” Formidable Intellects of Our Times” – March 26, 2021.

Knowledge and information brightened up at the words of leaders tinged with humour, grace, and subtlety in Parliament , International meets, and Assembly houses in the past.

They are now facing the risks of being harmed and endangered with often insults, and physical attacks becoming common.

Here are some excellent examples of the conversation(s) reflecting the confident, impressive, and high quality performances recorded with great skill.

(a) A newsmagazine reporter asked Mahatma Gandhi the question : ” Why are you always travelling in III Class compartments in trains?” Gandhiji replied : ” Because the trains do not have IV Class compartments.”

(b) Gandhiji participated in the Round Table Conference in Buckingham Palace along with many political heads from other countries. King George V held a tea party for all of them on November 5, 1931. As is his wont Gandhiji attended the party in Khadi cloth (dhoti) raised upto his knees, a Khadi shawl covering his body and an ordinary Chappal – a light and comfortable open shoe. As soon as the party was over, news reporters approached him with interest and one of them asked Gandhiji, ” Didn’t you feel embarrassed to meet the King George V wearing these plain old clothes ?” Gandhiji replied smilingly : “No worries, King has compensated adequately with his multi pieced habliments “.

(c) Jawaharlal Nehru went to US for the first time in 1949. He was astounded by their style of life and with a puzzled frown on his face he remarked : ” Nobody should go to US as their first trip”. Those within the US get accustomed and habituated to this style of life without evoking any feelings of astonishment or bashfulness. Can we?

(d) V K Krishna Menon was on his visit to US to attend a UN meet. It was the time when America extended its help generously to Pakistan with defense equipments and armaments. Krishna Menon raised questions about the intent and application of the defense armaments supplied to Pakistan saying : ” America’s action is against the interests of India.” America defended its action : ” The armaments supply will not be used against India”. Krishna Menon’s reply in just a sentence was a revealing insight into the unusual incident as perceived by India. ” I am yet to see a Tiger that does not eat flesh”.

(e) An American news reporter once asked Indira Gandhi why she refuses to meet the Pakistan President Yahya Khan. India Gandhi replied : ” How can anyone shake hands with closed hands and arms?” What she meant was her inability to talk to a person who does not sport an open mind.

(f) There was a time when Rajiv Gandhi made frequent visits abroad. When he entered the Parliament after a long break, Mr Upendra, Telugu Desam Party and Opposition Leader, remarked : ” Let us all welcome our PM, Rajiv Gandhi, who makes his august presence in the Parliament by clapping our hands”. Rajiv Gandhi understood the trace of sarcasm and the subtle manner in which it was displayed. He smiled approvingly while handling the situation with a light touch.

(g) Soft hearted and well mannered Dr Manmohan Singh attended the meeting of the Asian Leaders in a neighbouring country. He had the opportunity to discuss with the Pakistan President on the sidelines. Pakistan President with total indifference to what the reaction will be, said : ” It is only an accident that you are the PM”. Astute that Dr Manmohan Singh always has been replied : “That I am the PM may just be an ‘event’ but by being the President you have put your nation’s democracy to a serious ‘accident’ of history”.

(h) In the 1957 State elections in TamilNadu, CN Annadurai , stood as the DMK party’s candidate in Kanchipuram . The opponent was a famous Medical Doctor. Famed actor, NS Krishna went to Kanchipuram to speak in support of CN Annadurai, alluding to the opposing Congress candidate as a great Doctor who provides excellent health care at nominal charges for the benefit of all people here. It will only be appropriate that he stays in Kanchipuram itself lending his services rather than going to the Assembly to fight for your needs. Let Annadurai fight for you in the Assembly. Choose him to be your representative. ” His speech was as humorous as it always has been in films.

(i) After the Gandhian leader, KKamaraj’s death, senior leaders of Congress (O) wanted to merge the party with India Congress (R). Erstwhile speaker and Kamaraj’s confidante, Chella Pandian was supposed to release the first statement. The statement was released supporting the merger. Youth leader, Kumari Ananthan, who was not in support of the merger remarked humorously : ” Chella Pandian has been a popular leader till yesterday ; he has been a pure conformist toeing the line of Kamaraj ever ; but supporting the merger now he has become ” Chelladha Pandian ” ( ‘ invalid Pandian’ ). The very next day Chella Pandian replied : ” I have been a ‘Chelladha Pandian’ yesterday ; I will remain one today ; and I will continue to be one ever”. I cannot follow any track other than what Kamaraj has taught me “. His ability, shrewdness, and sensitivity were on full display.

Let us all hope that we will get to hear such brilliant, illuminating, and intellectual exchanges with no hurt or damage to anyone’s feelings in future among leaders of all hues.

” Dieu avec nous ”

Friday, March 26, 2021 – 12.09 p.m. (IST)

Tidbit : ” Intellect of the wise is like glass ; it admits the light of heaven and reflects it”. – Augustus Hare.


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