A humble and modest man, Devarajan, has been selling tender coconut on the pavements of Chennai, for nearly three decades. He took over the traditional work, at 18 that his father was doing. With little education, he is god fearing, hardworking and resolute. Shail profiles the man on the street, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
“The two basic items necessary to sustain life are sunshine and coconut milk.” ~ Dustin Hoffman, American actor and director, in film, television and theatre.
Devarajan is a son of the soil; a survivor of adversity and a man of integrity. On an ordinary day, if you pass his way, it is most likely that you might not see him at all. Almost hidden behind a heap of tender coconuts sits this 47-year- old man who has been working here from the time he was 18 years old. He studied till the 8 th standard but had to discontinue his studies as his father passed away and he had to don on the mantle of sole breadwinner of the family.
Almost three decades on the pavement of a government office, did he ever think of leaving this profession of selling tender coconuts and do something else?
“Yes, so many times. After all, everyone wants to do something better, something that will bring in more money. But, I couldn’t manage to do anything else better. And, I did not get the right guidance. Since my father was already in this business of selling tender coconuts it seemed more convenient to just carry on.”
Is life easy doing this job, I asked him. He gave me a look as though I was joking.
“It is a simple job but no work is easy, however simple it may appear. We are seven people at home. I need to take care of all. Nobody should sleep hungry. It is difficult.”
With his house currently in Vyasarpadi, around six kilometres from his shop, how does he travel to and fro from work?
“I take the bus. Sometimes, when I am delayed then I have to take the share auto. So, I have to take into account my travelling charges too every day.”
Are you living in the same house that you lived in so many years back, I ask.
“No. No. No owner allows a tenant to stay in his house for a long time since many tenants create problems and refuse to vacate the house. I shift every now and then because of that reason.”
Devarajan’s wife Selvi is of the same age. She hails from Hyderabad. They are a two states family. But, having lived here, she converses with him in Tamil. Love might sprout and blossom anywhere. I try to imagine how Selvi would have met him.
They have four children. The first one, a boy is doing his M.Sc. The second one, a girl is studying in the 10 th . And the last two are twins. Girls. They do not study. After his father’s demise, his mother has been living with him.
So, when does he take the day off?
“No leave for me. I work on all days from 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm.”
But, doesn’t he feel like taking a break sometimes? Maybe, moving around with friends?
“I have just one friend who I have known from childhood. We meet sometimes and talk. He has a cycle shop. Other friends, I don’t know where they are. All are scattered. I can’t afford bad habits. How will I manage otherwise?”
It rained terribly some days back. What does he do when during heavy monsoon?
“It is terrible. During those times nobody wants to buy tender coconuts. Those days we barely get to have a meal the entire day.”
His eyes were moist and I did not know where to look.
Doesn’t he feel like shouting at God sometimes?
“How can I do that? We don’t know what problem He is having. It is just my fate. I firmly believe that nothing happens without a reason. Krishna even said to His devotee, ‘If everybody becomes rich then, who will ask for me?’ I believe that one can do only two things in life; either bear one’s troubles or bow down before the troubles.”
I was amazed. Here was a tender coconut seller but so much wisdom!
As a parting shot I asked him what he thought of freedom.
What he told me left me impressed wondering why so many well off people do not have the kind of maturity this man showed. Perhaps hardships teach us more and life’s lessons are profound.
“Real genuine love between husband and wife does not require freedom. Freedom must be there but it must be a disciplined one, so that no harm comes to anyone.”
Humbly, I bowed down before his philosophy of life: Bear your troubles with grace. Don’t worry God with your petty problems. And accept life’s destiny.
I did not need to go anywhere to learn how life should be lived. Devarajan, an unsung hero, is a fine example of it!
Pix by Vinod Naraen
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