‘A Critic with a difference’

By M. N Sulehri
You might have heard the name of well-known English and Urdu critics such as A.C. Bradley, Dr. Johnson, T.S. Eliot, Dr. Wazir Agha, and Dr. Anees Nagi. But Mr. A., our critic, is a critic with a difference. He is a man with a long beard, so he observes every literary piece from a religious point of view. Last Friday, he promised us to visit our hostel, but owing to his social and literary activities he was unable to keep his words. And our program was postponed till the following Sunday. Why Sunday? Because there is always something special in the mess menu.
On Sunday, early in the morning, he appeared clad in white “Shalwar and Qameez”. First of all, he honored my room with his impressive personality. I called my other friends and with mutual willingness, we marched towards the Canteen, where started his first spell of criticism. The object of criticism was the menu. He objected to “Lassi” and “Paratha”. According to him ‘that’ diet rendered a man inactive, which is really detrimental to the active job of analyzing things. But that was his greatness that he agreed to “Lassi” and “Paratha”. He started and kept on performing his act of eating. He took two “Parathas” and three jumbo size glasses OF “Lassi”. Then he caressed his beard, twisted his mustaches, and belched loudly to make others aware of his presence.

When we returned to the room, our critic was in a slumbering condition. He lay down on the bed and the very next moment he was sleeping, we looked at one another and soon we heard a strange but familiar sound. Mr. A was snoring. He was snoring so mercilessly that seemed as if he were criticizing the sleep or perhaps a dream.
Anyhow, he woke up at 12 O’clock and said while yawning “isn’t it time for lunch”. “Oh, yes! Of course, it is”. I replied. “Let us move towards the mess,” he said wearing his shoes. We went to the mess; he occupied the first seat and cast a glance over the menu card. When his eyes caught Sunday’s special dish (The roasted “Ran” and Pepsi), he looked at us with mixed feelings of joy and wonder. He relished this dish with great gusto.

After that, his second spell of criticism started over a cup of tea. Now he came up with the idea that one should develop the habit of observing and analyzing things without reading because too much reading saps one’s vitality. He had two cups of tea and was looking forward to the third one, but we forced him towards the room, where he delivered a lecture on bookkeeping and on the arrangement of other objects in the room.

At last, he selected two pieces of literature for criticism. One of them was an Urdu novel entitled “Qaid” and the second one was Robert Frost’s poem “The road not taken”. So far as the poem was concerned he used his all-time treasured sentences which were often used by him during the class. While lecturing he said “Frost has presented three major points in the poem. First, the difference between appearance and reality (the words he uses for irony), second the collapse of moral and religious values, and third, the social disintegration. These are the three points which he sorts out from any literary work, whether it is Jane Austin’s “Emma”, Hardy’s “Tess” or Concord’s “The Heart of Darkness”. Then he picked up the Urdu novel and said, “This is a beautiful book. It has been written by this and that and has been published by “Good Books Publications”. Its price is 150 rupees. It has 279 pages. Each page has 20 lines and each line contains 10 to 13 words. Black ink has been used and if you want to read it, it is very much available at the market at 33 percent discount”. We were all lost for words after hearing such literary comments. Our friend indeed had a deep insight into the literary works. I hope that this discussion has increased our readers’ knowledge immensely. Till find another literary critic of the same caliber it is goodbye for now.

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