Author: Shri N.Subramaniam, B.E., M.Sc., (Engg..), M.I.E., M.I.C.I - Chennai
Source: Moments of a lifetime

(The following episode was narrated by Engineer Mani concerning the renowned architect Sri R.R.Sharma - the first Indian to acquire his degree in architecture from the London School of Architecture, in those days - whom he accompanied when calling upon the Mahaswami)

The renowned architect, known for his vast knowledge in his field went to see the Mahaswami on being called on some work. The work that lay ahead was quite simple. The figures of Adi Sankara and his four disciples had to be installed in Rameshwaram at a height, in such a way that they could be seen without any obstruction when viewed from Agni Theertham. The angle of elevation for the height of the structure on which the figures had to be installed had to be decided. The architect was a little taken aback and felt slighted that he had been called for a matter as insignificant as this. Meanwhile, as he looked at Mahaswami, several thoughts passed through His mind. 'People talk so much about the Sanakaracharya. But he looks so non-descript and puny, and seems nothing extraordinary. Is he at all as knowledgeable as it is generally believed?"

As for the Mahaswami, in His own leisurely manner, He began to converse with the architect. He asked Sri Sharma the names by which the various measurements were signified. The architect for his part replied with words like 'foot', 'yard', 'mile' and so on.

Some time passed. His Holiness showed the measurements from the tip of His middle finger to that of the forearm and asked the architect what it was called. The architect shot back the reply that it was called 'muzham' (or yard) in Tamil. Some time passed. Now His Holiness stretched his fingers and pointing to the distance between the tip of the thumb and the tip of the little finger asked the architect by what term it was described. Without a moment's hesitation, the architect replied that it was known as 'jaan' in Tamil.

The architect was amused and wondered why His Holiness was questioning him thus, making him name the basic measurements. But more was yet to come!

A short while later, His Holiness stretched His thumb and His forefinger and looked at the architect questioningly as if to ask if there was any such measurement and if it was in use, what it was called.

The architect was taken aback and had no answer to give. Nor could he say definitely that no such measurement existed because he was not sure whether it did nor not. Minutes passed and only silence reigned. Then answering the question Himself, His Holiness said, "It is known as 'coopay', isn't it?"

In those days, the only train from Rameshwaram to Chennai was the Boat Mail. The architect boarded the train that night in a state of restlessness for he had to ascertain the matter to himself!

On reaching his place the next morning, the first thing he did was to search the Dictionary of Architect terms and lo and behold! There it was, 'coopay', which signified the space between the tip of the thumb and the tip of the forefinger!

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The architect telephoned his friend Mani, the engineer, and said "Mani! That Samiyar of yours...., my salutations to him!!

Jaya Jaya Shankara, Hara Hara Shankara!
Source: sumi