Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Jawaharlal, As a Speaker

P. R. Ramachandra Rao

The Congress President is not an orator. His is not the forensic delivery. He does not batter you with a volley of pompous sentences. There is no attempt at the grand style. His method is different.

Gandhi has a style all his own. It is the inimitable style that belongs to great men. With him speech is not a garbled expression of the mind; it is an authentic record of his inner- most mental volitions. He speaks with the directness, nakedness and simplicity of Truth. And he speaks straight; he strikes home. His words stir in you immortal longings. You are left with a vacant and abiding sadness. Because the vision has disappeared.

You go to hear Gandhi. You tell yourself that you are listening to the world’s greatest man. You are all on edge with intense expectation. And the marvel is that he outdoes your expectations. While he speaks you are lifted out of yourself. The sentences are delivered with a clear-cut lucidity, in rich and significant tones. They come from out of the depth of his petalled soul.

Bhulabhai Desai has intellectual tempo about his emotional delivery. He is more than a lawyer. He is an inspired lawyer. He sways his audience to the mood of his exquisite intellectuality. Argument after argument is clenched with subtle mastery, and as he speaks he revolves with a characteristic dignity. And when the thought burns with emotion, the voice is choked and his eyes glisten with prophetic fervour.

Chittaranjan Das spoke with the voice of a giant. His enormous build was reared to the full and he roared his sentences. The man was a fighter to the last, and it was in battle that he excelled most. His thunderous outpouring swept his audience by the feet. You listened and then you were overawed by the dynamic personality of the man. "You cannot wipe out Bengal from the map of India," he thundered with a majestic sweep of the hand. You crouched down and had not the courage to speak. You were dazed by his battery. Sentence was shot after sentence with a ruthless incisiveness. It was as the irresistible downpour of a torrential rain. When the rain ceased you looked up and the sky was clear, and the sun was shining on the hill-tops.

Jawaharlal Nehru is different. His opening does not startle you. He begins slowly. As he speaks, the thought-sequence opens out for him. It is as if the trickling rills should collect and slowly awaken the avalanche which sweeps with a thunderous suddenness. Beneath the surface of his modulous words roars the current of thought. It bubbles, it boils, and it overwhelms.

The President steps on to the platform. You look at his(still) handsome features. It is the perfect Aryan type. While he speaks his countenance assumes a severity akin almost to fierceness. The brows are knitted, and, as the sentences are delivered, the eyes emanate fire. The man has been roused, his personality projects itself, he strikes fast and thick. Neck out-thrust, his impetuous body quivers as his right hand rends the air with telling sentences.

The President has pauses. But the pauses belong to an over-flowing mind. The mind is white-hot; it works at tremendous velocity; it leaps and it soars. Speech for such dynamic minds is a worthless instrument. It snaps overweighted by the flood of thought. The mellowed genius of Shakespeare stammered in the last Romances; the impatient thought of Browning broke loose and shattered grammar and syntax. So the emotional onslaught of Nehru breaks phonetic frontiers and, while breaking, falters.

The greatness of the man shows itself in the intellectual texture of his speech. His versatile thought derives from his immense knowledge and studies. Here is a master-mind that has brushed aide the adventitious cobwebs of surface-contentions. He probes the depths and deals with the fundamentals. His mind, indeed, functions with an elemental austerity. He resolves the impertinent irrelevances with a convincing application of first principles. Nehru, the historian, has an infallible sense of the true, the eye for the proper perspective. Nehru, the poet, lifts the commonplace to the level of the imaginative; every word is charged with an instinctive beauty.

Nehru is fearless. He borders on the imperative. The striking truth is not sugar-coated with any circumlocutory expression: it does not meander, it thrusts. In the iconoclastic levelling of superstitious shibboleths, he stands on no nice formalities. An aristocratic nonchalance informs his proceedings. The man has been always accustomed to have his way and is determined to have it too.

And he speaks to you with "the dignity and the authority of the Indian National Congress." He is conscious of that authority. There is no pretence of humility. He overbears with a commanding serenity. He reaches the vast multitudes by the same assertive domination. The man is a hurricane. Like a tempest he arrives, brushing aside the mobbing crowd. The crowd falls dazed and complimented. And then he is up on the platform driving caustic home-truths. And the crowd applauds.

Nehru insists on the microphone. He will not brook the out-dated expedient of bellowing to the multitude. His ‘Western’ mind revolts from the attendant confusion. And he administers to you generous rebukes if you deny him the facility.

For a public speaker, Nehru, perhaps, has not enough humour. Humour not necessarily savours speech, but it cuts the opponent decisively. That faculty Lloyd George has in abundance, and it is before it that his adverse interlocutors shiver and quail. But Nehru is far too serene. For a man whose mind is too much in the future, it is inevitable that he should be so.

The first forensic achievements of the early Congress patriarchs strike today a far-away note. In that cultured assembly fifty years ago, speaking was a dilettantic exercise. Speech just floated away. It rarely struck root. Even the classical oratory of Surendranath Banerjea and Lal Mohan Ghose seldom crossed to the millions. The millions were reached and stirred by public speaking of quite another sort. The ponderous, long-drawn sonority of the early Congress died out. Gandhi revolutionised the apparatus of mass appeal. The mass conscience was roused by an artless simplicity. This elemental appeal went home to the most primary intelligences. They listened and they understood. The unlettered millions sensed profound meaning behind his utterances, though delivered sometimes in an alien medium, by an almost fourth-dimensional faculty. And the masses heaved with enthusiasm.

Nehru touches the mass-mind by an incisiveness of thought and expression. He staggers by a talk of earthquakes and upheavals. In another continent the air resounds with the dinning blasts of the microphones. Catchwords roll, gathering little moss. In India, especially, where the appeal is not to a limited electorate but to the entire nation, the apparatus of mass appeal needs immensely to be perfected. With us the platform is a potent minister.

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