Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On Criticisms and Unicorns

Criticisms are such excellent thingies. It helps people improve. A constructive criticism is what helps an amateur become a pro. They are disgustingly good at being useful, may not be blissful, but definitely are worthful. But just then the keyword pops up, ‘decorum’, or to put in a better way, the etiquette of giving a criticism matters a lot; it’s like the difference between the shark and dolphin. Those both are beautiful and different creatures, and are the embodiment of the artist in nature at work. But say there was an evil dolphin who likes munching your innards for desert and a benevolent shark whose sole gladdest life ambition is helping as many stranded sailors as possible. Presented with these two one might still go to the dolphin to cuddle, because it’s more approachable. Dolphins are nature’s penguins, Oh yeah; I liked the Penguins of Madagascar movie.

So the manner in which the comments and feedback are given becomes very important, for it makes all the difference because its visage is what determines if it’s constructive or not. Well, don’t bother much if you’re one of those abominable obnoxious person, also called a jerk, who don’t really actually offer any criticism, but comment just for the sake trying to show how you could outwit the other person. These kinds of people always do it on social media, because that’s where they are desperate for attention. Like the guy who tries to make a witty comment on facebook, when you ask for some feedback, the type of comment which one puts when two guys are competing for the same girl, to make the other look like an idiot, when one wants to up the other person in front of that girl who has an enchanting effect on these two guys. Well if we were really in a coffee shop or bar and the guy was trying to make me look like a clown, I wouldn’t mind it at all, because everything is fair in love and war, and manipulation has been the prime technique people use when they find themselves in such situations. But no, all he does that is on my facebook wall. And when sometimes I rebuke myself, telling myself, ‘people are not evil, he might have read your work and might have hated it’, and when I call him to ask what exactly he didn’t like, he says coolly, “I haven’t taken a look yet, will try to do it during the weekend.” I silently agree, while my heart is screaming inside, “Then what the fudge was the comment for?”

But since you’re not one of those above mentioned cretins, because obviously you’ve read this far, which you wouldn’t, if you were one of those guys, here are some ways (tips would be a better word here, but a vast majority of people don’t like taking tips from others, guess some ego issues,  so I try not give any).

My mother makes the best masala tea, period. She’s also an expert in making rasam. So every time I go to my aunt’s home she asks me deliberately if her tea or rasam that day is better than her sister’s, my mom. The answer to her question would be ‘No’, but that’s not a very helpful feedback, is it? But I don’t know what lacks in her preparations that make those inferior to the ones made by my mom. Ah! Now this is a real test of good way critiquing way because I can’t pinpoint the flaw. So what I say instead is, “You make better coffee than my mom.” This lifts her spirits that after all she can make something better than my mom while at the same time giving a subtle message to continue with her efforts in making tea. See the contrast compared to a discouraging ‘no’.

A Spanish friend once asked me if I thought her Lisp was very annoying and making her language unintelligible. Well, I liked her lisp alright, but it sometimes seemed to put my brain through crunches and dumbbells to process her statements. But if I said the same to her, she will either cry or kick me hard in my shins. So what I say? “You have got a beautiful way of speaking but it’s a little odd making a tad bit difficult to understand, and believe me if unicorns can speak, they will talk just like you.” The comparison with unicorn can withstand any negative comments and energized by the comparison she will try to work on her accent to become the best unicorn.

A friend of mine was sad for being black; he hated his skin color though everyone used to tell him, in this world, color no longer discriminates people. One day when he was crying about his color, I said, “I wish you were a little blacker.” He asked why, obviously confounded, “A tad more black and you’ll be like a shiny black velvet cloth.” Everybody loves black velvet, and he almost stopped worrying about his color from then. Although, it apparently goaded him to pester his parents into covering all the couches and curtains in black velvet, which has reduced their bank balance considerably. But it seemed all the black velvet has taken a toll on him, he got vexed of black. Well, sometimes even the most constructive criticism can backfire. As a final touch to totally obliterate his worry about color, I asked him if he knew the rarest magical being. Satisfied with his question mark face, I answered him importantly and most benevolently, “a black unicorn,” and that settled the matter for good.

A friend of mine recently said all my works included a great deal of coffee/tea. She was a good person, not one of those cretins mentioned above, for she gives me feedback personally, not on some social media sites.  But for once I couldn’t take the criticism all too well — yeah, me the all-loving, personification of humanity, who as per my mom, deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, for always being peaceful without making any noise, all the time silently looking into my smartphone — couldn’t take it. I wouldn’t have been upset so much had she commented on my style or something or anything else. But no, she had to comment about my coffee. My coffee! I love coffee and coffee loves me back. Ours is the best relation. If someone transfigured me into a minion, I’d still be wanting my coffee over a banana. So I just replied her, “Think of it as my signature, obviously visible in all of my works. And you know what? A Signature always stays the same,” saying which I surreptitiously left my house to get my coffee, as my health conscious mother would only give me bournvita, a hot chocolate.

One part of criticisms always have the voice, ‘so and so is a copy,’ while the author was actually trying to cleverly refer to something, like TS Eliot in his wasteland (if you are not a literary student, try not to search for it, for I don’t think your boyfriend/girlfriend fancies seeing your brain exploding in the bedroom). Someone starts, ‘The boy with round glasses and a scar,’ even before reading further some people will cry, Harry potter copy, though scar might have been on his butt for all it mattered. Well, another section of people love it for the same reason of being similar to Harry Potter, “Oh my god! It’s like Harry Potter; I can never get enough of it. Thank you.” So you see it’s a difficult job giving feedback in such situations, in those times, I go on with what Dumbledore said, “The truth. It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.’

Ah! Dumbledore, that surname gives me a feeling of a pleasant tickle. I’ve considered, almost infinite times, adopting it as my last name. For my actual last name means a very fine fertile delta that once existed. More than once I asked my dad why I should keep the name of a place that doesn’t even exist now. But then my dad says Dumbledore too, doesn’t exist. Of course, he doesn’t exist anymore, everyone knows he died at the end of the sixth part and Snape killed him.  Come to think of it, I might even fancy the surname ‘Rowling’; or ‘Lovegood’ if I’m feeling rather Zen-like. I crossed Lupin from the list of probable surnames because ‘Lupin’ being a werewolf, some crazy people might associate it with Twilight saga. Ewww! And that’s the last thing I’d want. ‘Potter’ has never made my list because almost always Potters seemed to have a terrible fate. And everyone seems to die around a potter. Come to think of it, I like the surname ‘Weasley’ quite a lot because in the end it’s the Weasley that wins the hand of Hermione. Case closed.

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