Thursday, March 29, 2012

'I always do!'

It is said of Lord Chesterfield (of the letters fame) that he was ready with brilliant put-downs for people who were rash enough to try verbal jousts with him. Once he was walking along a narrow footpath, daintily avoiding the muddy street, when he saw an old adversary coming towards him in the opposite direction. He waited patiently for the other to make way for him, but the latter only snarled ‘I never accommodate a scoundrel’. With a bow and a smile, the peer replied ‘But I always do!’ and stepped into the puddle.

I have always had a weakness for smart ripostes, and this is one I cannot stop admiring. How polished, how spontaneous, and how utterly devastating can a man be! How much more civilized than what most of today’s youngsters would or could do, brought up with the manners of the mastodons they see on TV wrestling shows! And imagine how long the victim must have smarted with helpless rage under the rebuke…


Shilpi said...

An 'ah' of appreciation combined with a chuckle for this post of yours. Smart and quick ripostes and wicked verbal jousts are rare, so rare to come by these days, so the ones that one does hear one treasures. I get my doses from you. So thank you for being around.

This one immediately brought to mind that breath-taking response of the gentleman in the subway train who'd told the uncouth female, "Madam, I offer you my seat not because you're a lady but because I'm a gentleman." I rather like Churchill's response to the woman who told him, 'If you were my husband I would put poison in your coffee" for he'd said, "and if I were your husband, ma'am, I would gladly drink it." Oh dear, now I sound sexist!

Thank you for reminding your reader that Lord Chesterfield is none other than the famous-for-his-letters Chesterfield...

I'm rather saddened by my late ripostes or bumbling ones. Esprit d'escalier (got to know this and another one from that listverse blog) sums up my case in the best of times.

Many thanks for this one today.

Sayan Datta said...

I don't know, Sir, how apt this comment of mine will be to your post, but anyway...Since this incident, which I am about to narrate involves you, Sir, and one which has stayed in my memory for a long time, I couldn't resist butting in.
I was in the 9th standard I think, and I remember you were lecturing us on the meaninglessness of running after 11th and 12th standard physics textbooks (like DPC) without bothering to read the ones meant for the present standard. I know that folly drives you up the wall and could see that you had worked yourself all up. The class listened in rapt attention. That was the magic you could create in the classroom; whether they liked you or not, they just couldn't not listen to you.
Well, at the fag end of your lecture you said something that has remained stuck in my mind. You said - "Anyone who does this (prefers DPC over prescribed textbooks) is either a goat or a genius." And then you craned your neck as if in an attempt to see the last student in the last bench (not that you needed to) and added "and I don't see any geniuses here"...Your style was inimitable and something I can only classify as Suvro Sir's style.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Most pertinent, Sayan, and thanks for remembering. Some people have always liked me for that 'style' as you call it, and some have absolutely hated me!