A quote of arms
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A quote of arms

The Supreme Court is facing a lot of criticism for its judgement on Salwa Judum, but I think they've done a wonderful job of quoting Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Manas Chakravarty writes.

india Updated: Jul 23, 2011 22:09 IST

The Supreme Court is facing a lot of criticism for its judgement on Salwa Judum, but I think they've done a wonderful job of quoting Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Their lordships said their reaction to the state of human rights in Chhattisgarh could best be expressed through Conrad's words, "The horror, the horror." I'm all for more people in high places using literary quotations, they make things sound really classy.

Take Nitin Gadkari. The man is having a tough time settling in his role as the BJP party chief. What better way to describe his predicament than to turn to American writer Mark Twain's well-known quote, "A round man cannot be expected to fit in a square hole right away. He must have time to modify his shape." Unfortunately, I see no signs of any modification in Gadkari's shape.

Or take any reviled politician, thought to be wholly unprincipled. Some would instantly point to Mayawati. She would then accuse them of being casteist and the whole debate would be lost in acrimony. It would be so much better if Mayawati quotes Stephen King, the writer of horror stories, "Some people say that I must be a horrible person, but that's not true. I have the heart of a young boy. In a jar. On my desk."

Worried about whether the government is following the right policies? Just remember what the Cheshire Cat told Alice, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." The government knows this, which is why its mind is completely at rest.

How should we view the recent padayatra by a well-known young politician? The well-known poet Edward Lear believed there are deep reasons for such wanderlust. In his celebrated poem, 'The Dong with the Luminous Nose', Lear described the symptoms, "But when the sun was low in the West/The Dong arose and said/'What little sense I once possessed/ Has quite gone out of my head'/And since that day he wanders still/By lake or forest, marsh and hill." Imagine how immeasurably superior the discussion would have been if the Opposition had quoted Lear instead of making the usual snide remarks.

The writer, actor and director Woody Allen warned us long ago of the tough choices we faced in electing our leaders. Should we choose the Congress or the BJP? Should we go right or left? This is what he said: "More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."

Or during the recent Cabinet reshuffle, the government spokesman should have said, in PG Wodehouse's famous words, that Srikant Jena and Gurudas Kamat were "if not actually disgruntled, far from being gruntled."

Ever wondered why so little gets done in Parliament? Rudyard Kipling, the novelist of the British Raj, explained it clearly long ago, "Every one wanted to say so much that no one said anything in particular."

I completely realise that, after being subjected to this barrage of quotes, people are itching to quote something back at me. How about this one by Oscar Wilde, "Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation." To which I would reply, in the immortal words of Mr Weasley in JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, "Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain."

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint

The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Jul 23, 2011 22:05 IST