Saturday, July 4, 2015

Old is Gold. Really?

"Old is Gold" is a proverb that is frequently quoted by almost everyone. On-line dictionary defines a proverb as "a short popular saying, usually of unknown or ancient origin, that expresses effectively some commonplace truth". It is often a short statement of wisdom that is passed on for general usage. A proverb conveys much more than the words that comprise it. There are proverbs in every language; they symbolize the richness of the respective languages.

The words "Proverb" and "Idiom" are used by many interchangeably. While a proverb conveys a distinct and clear meaning in its entirety, an idiom is a style of speaking or writing that is particular, distinctive or notable phrase that cannot be understood from its individual words.  Idioms make sense only when the words are put together in a certain way or order, or when they are used in specific situations. "Last, but not least" is a popular phrase, though it does not qualify for being called a proverb. It is an idiom and many believe that they have to use "Last but not least" whenever somebody or something is mentioned in the end.

Ashok Kumar is a well known film artiste.  He has acted in many films during his lifetime. When he was acting as a hero in the movies several decades ago, his name was naturally being shown first in the title cards of those movies.  As he became older and moved to elderly roles, artistes much junior to him had to be given precedence in the title cards.  But neither his seniority and stature could be ignored nor the respect he commanded overlooked. The film industry found a way out; title cards showed the names of other artistes first, and in the end it would show "Above all - Ashok Kumar".  But the underlying truth was known to all; his name no longer appeared in the first title card.  Using the phrase "last but not least" often results in this paradox.  If he was really to be above all others, his name should have been indeed at the top.  "Last but not least" could only mean this much: you are not as important as others mentioned earlier; but not unimportant as well.

Let us get back to "Old is Gold".  Is old really gold?  Is it applicable to all old things? Is it not stretching things too far? It is true that many old things are indeed good. But there are some old things that are not so golden. There are many old things that are absolutely useless. At the same time, there are many new things which are extremely good and golden. Whether something is good or golden does not depend on it being old or new. Simply put, good things are golden irrespective of whether they are old or new. 

The debate about "Old is Gold" dates back to several centuries, and possibly over two thousand years. Things that are considered as golden now because they are old were questioned about their utility when they were new.  Even someone like Kalidasa, hailed later on as "Kavikulaguru" (doyen among poets), had to face this question in his early days as a poet.  He has himself asked this question and answered it as well in one of his plays.

In the well-known play Malavikagnimitram, believed to be the first of his three plays, Sutradhara (Director) begins by saying that the play "Malavikagnimitram" will be presented on stage that day.  Another character raises a question about the aptness of staging a new play of modern poet like Kalidasa, when there are many plays of well-known poets like Bhasa, Soumilla and Kaviputra available for presentation on stage. Kalidasa answers the question through the director:

पुराणमित्येव न साधु सर्वम्  न चापि काव्यं नवमित्यवद्यम् |
सन्तः परीक्ष्यान्यतरद्भजन्ते  मूढः परप्रत्यनेनबुद्दिः ||

Puranamityeva na saadhu sarvam, nachapi kavyam navamityavadyam
santah pareekshyanyataradbhajante moodhah parapratyanenabuddihi

Not all that is old is good; nor all that is new is bad
Learned accept as good after due verification; fools go by what others say!

The issue of "Old is gold" has been settled several centuries ago.  Whether something is good or bad is to be decided on its merits alone.  Not based on it being old or new.  It is that simple.  All good things are good.  How to know they are good?  Test them and then decide; not because someone else says so. 


  1. Well convinced good narration

  2. " last but not the least" was explained well and somewhere humorous...!!

  3. Very correct.good or bad is a relative term. something is good to one may not be the same to another person. Well narrated.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about old is gold.