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Words are Sharper than the two-edged sword


"Words are all we have" proclaimed Irish playwright Samuel Beckett not because he made a living out of it but because he understood the potency of words. Words are much more powerful and influential than any weapon and it is a 'weapon of future' that must not be misused.

Words have a longstanding effect on the minds of a listener. They can make the listener his friend or his enemy. From daily household occurrences to nationwide struggle, words are influential in making a long lasting impact. The sarcastic remarks or kind compliments to your friends and family to powerful speeches at national and international forums, the sinew of words can be seen by the effect they have on the listener(s). It is aptly recognised in the story of Akbar and Birbal where the latter responded to the most important organ of the body as the 'tongue'.

The words of Bible, Quran, and Gita have more impact on its followers and a religious leader gets sanctity once he quotes from these books. The stress on human service emphasized by Jesus led to emergence of many Christian missionaries world over who served humanity. Prophet Mohammed's last sermon in medieval period on the rights of every individual served as the basis of 1948 UN Charter for Human Rights. A doubtful Arjun about the necessity of war and indiscriminate killing was swayed to fight and win the war by the strong and encouraging words of Lord Krishna. In the same epic Draupadi's insulting remark to Duryodhan ultimately led to the war.

Also careful diplomatic words and features are continuously dominated in the history of political scenarios. The careful titling of Dadabhai Nauroji's book "Poverty and 'Un-British' rule of India" in the moderate phase of freedom struggle that first discussed the drain of wealth by the British, Mahatma Gandhi's calling of Prarthana Sabhas for religious unity under the guise of 'soul purification' and Nehru's midnight speech 'A Tryst with Destiny' are some from numerous such examples.

Catchy slogans in the freedom struggle like in clubs 'Inquilab Zindabad' and 'Jai Hind' mobilised the public on large scale. Also the role played by newspapers, periodicals, weekly like Amrita Bazar, Young India, Harijan, Al-Hilal in the freedom struggle is well known and documented.

In the international scenario "I have a dream speech" of Martin Luther King on racial injustice to Margaret Thatcher's "The lady is not for turning" are considered masterpieces in world politics. Malala Yousafzai Nobel Prize winning speech for promoting education stunned the world.

Also, words on political front create or destroy the image of the speaker and its associated organization. Fickle words demonstrative of India's unstable foreign policy particularly in respect to Pakistan is often criticized. Reckless and vicious words hurting sentiments of one community especially during election campaigns are often cause of inflammable riots and large scale damage to human lives and property, be it the 1992 Babri Masjid riots or 20 years later Muzaffarnagar riots.

On the contrary, a 2016 Canadian Prime Minister apologizing for a 1914 'Komagata Maru' ship incident speaks volumes about his personality. Similarly, Japanese Prime Minister apologizing for use of Korean comfort women by Japanese soldiers during World War 2 worked to a great extent for uplifting Japanese Korean relations. President Obama's meeting with hibakushas and calling Hiroshima incident as "Death fell from the sky and showed mankind possessed means to destroy itself" was a strong statement despite the fact, he didn't apologize for the occurrence.

Print media has held influence for the longest time. A newspaper headline 'No one killed Jessica' brought a number of people for candle march and expeditious justice delivery in the high profile murder case. Recent developments like the social media and instant messaging platforms where words are exchanged freely could be useful or vicious. Its power was seen in 2008 Obama's highly successful presidential campaign, 2011 Arab Spring and recent rise of ISIL. Closer home, Anna Hazare's movement got popularity, PM Modi had a successful campaign and recently it gave momentum to the Patidar agitation and made viral the speech of the Dalit youth Kanhaiya Kumar.

Thus, it would be appropriate to say "Words could wound or words could heal. Words could make one live forever or get him killed. So choose them wisely." The ability to communicate is what sets us apart. What we say has a great impact on our personality, our relationships and group dynamics to which we belong. Suffice is to say, self restraint and control must be practiced while expressing thoughts and emotions. Words are definitely sharper than two edged sword and truly words are all we have.

-Neda Fatima