Hold Your Tongue

Jagdish Bali

(The writer is based at Kumarsain, Shimla)

One morning I was sitting, waiting in the lobby of Tenzin Hospital at Shimla for my turn for the eye check-up. I noticed three people discussing Indian politics. Soon their conversation turned into a high sounding tirade against each other. Ppeople around suddenly got exasperated. Dr Ali came out of his cabin and staring at the three with a disapproving look, he pointed his finger towards the white piece of paper glue-stuck to the wall. The paper had the words typed on it big and bold, “For better life speak only when your words are better than silence.”

All the three had to cut a sorry figure and they snapped their lips tight only to open after a long time when they left the hospital corridor. This is how people exasperate others and themselves because they don’t know the principle of three W’s and one H – what to say, when to say, where to say and how to say. Rustling through some pages, one day a catchy line in Urdu caught my eyes. Whoever said it said it so well – ‘Khuda ko napasand hai sakhtiyan zubaan kee, is liea haddi naheen hai zubaan kee’ – the tongue doesn’t have bone because God dislikes the harshness of language. Tongue remains moistened because it  has been made to say sweet juicy words.

Not only is mouth sandwiched between two ears, it has also an overlooking head. Our tongue must twist and turn to open the mouth only after seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting. In other words think first and speak later to speak better. Dr APJ Abul Kalam, once narrated an interesting and enlightening story. One evening Kalam’s mother placed a plate of’ subzi and a burnt roti as dinner in front of his father. She apologised to him for the burnt roti. But the father just ate the roti and said, “Honey, I love burnt roti.” Later that night, Kalam asked his father if he really liked the burnt roti. He took Kalam in his arms and said, “Your mom put in a long hard day at work today and she was really tired. And besides, a burnt roti never hurts anyone but harsh words do!” Well intended thoughts, if expressed in harsh words, can offend the hearer.

What you take as frankness can become vulgarity for others. Most of the conflicts arise not due to the difference in opinion, but due to wrong tone and choice of language. Well measured words mean that you can make friends with various types of people – be it work place or peer group or social gathering. The words or the language you choose to speak to people tells much about the stuff you are made from. It either raises or reduces your stature in the eyes of the people. Your tone and tenor decide whether people are going to like your company. Therefore hold your tongue!

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