

        Good intention Reader! All the best 🙂

  6. Fortune Teller Reader’s forecast for tomorrow:

    1. Amitabh Bachchan will paste his interview with Meena Iyer on his blog.

    2. Sharmila will submit her new blog post to TOI.

    3. Anna Hazare will threaten to fast again. (Fasts coming too fast.)

    4. BJP will call for a nation-wide strike against corruption.

    5. Some more policemen serving the government will be killed by Maoists.

    6. Jayalalitha will meet Sonio to negotiate the future of Karuna’s family.

    7. Pritish Nandy will write an imaginative erotic poem in memory of Hussain.

  7. News that has made my day:

    A pakistani trader donated 2.1 million dollars to pay ransom to Somaliyan pirates for rescuing a multinational crew of 22. The crew comprised of 4 pakistani sailors, 6 Indians and 1 Srilankan aprat from others.

    Whatever be his motives, his act has rescued people from several countries.

  8. On my way to the desert interiors for 3 days. Shall try to log in tonight.

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