top of page

Strength of Softness Part-I

My mother Padma Pultamkar was a Sanskrit scholar. She knew all 18 adhyas of “Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta” by heart. The students in the neighborhood used to come to her with their doubts or sometimes for her guidance. She then started writing so that whatever she knew could be useful for the next generation. She handed over a book in which she had collected the famous idioms and phrases in Sanskrit, which are used in our routine conversation. She writes, “Every human being feels that they should look good and we use ornaments, good clothes to look attractive. In the same manner, if we make our language beautiful, it attracts people to read it, or to listen to”. If someone uses Sanskrit phrases, then the speech becomes more impactful. Quite often we use phrases like “कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते" or “वसुधैव कुटुंबकम्". But we do not remember rather think about the complete shloka. Many times there is a hidden meaning, which becomes clear when we read the complete shloka. Being a Sanskrit teacher, my passion for this language continued even after retirement. When arthritis made me immobile, my mind started flying like a bird. I have collected a few Sanskrit phrases, the complete subhashitas, their references and how and when they are used in practice. The whole and sole objective was to transfer it to the younger generation and to remind the older generation about the “Bits of Wisdom”

When I read this I liked the concept and I thought that these Bits of Wisdom are still applicable and very inspiring. They should be published. Today, on her fifth death anniversary, I launched this series of articles., which I dedicate to her. My sister Aboli, has been supportive in moderating my drafts, I am also thankful to her.

The first subhashit (ciceronian or epigram) is about being polite in our speech and behavior.


१) नमन्ति गुणिनो जनाः

"नमन्ति फलिनो वृक्षा नमन्ति गुणिनो जनाः | शुष्क काष्ठश्च मूर्खश्च न नमन्ति कदाचन ||"

Meaning that a tree laden with fruits, bends down to the earth. In the same way, persons with good values and qualities behave politely with others. A dry twig and a silly person never bend.

Isn't it true that you will remember a person by the way he or she speaks with you? The way he or she treats you? Choosing the correct language, choosing correct tone and the correct body language are the important aspects of communication with people. You should neither use harsh words nor raise your voice too much unnecessarily. Speaking softly and politely is a way to win the hearts of people without spending any money. It is also true that our speech is the reflection of our thoughts. Hence we should always practice thinking positively in mind and then speaking out.

As Sant Kabir has said,

ऐसी बानी बोलिए, मन का आपा खोय | औरन को शीतल करै, आपहु शीतल होय ||

It means that a person should give up ego and pride and talk in a sweet tone, so that it not only pleases the people, but keeps himself cool.

There is an interesting story about a king and his men which I read in a book on, "जीवनमूल्ये" i.e. "Values of Life". Once a king went to the jungle for hunting with his men (In those days hunting was allowed ).

In the thick forest, the king and his men lost each other. The men started searching for him. In the middle of that forest a Sadhu was sitting below a tree. A soldier came riding on a horse and shouted at the sadhu and asked him, "ए गोसावड्या, आमच्या महाराजांना पाहिलेस काय?", meaning have you seen our king?

Sadhu said, "Sorry, I am a blind person, and I have not seen anyone here". The soldier upon hearing this said, “so what if you are blind? You must have heard the horse's footsteps, or you are deaf too?” Sadhu quietly answered that he had not heard anything. The soldier left the place cursing someone.

Then came the chief of the army and he asked, "Sadhumaharaj, have you seen our king, anywhere around?', Sadhu answered in the same manner and told that a soldier had come here and gone towards the north. Then the Prime Minister came and asked him, "Surdas Maharaj, we are searching for our king. Has he visited your place?" The sadhu answered in the same manner and told him about the earlier two persons searching for the king.

After some time, the King arrived. He got down from the horse, went to the sadhu, bowed down, and asked, "Hey Lord, I am very tired. Can I get a glass of water?

Sadhu immediately answered, "Hey Raja (king), first eat some fruits and then drink water." Sadhu also said that Raja's soldier, the army chief, the prime minister had come to search for him.

The king was surprised and asked the sadhu, "without even seeing them, how could you recognize their grades?" The Sadhu answered, "It is very simple, my dear king. I could recognize them from their spoken as well as body language. Your soldier called me "Gosawadya". Chief called me Sadhumaharaj. Your prime minister called me Surdas Maharaj and when you came, you not only called me lord, but you bowed, you got down from your horse". Remember that a person in a position always has a softness in his approach. Lord Krishna was very soft in his approach towards people, yet was so powerful that he transformed Arjuna's mind and made Mahabharat happen.

That means softness in speaking or behavior does not indicate weakness, rather it shows the strength and position of the person. Once there was a program arranged in a college. A leader was present there. The students were in a mood to just hoot and they were not ready to listen. The leader started defaming them and yelling at them. He used very rough language but still wasn't able to control the crowd. Seeing this principal of the college came and told the leader that this is not a general crowd of people. "Let me handle it", he said. He came in front of the students and said only one sentence, "Dear students, remember that I am known to the outside world by you, and you are known by me." What a surprise! Immediately the students became quiet. This example shows that speaking soft and in a correct tone helps us to exercise control easily.

Not only in speaking, but softness must be exercised in our behavior too. When we travel to western countries, the scene on railway stations is so soothing to the eyes as well as mind and ears. What we observe, that the people quietly get up from their seats when they reach their destination. There is no noise at the station, no shouting of vendors; neither there is a mad rush to enter the train. You come to know that the train is at a station, only when it stops. I have even experienced this during my travel to other countries in the US and UK. Here we can say that people are more organized and disciplined, but what do you think educational institutions? A similar kind of picture is seen there too.

Once an Indian traveler was visiting a University in the US. On that day university had arranged a concert by a famous singer. All were eager to listen to him and a huge crowd had gathered there. Just a few minutes before the program could begin, the organizers had to cancel it due to some unavoidable circumstances. When this announcement was made, to the surprise of our visitor, the students quietly left the auditorium and went for their academic classes. It was a shocking experience for the visitor, who had thought of the "chaos" it would have created if the same would have happened in India. The point is not here to blame anyone, but on emphasizing the importance of softness in the behavior.

Even in our lives also, we see that difficult situations can be handled in a better manner, if we are softer in our approach. If we see fire, we do not add oil to it, rather we try to quench it with cold water. In my long career as a teacher in colleges, I have seen students getting disturbed because of the language that teachers use while addressing them. But let's talk about such fascinating and life-changing perspectives in the next part. In the meantime, stay tuned and realize the strength of softness.

- Dr. Anjali Deshpande


To read Strength of Softness Part-II click here.

Related Posts

See All

'Savarkar - An Ideology', is a series of 11 articles. Based on the life of Veer Savarkar. Below are links to all the 11 art

bottom of page