Monday, April 27, 2020

It is not what you say, but how you say it

Our conduct tells our upbringing, our speech tells our region, 
The company we keep tells our affections and health of our body tells about our diet.

आचारः कुलमाख्याति देशमाख्याति भाषणम् ।
सम्भ्रमः स्नेहमाख्याति वपुराख्याति भोजनम् ॥

āchāraḥ kulamākhyāti deśhamākhyāti bhāṣhaṇam |
sambhramaḥ snehamākhyāti vapurākhyāti bhojanam ||

Conduct tells upbringing, speech tells region, 
Company tells affections, body tells diet.
It is not what you say, but how you say it

Conduct tells upon our upbringing.

There are times when we meet someone, man or woman, boy or girl, that just bowls us over with their perfect mannerism, due respect and humility. And we feel so good that still there are people who groom their kids well. We attribute it rightly to their parents and early upbringing - of good 'breeding' or upbringing. And same for the opposite behavior as well. "Is that what your mom taught you?" - would be a scolding misbehaving kids receive. And the same retort comes from youth/kids when they yell back - "You are not my mom (or dad)."

Our behavior betrays our upbringing. Or to say it positively, our behavior shines, tells upon our upbringing. The values of our family, our family traditions.

Speech/accent tells where one is from.

Language tells us from where some one comes. Even within the same language, accent tells more precisely where one was brought up. Within the small island of England, there are so many accents, and people can differentiate each one clearly! A vast country like India has so many accents, that a lot of them developed in their own language! Every 30 km of so, the accent changes out in the country.

There was once a multi-lingual person who cam to the court of Emperor Kṛiṣhṇadeva Rāi and challenged the court if anyone could tell his mother tongue. He spoke many languages flawlessly. None of the experts could figure it out. Tenālī Rāman, the wise, asked for a day or two to get to the answer. At night, the guest was put up in the royal guest house, feasting sumptuous dinner and sleeping on some of the most comfortable, soft beds ever. In the early hours of the morning, around 3 am, Tenālī had his attendant throw a bucket of cold water on him. Rudely woken up, the erudite guest some very choice words to yell, which he won't have wanted his high cultured parents to hear. The next day in the morning, when the court was set up, Tenālī Rāman could tell the guest's mother tongue easily. The surprised guest asked how did he figure this out. Tenālī said, "No matter how learned one is, in the time of distress or urgency, one reverts back to using mother tongue only!"

Our language, the accent tells about where we grew up.
And, it is not (only) what you say, but how you say it (that matters)!

Hanging out together tells of our affections/liking.

We usually hang around to pass free time, and there we usually have freedom to choose. We may not be able to choose our co-workers, boss, teacher in class, co-passenger in the local train etc, but we have full freedom in picking who we want to hang out with.

sam-bhramaḥ, moving about together, birds of the same flock. It tells our affinities, our liking.

The dictionary meaning of sambhrama also include respect and reverence. How and how much we respect someone, also tells about how we relate to them. Is it formal respect, informal friendly care, fake formal going-through-the-motions respect?

(Health of our) Body tells upon our diet/food.

The food we eat affects our body. While exercise shapes our body, it is the food that makes it. Literally. Every cell of the body is a result of us eating food. But, eating junk food affects the body in a certain way, obesity, reduced immunity and many other issues. How well is a body, tells us if the person eats healthy or not. We are what we eat.

There are three types. Types of food, people, giving, guṇa-s - sattva, rajas, tamas. Sāttvika food is that which gives great health, easy to digest, freshly prepared. It is eaten by people who think of the long term goodness of health over the short term goodness of taste. Rājasika food has both the quality and the presentation & taste to be good. The stress is also on taste and presentation, not just long term health. Tāmasika food has more to do with the act of eating, sometimes even the taste maybe forsaken just for the fact of eating. The food doesn't have to be fresh, well presented or anything. This is how fridges are cleaned up sometimes - Oh, I don't know how old this is, but I can't throw it. Let me finish it by putting it in my temple like pious body!

After thought.

So what may have been the reason for Chāṇakya to include this wisdom verse in his collection? Which one of these very different examples was his main concern?

Remember, he was a statesman. But he was well traveled. From Pātalīputra (modern Patnā) in eastern India to Takṣhashilā (Taxila) in modern Pakistan, a full 1654 km, was known to him like the back of his hand. (Google doesn't show a driving direction since it crosses international border, so had to choose walking route below!) He was also at a time when attacks on India were happening on the Western border, specially from the Greeks. He is credited for thwarting the attack by Alexander, and consolidating the kings into an empire. There was a lot of espionage involved, identifying foreigners, spies etc. So while telling this point about accent, he may also have added 3 more. It is like Buy one, get 3 free offer.

And now the language part:

आचारः āchāraḥ = conduct, behavior, manners

कुलमाख्याति kulamākhyāti  = kulam + ākhyāti = lineage/family + tells (ākhyāna = narration, a tale, famous story) 

देशमाख्याति deśhamākhyāti = deśham + ākhyāti = region/country + tells 

भाषणम् bhāṣhaṇam = speech, utterance, manner of talking.
Here, one may have the question that, since deśham and bhāṣhaṇam both are in dvitīyā vibhakti, which tells which? In this particular case, it is easier, because deśha in nominative case (prathamā) is deshaḥ, so we know this has to be accusative case. Hence, the other has to be kartā/prathamā/nominative. 
So, bhāṣhaṇam tells deśham. In case the word was phalam (fruit), in this case the words are same in their kartā and karma forms (nominative and accusative forms). Then, if common sense clarifies the doubt, good. For example, certain fruits are native only to certain region, so fruit tells the region. In cases when this doubt can't be cleared via common sense, the writer of the shloka should use some other unambiguous words. 

सम्भ्रमः sambhramaḥ = sam = together, bhrama = to move about. bhramaṇam = wandering, touring. 

स्नेहमाख्याति snehamākhyāti = sneham + ākhyāti = affection, tells 

वपुराख्याति vapurākhyāti = vapuḥ + ākhyāti = body, tells

भोजनम् bhojanam = food

(c) Shashikant Joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed your erudite presentation. It reminded me of a very famous Gujarati writer Shri Zaverchand Meghani, who in one of his stories wrote,”Yada yada munchati vakyabanun, tada tada jati kulah pramanun!”
    Also,it reminded me of captain Nemo, a fictional character created by the French novelist Jules Verne (1828–1905). In, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), he had said that under extreme circumstances one speaks in his mother tongue.


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