To Call A Spade, A Spade Or To Spin A Yarn: Exploring The Truth Behind A Lie

By: Barnali Bose, Editor-ICN Group

KOLKATA: I was watching ‘Liar Liar’, a 1997 American fantasy comedy film starring Jim Carrey and I began to wonder if it is but a good idea to speak the truth always or is it, at times, wiser to fabricate reality?

The film is about a successful lawyer whose entire career is woven around a web of lies. His career  takes an ugly turn when his son wishes for him  not to lie for a day and the wish is fulfilled. Hilarious indeed is the manner, in which the subject has been dealt with.

However reel life and real life are poles apart. Not every truth uttered would lead to splits of laughter, rather most often, would cause frowns to appear. To lie or not to,  therefore the question herein, arises.

Historically, it has been cited, “ All is fair in love and war.” Deception in the battlefield and beyond it has been the norm rather than an exception.

When after ten long years of incessant war, the Greeks offered a gigantic wooden horse as a symbol of truce, the Trojans readily accepted it. But, Greek soldiers hiding inside the horse, sneaked out in the dark and not only massacred the city but also slaughtered the Trojans. A lie was thus enacted.

Come to think of it, in course of the famous Kurukshetra War , the much glorified eldest Pandava who was given the adjective, ‘Satyawadi’( the truthful one) was made to give in to grave falsity, in the garb of truth.

Taking advantage of Yudhisthira’s reputation of being ever-truthful, he was instructed  to inform Guru Dronacharya, that Ashwatthama, was no more.

The ploy, thus  employed was to take advantage of the said name, it being an elephant’s name, besides being that of Dronacharya’s son.

Bhima killed the elephant called Ashwatthama.The Pandavas shouted, “Ashwatthama is dead.” Drona, the  commander of the enemy forces was misled into  believing they were referring to his son.

Dronacharya  refused to believe them. He decided to verify with Yudhisthira, who was believed to have never uttered a lie. “Tell me,” said Drona to Yudhishthira, “ Is my son dead?” Yudhisthira hesitated. “Tell me please,” Drona repeated in anguish. “Ashwatthama is dead.” was the ambiguous response. That broke the father’s heart and the battle changed its course.

Bhishma said, ‘To tell the truth is consistent with righteousness. There is nothing higher than truth. There where falsehood would assume the aspect of truth, truth should not be told. Then, again, where truth would assume the aspect of falsehood, even falsehood should be said.” Thus, this quite justifies Yudhisthira’s deed.

The Greek Philosopher and cynic Diogenes is said to have gone around the streets of Athens, holding a lantern, looking for an honest person. Needless to say, his search proved futile then and would have proved to be the same  now. A needle can still be found in a haystack however difficult it may seem to be but a person who has never lied is beyond probability of existence.

To be continued……..