Hi folks! Received a very inspiring and humbling true story from a friend for whom I have great respect. The narration of the story is by a Senior Journalist in Washington Post an NRI. Many of us can draw some wonderful lessons from this simple narration.


“After the Temple Darshan at the Kapaleeswarar Koil at Mylapore, we entered the “Giri Trading” stores and started searching for this Book on “Thatva Bodha”.

We found many people buying various Books and CDs and from their smart walks and accumulation of CDs from Abhang to Aruna Sairam and Bhajans to Bombay Jaishree, sent a nice feeling in us, that we have come to the right place indeed.

I was looking for this Book while my wife started collecting Bharathiar’s songs and MS’s Music. I searched everywhere for this Book.
There was this Girl, standing next to the Cashier, sincerely watching all our movements – a dark complexioned Girl, should be from a nearby Village, might be 17 or 18, should not have crossed 8th Std., might be out of poverty she is here.. all my Journalist’s brain unnecessarily calculated about this Gullible Girl..and tho’ she was repeatedly watching me, I ignored her and started searching for “Thathva Bodha”

I saw many books from “Sandhya Vandanam” to Swami Vivekananda’s “Chicago Speech” but having spent a good 40 minutes. I looked at her, she also looked at me curiously.

I did not asked her, knowing fully well that such a girl cannot have any idea of anything, leave alone “Thathva Bodah”

Pic taken by a friend

“Sir, may I help you?” (in Tamil)
“Yes. I am looking for ‘Thatva Bodha’ ”
“Sanskrit Text or English/Sanskrit?”
God..she knows.
“Sanskrit & English”
“Do you like to have the Publication from Chinmaya Mission or Indu Publications or by Ramakrishna Mutt?”
“I dont know..I just want to only Learn you see..I dont really know indeed”
“Do you read Tamil Sir?”
“Yes I am a Tamilian ” (thinking to myself how most of mylife time I like to act in most
otherplaces that I am not)
“Then Sir, you can take this”..she ran to the shelf where I had searched for 30 minutes, removed the books in the front and came out with a Book in Tamil. “This one in Tamil by N.Sivaraman by Indu Publications infact is simple and wonderfull. You have the Sanskrit Text too inside.”

My God! Why did I under estimate such a Genius. Just because of my Arrogance that I am an NRI. Or just because I presumed such a Black, dark complexioned, gullible girl, who would have come for this job out of absolute poverty, wouldn’t have any idea of “Thatva Bodha”.
I decided to change my attitude and realized that I am absolutely an ‘Idiot’ at this moment in front of this wonderful girl and submitted myself in all humility. “Madam, I really don’t have any idea of even who wrote ‘Thatva Bodha’ till yesterday. I just attended a lecture on this subject and was fascinated by the lecture and hence…..”

“Did you attend Goda Venkateswara Sastri’s lecture in Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan?” “Oh God. How did you know?”
“He regularly takes classes on such subjects. In fact he is one of the best Sir, in the city on such subjects.”

“You are interested in such subjects?”
“Yes Sir, I read a lot about Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna and Thathva Bodha incidentally is my favorite Subject”

“You mean to say you have read Thatva Bodha?” “I have read this one by Sivaraman and once you read it you won’t feel like keeping that book on the table at all.”

“Why what is so great about this Book?”
“Sir,you must be joking that you don’t know about ‘Thatva Bodha’.”
“Really I accept my ignorance.”
My wife was watching from the corner, admiring all her CD collections.

“Sir,according to me if you read this it gives the entire Vedanthic Saramsam and to say it in-one-word you become a bit more humble in life, leaving Ahamkaram once for all.”

“Is it a fact that reading this simple book one would get so humble?”
“Of course one should be involved totally into the text. Needs a lot of conviction and devotion.”

My wife joined the conversation and she felt this girl is indeed a very very talented intelligent girl, so she told me “Why don’t you interview her for Washington Post. Why at all you should think of Paris Hilton?”

I also felt that I owe something to her. So I asked her whether she can spare sometime for an interview.

She politely refused saying “My boss is to give me permission. Besides many people are looking for guidance like you and hence I have to go.”

“What is your name?”
My wife’s admiration for her devotion to duty and her total involvement in her work, made her go direct to the Boss “Sir,that girl Kalaivani.”

“Yes very hard working Girl.”
“This is my husband Viswanath.”
“Nice meeting you Sir”
“He is the Senior Journalist in Washington Post.”
The Boss stood up.” Washington Post?”
“Yes Sir. I would like to interview this girl. I am highly impressed with her ethics.”

Boss called her. Time was 5:45 Pm. “Kalaivani, they have come all the way from USA , they would like to spend some time with you. Can you?”

“Sir, there are so many customers waiting for some guidance. it is a rush time. If they can come again tomorrow.”

“OK. I can come again tomorrow.”
I again came next day morning leaving all my appointments with ‘Times of India’ and “Madras Press Club “ just to see this girl. It was no rush hour. My wife and myself found out.

Kalaivani is from a small village near Arcot. She has 5 sisters, she being is the eldest. Her father was a drunkard and he died a few years ago caring for none of them. Her mother used to work as a helper in Masonry and passed away two years back, leaving all the 6 on the streets.

This girl who had completed her 9th std decided to search for a job and ‘Giri Trading’ came forward to help her out. She brought all her 5 sisters with her and with her meagre salary she is taking care of them. All the 5 sisters are going to a nearby Chennai Corporation School .

“Kalaivani. But when did you get this enthusiasm to learn about ‘Thatva Bodha’?”

“Sir after joining here, I decided that the best way to be of help to the customers is to know the Subject first. I took small Books on Ramana, Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and started reading. I found the subject so fascinating..I decided to read other books in Tamil like Bhagavad Gita, and Viveka Choodamani. Thats how….”

“What is your salary?”
“Rs 2500, Sir.”
“Are you able to manage all your expenses with the 5 sisters?”
“Not at all Sir, but the Boss helps me a lot.”
“What is your aim in Life ?”
“I want all my sisters to get education. Then they would easily get employment is it not Sir?”

“If I give monthly Rs 10,000 for meeting all your expenses, would that suffice?”

“It is indeed too much, but I would accept it only through my Boss.”
We took her to the Boss and told him that we would like to send Rs.10,000 every month so that all her sisters’ education would be completed.

The Boss said “She deserves it Sir. You can trust me – I will hand over the amount to her every month or alternately you can open an account in her name and start transferring to the account.”

My friend John Paul, who is the Regional Manager of ‘Times of India’ had also come with me. He said “You have done a good thing.”
My wife said “I pray that ‘Karpagambal’ helps Kalaivani to become an expert in ‘Vedantha’ and start giving lectures in USA . We can arrange for her lectures.”

We left wonder struck! If we go into the interiors of India , how many more ‘Jewels’ like Kalaivani can be found!!

I really became humbled!”

So the moral of the story is “Beware, so long as you live, of judging men by their outward appearance.” – Jean De La Fontaine


About dilipnaidu

An open mind! Love to share my thoughts and a keenness to learn. An engineer and a MBA I had a wonderful innings in the Army and later moved to consultancy and teaching. My current interests are music and growing culinary herbs. Love to play golf and do yoga regularly. I am serious on "Living life less seriously". A warm welcome to you be well and be cheerful always.

27 responses »

  1. girish says:

    The story of this girl elucidates simplicity and its importance in day to day life which the little girl clearly depicts he invaluable commitment to her boss which we should imbibe.It is also very truly presented that appearances are deceptive and all that glitters is not gold.




    • Dilip says:

      Thank you Girish for your comments. Yes the girls story is inspirational to us. And it is her committment that becomes a lesson for us.

      Warm Regards!


  2. Girish Kohli says:

    Hon’ble sir ,

    It is indeed encouraging to read the courage and determination of major Mehta who has used his glorious life fully for the nation in pursuit of excellence.
    His life has taught me so much today not to complain of our shortcomings as complaining is the refuge of those who don’t have self reliance with them.
    Hats off to Major Mehta whose invaluable contribution to our great country is beyond description.I pray to Almighty to grant me a pinch of his courage and commitment towards our country and our organisation which would obviously make us a better person.

    May Almighty showers his choicest blessings on him and his family members.

    Major Mehta came , he saw and conquered the aim of life.

    with best wishes

    Girish Kohli


  3. Dilip says:


    This is indeed a very inspiring and powerful statement. Such ‘sayings’ in go deep into the psyche of school children. My school anthem was “Dare to be wise” and it was also embossed on our blazers.

    Thanks for sharing &amp kind regards.


  4. suhas says:

    I have been reading the contents of this topic.Let me repeat what I read earlier, in my school days,


  5. Sahajo says:


    This simple Marathi saying speaks it all! What we see is only what we believe, which should not be the case as the truth lies beyond what we merely see..

    Thanks a lot for sharing this story!



    • Dilip says:

      “जसे दिसते तसे नसते , म्हणून जग फसते!”

      Hi Sahajo succinct comments! brings out the essence of the entire story beautifully.

      Many thanks and many good wishes.



  6. Hema P. says:

    Sometimes it takes incidents such as these for us to remember basic truths. Thanks for sharing!

    Thanks also for stopping by my blog!


    • Dilip says:

      Welcome! Its gracious of you to reciprocate. Yes the story though apparently simple does have a beautiful lesson for all.

      Your blog is spontaneous and creative. I’d love to view it off and on!

      With kind regards!


  7. Gaurav R Arora says:

    Dear Sir,

    I agree with Supriya, as humans we tend to look at the outward appearance and judge others by what we see and hear. The above story brings out the fact that things are not always what they appear to be. Beside if we look this story from a different perspective we will realize that, in this world of Show-Business we have lost our originality. It’s hard to be humble when you live in a society that encourages competition and individuality. We act, dress and live the way society wants us to see. We alter our Personality and behavior during the time of interviews, in order to ‘fit-in’. It will be very difficult to keep a job in corporate world without wearing a tie.

    Our eyes always first focus on negativity and finding faults in others. We have lost to understand the fact that true beauty lies in heart, behavior and knowledge rather than appearance. Its Person inner beauty that takes him very far and determine his action, charisma and true personality.

    Thank you for sharing this worthy story with us.

    Jai Hind
    Gaurav R Arora


    • Dilip says:

      Dear Gaurav,

      Your comments convey the essence of the story so beautifully. And what you say is true very true!

      “It’s hard to be humble when you live in a society that encourages competition and individuality. We act, dress and live the way society wants us to see. We alter our Personality and behavior during the time of interviews, in order to ‘fit-in’.”

      On a self-development course what I got to learn was that the recipe for real success in life is to be focused on competing with our own self – and not worry about the changing opinions of others. Even Kalaivani wants remains her simple self yet continues to better her job related knowledge. not only is she at peace with herself but so are the people around her – including her boss and customers.

      As regards interviews a good interviewer will always prefer a candidate who comes out on his own rather that fake his personality – based on mock-interviews etc.

      Thanks for your thought stimulating comments!


    • Aqeel says:

      great… dear Gaurav,
      i have no words to say something more than you have just said.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Geetha says:

    And I must say that I love this part because Kalaivani has learnt by herself and that too very early in her career at Giri Trading, about customer satisfaction and also about exceeding their expectations by being an SME – Subject Matter Expert – which is talked about quite a lot in the Corporate world.

    “Sir after joining here, I decided that the best way to be of help to the customers is to know the Subject first. I took small Books on Ramana, Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and started reading. I found the subject so fascinating..I decided to read other books in Tamil like Bhagavad Gita, and Viveka Choodamani. Thats how….”


    • Dilip says:

      Hi Geetha,

      As always you have fresh and meaningful interpretation of such inspirational stories.Isn’t it lovely coincidence that her name Kalaivani means the ‘Goddess of Learning’ – thanks for letting us know!

      You are quite right when the employee is deeply committed to the work assigned the outcome is always positive. The owner the customers and colleagues are bound to feel good and also respect you.

      Many thanks for your interesting observations.
      With kind regards.


  9. Geetha says:

    Dear Sir,

    Reading about Kalaivani is truly an experience of learning from unusual sources.

    Kalaivani has been so aptly named; she has indeed been blessed by the ‘Goddess of Learning’!

    If only we can unveil our intellectual snobbery and learn not to judge people just by their appearances or by their educational qualifications alone, am sure we can unearth many more such priceless gems.

    Thanks and regards,



  10. suhas says:

    (VESH ASAVA BAVLA, ANTARI ASAVYA NANA KALA). This is a famous saying in Marathi.
    One may be dressed in any manner. To look at one may be a simpleton, a fool, illiterate, awkward, an imbecile and what all; but that person may have various abilities within.
    Even Bhagwad Gita (2/42) says “Do not go by external appearance of an object or person,or fall for gimmicks. The wrapping can be deceptive; the wrapped is important.”
    At the same time do not fall for sweet talk, know what the other person is hinting at.
    (SUDNYA SI SANGANE NA LAGE) The wise understand by themselves.


    • Dilip says:


      Beautifully put! The essence lies in your last line “SUDNYA SI SANGANE NA LAGE – The wise understand by themselves”.

      Thanks you so much for sharing your thoughts.

      Kind regards.


  11. Supriya Dhende says:

    Hello Sir,How are u????

    I would like to say that Whether we like to admit it or not, people usually draw conclusions about a person from their looks. This affects how people treat each other. People often judge or misperceive other people’s appearances in a less than equal manner before they even know the true nature of the person… People must learn to look at others, not by appearance or how much wealth they have, but by their character. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
    It takes more time and effort to really get to know a person before judging them. I’m not sure if everyone can totally override their own preconceptions, but I think they must try to silence them while they probe deeper. There are many interesting, smart, and valuable people that don’t fit the mold that our society has created. The color of a person’s skin shouldn’t matter, nor should their age, sex, weight, or what clothes they wear.
    This narrative is very pleasing. It is a remarkable story of dedication, hope and love. We must learn from Kalaivani that “Utmost dedication and continuous hard work are two key factors for success in one’s career”.

    “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” – Vince Lombardi



    • Dilip says:

      Hi Supriya,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. This story truly is compelling and makes us introspect. Its only when we break through the barriers of style and form that we are able to see the richness and goodness in people. In my interviews sessions I always remind myself not to get swayed by only the dress and looks of candidates. That way the wrong candidate does not get selected and only the real gems are picked-up.

      Thanks & kind regards.


  12. Lubna says:

    Dear Sir,
    Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. The cynic in me is doubting whether or not she will really get that INR 10,000 per month… but I am sure that it will happen.
    BTW, have you read Blink by Malcom Gladwell.
    It also talks a bit about our preconceived bias and how that impacts our entire line of thinking.
    Best regards,


    • Dilip says:

      Howdy Lubna,

      Ha Ha lets hope for the best that the NRI’s conscience prevails! You are right the BLINK does explore this concept beautifully. It helped me refine my Interviewing skills more meaningfully.

      Thanks Lubna it’s always nice to hear from you. Kind regards.


  13. karan bardoliya says:

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story, Sir.
    I am Inspired a Lot!!!
    Attitude Matters.


    • Dilip says:

      Hi Karan it’s been so long isn’t it? I am glad you found my blog 🙂 Wonder if you are in touch with your course mates?

      Thanks for appreciating. Take care.


  14. Adripta Bhadra says:

    A truly inspiring story of how dedicated towards work Kalaivani was …
    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story, Sir.
    We should indeed not judge people from their outward appearance !



    • Dilip says:

      Hi and Ki Khabor? Adripta. Nice of you to drop by and appreciate. Yes Kalaivani’s deep sense of duty shines out gloriously and is worth emulating.

      Take care and wish you all the very best.


  15. Abhay Shirke says:

    Dear Brig. Naidu,

    It is indeed an eye-opener! Some savvy sophisticated westernised Indian looking disdainfully with studied non-chalance at an outwardly unimpressive, poverty stricken, hilly-billy girl! Till she leaves him stoned with her depth of knowledge, humility and sense of duty (note that she did not forsake customers for the sake of interview but requested the journalist to come back the next day)!
    Its a pity nowadays style has overtaken substance, pompousness has overtaken grace, nudity has overtaken beauty and avarice has overtaken charity specially in the media!

    Best Regards Abhay Shirke


    • Dilip says:

      Hi Abhay great response you are spot on when you say the emphasis is more on form than substance. We need to be aware and not fall for the glitz.

      Its always a pleasure to receive a hello fro you guys after so many years.

      Bye and best regards!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s