‘PIN DROP SILENCE’ is a popular expression in India and I was surprised when I was told by an American professor 60 years ago at a journalism school I was studying in, that it was an “Indianism” and did not exist in English language.
The expression, however, is so common that anyone who knows (Indian) English can understand it. It means a crestfallen audience could
hear even the noise of dropping of a pin …. though they may all doubt if a pin when dropped made any noise. at all.
Reproduced herewith is an article by Lt. Gen. Niranjan Malik PVSM (Retd), forwarded by someone who got it from someone else on WhatsApp. It is in three takes – or at least the WA post says it is. It does not say who published it or whether it was copyrighted.
Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw once started addressing a public meeting at Ahmedabad in English.
The crowd started chanting, “Speak in Gujarati. We will hear you only if you speak in Gujarati.” Famous as ‘ Sam Bahadur of Gurkha Regiment, Field Marshal Manekshaw stopped. He swept the audience with a hard stare and replied,
“Friends, I have fought many a battle in my long career. I have learned Punjabi from men of the Sikh Regiment; Marathi from the Maratha Regiment; `Tamil from the men of the Madras Sappers; Bengali from the men of the Bengal Sappers, Hindi from the Bihar Regiment; and Even Nepali from the Gurkha Regiment. Unfortunately there was no soldier from Gujarat from whom I could have learned Gujarati.
You could have heard a pin drop
Robert Whiting, an elderly US gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane. At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on.
“You have been to France before, Monsieur ?”, the Customs officer asked sarcastically.
Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously.
“Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.” The American said,
“The last time I was here, I didn’t have to show it.” “Impossible. Americans always have to show their passports on arrival in France !”, the Customs officer sneered.
The American senior gave the Frenchman a long, hard look. And he quietly explained
“Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach, at 4:40am, on D-Day in 1944, to help liberate your country, I couldn’t find a single Frenchman to show a passport to…. ”
You could have heard a pin drop
Soon after getting freedom from British rule in 1947, the de-facto prime minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru called a meeting of senior Army Officers to select the first Chief or General of the Indian army.
Nehru proposed, “I think we should appoint a British officer as a General of the Indian Army, as we don’t have enough experience to lead the Army.” Having learned under the British, only to serve and rarely to lead, all the civilians and men in uniform present nodded their heads in agreement.
However one senior officer, Nathu Singh Rathore, asked for permission to speak.
Nehru was a bit taken aback by the independent streak of the officer, though, he asked him to speak freely.
Rathore said, “You see, sir, we don’t have enough experience to lead a nation too, so shouldn’t we appoint a British person as the first Prime Minister of India?”
You could hear a pin drop.
After a pregnant pause, Nehru asked Rathore, “Are you ready to be the first General of the Indian Army?”
Rathore declined the offer saying, “Sir, we have a very talented Army officer, my senior, General Cariappa, who is the most deserving among us.” This is how the brilliant Gen. Cariappa became the first General and Rathore the first ever Lt. Gen. of the Indian Army.
My Own Take
Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa has been a legend India is proud of.
Many thanks to the friend who forwarded this article and also mentioning the writer. Most forwards, some of them masterpieces, are of anonymous origin, often ‘forwarded as received’ sometimes without even being read (like this blog – – who has the time?).
The intention of Sam Bahadur was not to insult Gujaratis as non-fighters or to say he did not know their language, As a Parsi, hie own language was Gujarati, though like the Telugu of Telangana , with some variations. Gujaratis are not fighters, but excel in business and commerce.
In the early days of Independence, speaking in an Indian language was a matter of pride and not regional politics, as it is now. I remember Dr Pattabhi Sitaramayya, Governor of C.P. & Berar state, being similarly interrupted in the 50s when he started in English. He, a Registered Medical Practitioner (RMP) by profession before joining freedom struggle, then spoke for almost an hour — in Sanskrit!
Neither could Robert Whiting have intended to insult the French for surrender to Hitler’s forces. They excel in art and battle is “not their cup of tea” (or whatever they drink) .
Similarly, Gen. Rathore could not have tried to insult Nehru as politically inexperienced. Had he stuck to his plan to appoint a Britisher, Nehru could not have ignored a British General if he had pleaded, as Gen. Cariappa did, for 24 hours to push Pakistan back to a position it could not have fought from in the Kashmir war. But for Nehru international image was more important and the Indian Army plea was ignored to announce ceasefire and accept UN suggestion for a plebiscite.
The rest is history.
You can hear a pin drop when this is said.