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Carpe diem, Mr Prime Minister

An open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the help of some Latin.

KISHORE ASTHANA  New Delhi | 12th Sep 2015

Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Dear Prime Minister,

Whatever has been said in Latin seems profound. The phrase, quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur, has usually been used ironically but, irony aside, there are many Latin phrases which are very apt to your situation at this time.

The irony, if any, is that some of those who will literally understand these phrases oppose you heart and soul. So be it.

As they say, intelligenti pauca, a few words will suffice for he who understands. These are personally addressed to you. I am writing these because I believe that si vales, valeo: when you are strong, I am strong — and India is strong.

Sic parvis magna: You have shown that greatness can come from small beginnings, and we wait for the day when this is translated into national greatness through our efforts, led by you.

Amor patriae — love of one's country — something I am certain you are motivated by. So am I and so are millions of others, both your supporters and many of those who oppose you. Do remember this. Do not become vengeful.

Praesis ut prosis ne ut imperes: Lead in order to serve, not in order to rule. You have mentioned this exact sentiment in your inaugural speech but, in the pomp of power, do not forget it as so many lesser mortals do.

Acta non verba: Deeds, not words. The time has now come to pay heed to this phrase. Let your actions speak.

Multa paucis: Say much in few words.

Ad hominem: These are below the belt personal attacks, of the kind the Opposition is indulging in, ad nauseam. Do not be sidelined by these.

Panem et circenses: "Bread and circuses" is how these attacks are best described as. They are an entertainment used to distract public attention from more important matters. Roman emperors used this strategy to divert the attention of their subjects. Those who think they have been deprived of India's throne, on which they assume a birthright, are trying the same tricks in India today.

The phrase that applies exactly to the tactics of the Opposition, is mulgere hircum — trying to milk a male goat. They are indulging in a meaningless act.

Per angusta ad augusta: Through difficulties to greatness. Remember, the promises India is waiting to be fulfilled. You have to lead the march through many roadblocks to achieve these goals. Yes, there will be many difficulties but nec aspera terrent — “difficulties be damned”. Carpe diem: Seize the day, my PM. Let us go forth with ad victoria — to victory — as our battle cry.

Bono malum superate: Overcome (this) evil with good.

Alea iacta est: The die has been cast and now, it is for you to act decisively. You had promised, minimum government, maximum governance. Let your words not be in vain.

In framing laws which govern us, do keep in mind some pithy Latin sayings:

Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges: When the republic is at its most corrupt the laws are most numerous. Our laws need to be simplified. Simplest is the best. Remember Occam's Razor — lex parsimoniae — law of succinctness.

Leges sine moribus vanae: Laws without morals [are] vain. You should ensure an India where people are even more concerned about malum in se — wrong in itself – something that is inherently wrong than with malum prohibitum — something which is wrong due to being against the law.

Dictum factum: What is said is done. Your word should be your bond. Let no one accuse you of making false election promises. Nor should anyone close to you justify such behaviour by saying caveat emptor — let the buyer beware. The voter believed you and no one should say that it was the voter's responsibility to do due diligence before taking your word at face value.

Remember Plato's question: quis custodiet ipsos custodies? Who will guard the guards themselves? Appoint officials whose reputations are beyond reproach to the posts of the Jan Lokpal and Chief Vigilance Officers. Do not look on silently when honest officers are victimised by your ministers and bureaucrats either at the Centre or the states, for this sends a wrong message to us.

Fortis in arduis: Be strong in difficulties, because fortes fortuna adiuvat — fortune favours the bold.

Per angusta ad augusta: Through difficulties to greatness. Remember, the promises India is waiting to be fulfilled. You have to lead the march through many roadblocks to achieve these goals. Yes, there will be many difficulties but nec aspera terrent — "difficulties be damned".

Thomas Aquinas said, homo unius libri timeo — I fear a man of one book. There are many of this kind who are trying to harm our nation. Unfortunately, as a reaction, some who are not men of one book are also doing so. Perhaps most of them are men of no-book, their "knowledge" being hearsay. Be firm in dealing with terrorists of all kinds and their supporting nations. They are, as Cicero remarked, hostis humani generis — enemy of the human race.

In omnia paratus — be ready for anything, Extend the hand of friendship and diplomacy by all means but also teach them lex talionis — the law of retaliation. Be neither reckless nor timid — nec temere nec timide.

I like the attitude of your National Security Adviser. I, too, believe in para bellum (if you want peace,) prepare for war. Do not be supine.

Ductus exemplo: Leadership by example is your forte, but make sure your followers are worthy of you. Throughout your life you have already shown that labor omnia vincit — hard work conquers all. However, now is the time to inculcate this ethos in those who are there to implement your plans. They must believe and act on the phrase nil volentibus arduum — nothing [is] arduous for the willing.

You are not a dwarf standing on the shoulder of giants — nanos gigantum humeris insidentes. Unfortunately, at present it often appears as if matters are just the reverse. Ensure that those whose shoulders you stand on are strong enough and resolute enough to take your weight and keep your purpose and resolve high. Din into them, non ducor, duco — I am not led, I lead; and nulla tenaci invia est via — for the tenacious, no road is impassable

Only then will you be able to usher in Virgil's novus ordo seclorum — new order of the ages — a phrase which has been copied on the Great Seal of the United States. It is irrelevant that they have tried to usher this worldwide quite ham-handedly.

Honor virtutis praemium: Esteem is the reward of virtue and you will earn esteem beyond your imagination. However, keep your feet on the ground, for, as the servant whispered in the victorious Roman general's ear, memento mori — remember that (one day) you will die.

This is my appeal to you, ex animo — from the heart. I hope to see you standing on the Red Fort three years from now and then, again, five years thereafter and pronouncing, like Caesar, veni vidi vici — I came, I saw, I conquered.

Then I can raise my head high among the nations of the world for my leader would have done his job magna cum laude — with great praise.

Carpe diem: Seize the day, my PM. Let us go forth with ad victoria — to victory — as our battle cry.

Citius altius fortius: Faster, higher, stronger. This motto adopted by the modern Olympics should be our calling card.

I am certain that you are up to this. You sound as if you are up to this. Now you have to demonstrate on the ground that you are up to this. We live in spes bona — good hope.

If we succeed, you and us, we can say with triumph, "Annuit cœptis" — He (God) approves our undertakings.

Kishore Asthana, an alumnus of IIMA, is the president of Mensa India Delhi. He writes on diverse topics.

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