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A note on constructive criticism


By Aubaid Ahmed Akhoon

“No one is more hated than he who speaks the truth” –– Plato

When we hear the word criticism, a lot of thoughts circulate in our minds and most of our thoughts are so limited that we even use this seemingly small word to oppose ourselves or someone else. But if we take into account other aspects and try to draw positive conclusions from criticism, then this criticism will be called constructive criticism. Something that uplifts, or, for instance, reminds a writer, an individual or a government not to ignore the fact that one is accountable for everything he or she does.


Criticism, though seemingly a negative word, covers appreciation, estimate, assessment, judgment, and evaluation in it. It is used in every sense. In Urdu literature, criticism (tanqeed) is used to examine a piece of literature from every angle and present any conclusion after examination or investigation to the reader without any prejudice so that it will be refined and the reader will be able to understand the nuances of the text and the verse.

From childhood, we have all observed that whenever our parents find us guilty of any shortcomings, they count the virtues of another “intelligent” friend, relative or acquaintance. At heart, it is done to help us ponder and start rectifying our errors, and find a goal and work for it. But if the practice becomes a daily routine, it paves the way for negative criticism because each person has different abilities, every human being has different strengths and weakness and it is this unique quality that makes a difference in the personality of every human being. Comparison is fine as long as it is limited, otherwise a child or a young adult faced with persistent criticism may fall victim to stress, depression, inferiority complex and many such psychological challenges. Besides, it has been observed that doing so creates a gap between parents and children that sometimes take decades to fill.

In the same way, when a writer picks up a pen to write, he also has to keep in mind many aspects, the effect of literature on society is profound. The writer is the interpreter of the society.  If a writer ignores flaws and highlights only the good then it is the death of literature. Similarly, if he only highlights the flaws, then he does not adorn a writer and it will be considered his incompetence. Writers, as such, must adhere to the principles of balance. For example, Altaf Hussain Hali (1837-1914), a famous Urdu poet and a writer saw shortcomings in Ghazal, a genre of Urdu literature. Many writers considered the genre as semi-savage and attempts to eradicate it from literature were also gaining momentum. At that time, Hali came out in a favour of Urdu ghazal as a benefactor by writing a book ‘Muqadma Sharo Shairi’. He set the weight of ghazal and requested the writers to bring many mentioned changes in it. It is the result of Altaf Hussain Hali’s efforts that today Ghazal goes to the forefront of Urdu literature otherwise if he had also accepted the negative criticism and ignored the positive aspects, the genre would not be alive today and Hali would not be so famous.

If the mind of a writer is full of enmity, hatred, resentment, then he cannot be faithful to criticism. Remember, the critic must know the art of writing above personal criticism otherwise the critic’s criticism is nothing but a useless exercise. The critic must be aware of the fact that personal criticism is the death of literature.

The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of Criticism (Wole Soyinka)

According to Plato: “If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then they are doomed to live under the rule of fools.”

In India, as in the rest of the world, the impact of Covid-19 is growing day by day. The government is trying to control the epidemic in which the health sector plays a major role while as the opposition party is criticizing the government for failing in the health sector. If we too criticize it, we will find both strengths and weaknesses in it. For example, due to the criticism of the opposition, the current government is fully focusing on the health sector and in the future the health sector will be among the priorities of the government and if we try to draw negative criticism in it, it will become a new Election Manifesto for the upcoming governments to get votes in the name of better health sector and the fear of being misused is also a bitter reality.

Prof. Ale-Ahmad Suroor (1911 to 2002) a Padma Bhushan awardee Professor, Poet, critic from India and Pakistan respectively has a credible role in introducing criticism to the art of regular genre literature in Urdu literature. Whatever literary and critical capital he has, holds a unique place in Urdu literature, he has made very eloquent remarks regarding the demands of criticism and its definition and explanation in the beginning of his collection of articles namely ‘What is Criticism’?  See an excerpt from one of his articles on criticism

“I take criticism seriously; I consider it an important and difficult task and I don’t know how to enjoy it, but I know how to publish values – so I demand seriousness, seriousness and consideration from the readers as well.”

Accept both compliments and criticism, it takes both sun and rain for a flower to grow.

(Views expressed are personal. Columnist is Sr. Edp Head in DD Target PMT Parraypora. Can be reached at [email protected])