411 – Listening

National Integration Through Thirukkural And Sanskrit


Helen Keller ‘s story is about an individual’s triumph over her triple disabilities of blindness, deafness and a severe speech impairment.

Helen Keller was born with the ability to see and hear. When she was, 19 months old, she contracted an illness which  left her both deaf and blind. To overcome that, she learnt to communicate with sign language.

Anne Sullivan, her teacher began to teach Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, beginning with “d-o-l-l” for the doll that she had brought Keller as a present. Keller was frustrated, at first, because she did not understand that every object had a word uniquely identifying it. Keller’s big breakthrough in communication came the next month, when she realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running cool water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of “water”. She demanded that she be taught the names of all the other familiar objects in her world.

Determined to communicate with others as conventionally as possible, Keller learned to speak, and spent much of her life giving speeches and lectures. Her sense of touch had become so subtle that she learned to “hear” people’s speech by reading their lips with her hands. She became proficient at using Braille and reading Sign Language with her hands as well. She could even experience the music played nearby by placing her fingertips on a resonant tabletop. She went on to become a political activist and authored many books.

Helen Keller was one asked about the faculty, she missed the most, eyes or ears, She immediately said, she missed her hearing faculty the most. She said, with her hearing faculty, she could have listened a lot and that would have helped her understand the world better. She felt her contribution to mankind could have been multiple times her present contribution.

Thiruvalluvar in his couplet 411 emphasizes the same. The most precious wealth of a person is the valuable education acquired through the ears by carefully listening to the great, people imparting knowledge. This wealth is paramount of all other ephemeral (temporary) wealth.

செல்வத்துள் செல்வம் செவிச்செல்வம் அச்செல்வம்
செல்வத்துள் எல்லாம் தலை

Selvaththul Selvam Sevich-chelvam Ach-chelvam
Selvaththul Ellaam Thalai

பரிமேலழகர் உரை: 

செல்வத்துள் செல்வம் செவிச்செல்வம் – ஒருவருக்குச் சிறப்புடைய செல்வமானது செவியான் வரும் செல்வம், அச்செல்வம் செல்வத்துள் எல்லாம் தலை – அச்செல்வம் பிற செல்வங்கள் எல்லாவற்றினும் தலையாகலான். ( செவியான் வரும் செல்வம் – கேள்வியால் எல்லாப் பொருளையும் அறிதல். பிற செல்வங்கள் – பொருளால் வருவன. அவை நிலையா ஆகலானும், துன்பவிளைவின ஆகலானும், இது தலையாயிற்று. அவற்றை ஒழித்து இதனையே செய்க என்பது குறிப்பெச்சம்.).

Sanskrit Translation by Shri S.N. Srirama Desikan

ஸ்₂ருத்வா யத்₃ ஜ்ஞாயதே தத்த்வம் தத₃ப்யேகம் த₄னம் ப₄வேத் |
ஸத்ஸு வித்தேஷு ப₃ஹுஷு முக்₂ய மேதத்₃ விபா₄வ்யதே ||