On keeping critics close and discernment in listening to their criticism
Have you ever wondered why India keeps its worst critics — many of them vitriolic, venomous and rabidly anti-India and anti-Indian — within the country? It must have something to do with India being a democracy, but there are many democratic countries where people expressing such views could be tried for treason. Some would say that the Indian state is so effete and ineffective, unlike China or Putin’s Russia, that it would find it hard to harass, punish or banish these critics.
Or perhaps it has something to do with Kabir’s legacy in India. In Kabir’s immortal words,
Nindak niyare rakhiye, Angan kuti chawai,
Bin pani sabun bina, nirmal kare subhaiy
[Translation: Keep your critic close to you. Give him a cottage in the courtyard of your house, because he cleanses your nature without soap and water.]
Let us for a moment assume that this is not the case and India’s critics have flourished due to Indian state’s incompetence. Does it make a difference to the end-result? No, because the critics have still been able to do their job. In any case, critics should be used like guardrails on a swaying bridge to keep one on the right path. They should never be embraced because with their negativity, they can chain you down to the worst possible spot.
That is what Kabir also advised about listening to the critics:
[Translation: The wise man should use his judgement like winnowing. While keeping the grain within, he should blow the chaff away.]
Saadhu aisa chahiye, jaisa soop suhay
Saar sar ko gahi rahe, thotha dey uday
Inadvertently or otherwise, that is what India has achieved with its many Ms Roys and Mr Manders.