The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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I interviewed my dad, Chellappan Vijayakumar, at my dorm. My dad had grown up in a poor farming village in rural South India before moving to America. When the parents couldn’t watch their kids because of work, they would ask other people in the village to do it for them. The memory means much to this person as it taught him the value of learning different skills and that it is never too late to learn new things.

At first glance, the inside of the mud hut didn’t stand out when compared to other villages, with its plane white walls and straw roof. But when he looked down at the floor, his curiosity was piqued. There were a number of strange instruments neatly placed across the floor. The one that stood out the most was a metal plank with a row of holes of decreasing size. He assumed they were the tools of the goldsmith.

          As if being summoned by his thoughts, the goldsmith soon appeared in the room. He had coke bottle glasses, wrinkled dark brown skin, a greying mustache, and calloused hands, most likely acquired through years of forging. “Alright you brats. If I have to take care of you all day, then you are going to help me make jewelry,” said the goldsmith. This intrigued Chellappan. He always wondered how smiths were capable of turning hard and stiff metal into the flexible chains in necklaces and bracelets. The goldsmith then took them through the process of creating the gold chains. First, the gold was melted in the furnace. A handheld blower was used in order to speed of the melting of the gold block and to make sure it completely liquid. The molten metal was then placed in a long and thin mud mold. Once the gold had cooled down, the rod was then twisted and pushed through a series of holes of decreasing size in order to make it flexible and thin.

           The entire process was a tedious affair. It took an entire day to produce one single strand of gold, and that was when everybody worked together. It did not help that they kept messing up one of the steps every now and then, forcing them to start all over. Nevertheless, Chellappan and his friends managed to forge a single gold wire. To celebrate, the goldsmith treated them to some chicken biryani. As the group ate their meal, Chellappan began to think over the days events. After going through the ordeal of smelting gold, he had gained an appreciation for the gold smith’s skills and work ethic. He became curious about where he learned his skills. “So old man, where did you learn how to forge?”, asked Chellappan. “Oh I taught myself all my skills through trial and error, at the age of 40 no less,” answered the goldsmith. “At age 40! That is impossible!”, exclaimed Chellapan. “Listen kid, it is never too late to learn something new, always remember that. If you do, then your life will forever be fulfilled,” responded the goldsmith. Chellappan had henceforth taken those words to heart.

Forge of Gold

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1959
India

I interviewed my dad, Chellappan Vijayakumar, at my dorm. My dad had grown up in a poor farming village in rural South India before moving to America. When the parents couldn’t watch their kids because of work, they would ask other people in the village to do it for them. The memory means much to this person as it taught him the value of learning different skills and that it is never too late to learn new things.

Decade: 1950s
Rating:
Recorded by Guhan Vijayakumar on December 6, 2018
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