Monday, January 7, 2013

LADIES and GENTLEMEN - Women and Men of Form and Substance


During our annual “cleanship”, while tidying my bookcase and bookshelves and cleaning my books, I browsed through my old diaries which I have preserved with great care.

During my student days, and even later, during my working days, I always carried around a diary and jotted down anything I found interesting – anything I read or heard or saw that appealed to me.

From time to time I will share with you in my blog some jottings from my “ancient” diaries.


Today I will talk about the definition of the word “gentleman” which I jotted down while attending a lecture during a leadership workshop in the year 1992.

But before we get to the definition, let us ponder a bit on the meaning of the word “gentleman”.

(Though written for the masculine gender GENTLEMAN this applies to the feminine gender LADY as well)


If you look at the concept of “gentleman” in an holistic manner, a gentleman comprises two aspects:

1. Form

2. Substance


Form refers to the external “image management” or “personality development” aspects – visible behaviour and outward appearance – traits like poise, grooming, manners, etiquette, dress, accent, diction, speech, smartness, courteousness, elegance, style, refinement, sophistication and polished behaviour.

In the Navy, or in the Army, Air Force, Military and Civil Services, an Officer is trained in these aspects which are called OLQ or Officer Like Qualities” when he joins service at various training academies.

In the civvy street there are Finishing Schools, Image Management Trainers and Personality Development Coaches who help inculcate in people the “form” attributes of a gentleman.

But form alone does not make a gentleman.

A true gentleman must have both form and substance.

Form is important but it is the substance which establishes the true worth of a man.

A man possessing only form but no substance is a phoney gentleman and we see many such fake charlatans masquerading as gentlemen.

We saw what is meant by “form”.

Now let us see what is meant by “substance”.


Form consists of external visible attributes.

Substance comprises invisible internal virtues.

Here is a definition which defines the substance of a gentleman:

An honest man, a man with a sense of duties and obligations of his position, whatever it may be, a man who tells the truth, a man who gives others their due, a man considerate to the weak, a man who has principles and stands by them, a man who is not elated by good fortune and not too depressed by bad luck, a man who is loyal, a man who can be trusted

The real virtues of a gentleman are inherent in the above definition.

Whether civilian or military, an Officer is considered a Gentleman.

But, tell me, in the context of the definition above, how many officers truly possess all the attributes enunciated in the definition above?

Image Management, Personality Development and Social Standing can give you “form” but it is your “substance” which will make you a complete and genuine gentleman.

If you look around you in urban society, you will find so many persons who look like gentlemen (as they exhibit the requisite “form”). 

But when you look more closely, even at high ranking officers and individuals who are way up on the social pecking order, you will discover the true gentlemen who are the genuine men of “substance” and who are masquerading as gentlemen.

You may be an officer, but are you a gentleman?

Image Management and Personality Development will give you Form and can make you an Officer.

But to be a Gentleman (or Lady), in addition to external Form, you must have internal Character and be a Man (or Woman) of Substance.  

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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