I was recently embarked on a journey to find out the real meaning of ‘subtle’ when I saw many learned people cannot understand the clear meaning when things are put in a subtle way.
1. (especially of a change or distinction) so delicate or precise as to be difficult to analyse or describe.
2. making use of clever and indirect methods to achieve something
The word ‘subtle’ includes three elements attributed to it, clever, indirect or difficult to describe and delicate.
When I reached out to people for equivalent words for ‘subtle’ in Tamil, they could identify these elements hidden behind this word. Each could identify one of these, not all.
நுண்ணிய, கமுக்கமான, காதும் காதும் வச்ச மாதிரி, தந்திரமான, நாசூக்கான, தன்மையான, and நுட்பமான.
If we just look at these words, some could say that it means a delicate one, few it means an indirect or a secret and some say it means clever or cunning.
A subtle expression need not be only indirect or only clever or only delicate. An expression cleverly woven, that people could grasp it not with much efforts but with a delicate thinking.
In a group of four people (A,B,C and D) chatting together in a room, if A wants to tell something that could be only understood by D, he may say something in encrypted words that only they two can get to know. This expression is clever and indirect. But is it subtle? In my opinion, No. It has covert intentions. Because it is not delicate or precise but targeted.
So when a subtle expression is made, everyone can understand what it is indirectly meaning to say, with little effort. But a subtle expression of words also has a huge disadvantage that they can be misinterpreted when such little effort of us go as our own ways suggest.
The plight of Gurmehar Kaur in India has become one such. A subtle expression that, “Pakistan didn’t kill my father. But War killed him” with a little cleverness or thinking can say us that, it is trying to make us think beyond India and Pakistan. It is asking us to think of the necessity of the war itself as humans. It is speaking against War and not against any nation. It needs some thought, a very little indeed to understand.
But when we fail to identify that it is said in a subtle way, we fail to understand that it needs some cleverness or thought-process to delicately take the essence of such words.
It is a mistake of Gurmehar Kaur that she should have thought before uttering such highly meaningful words to a group of people led by a batting opener in the front, who fail even to know how to understand a subtle expression. But She didn’t hold back. She uttered, which means she has given an opportunity for us to know better and improve.
We need to grow for a better world.