Praise and Criticism

Praise and Criticism

Mohan Singh had a small grocery shop in a village. He was by no means rich, but quite generous. Whenever he noticed something that needed to be done for the convenience of village people, he provided what was needed. Knowing that he liked to invest in such philanthropy he always kept putting some money aside.

He noticed that the travelers who used the road near his village often had to walk an extra half-mile to come into the village for a drink of water if they were thirsty. He thought it would be good if there were a well by the roadside. It took Mohan Singh a whole year to save enough, but he succeeded and got a well built.

Travelers found it very useful. The village people too were benefited. The cowherds and workers in the nearby fields now were able to quench their own and their animals’ thirst without having to trudge half a mile. At the busy planting and harvesting time they specially appreciated the well. Almost all the people of the village praised Mohan Singh for this noble deed. Some came to his house to tell him how useful the well was and how much they were benefited by it. All this pleased Mohan Singh, but he was used to this because of his many such projects.

One late evening a traveler fell in the well and drowned. No one could hear his cries for help and he did not know how to swim. As soon as the village people heard they visited the well and saw the body. The person might have been drunk, blind, weak eyed, or wanting to commit suicide. No one knew for sure. Every one was naturally sad and they all expressed sympathy for the deceased.

This much was natural and expected, but something else that was not so natural began to be heard. Some people began to criticize Mohan Singh for being careless. ‘He shouldn’t have built the well so near the road and so far from the village. Why did he not consult the village council? He built it to win praise. He did not give enough thought to accidents such as this one,’ so on and so forth.

Mohan Singh too felt sad over the death of a stranger, but the villagers’ comments made him sadder. He withdrew into seclusion and pondered deeply over the whole thing. He kept thinking of the lesson he was being taught by this tragedy. After much deep thinking thought came to his mind that the masses neither see with a clear focus, nor think with one mind. They therefore oscillate very widely like the pendulum. Accidents too, are a part of life and they will occur even if you take all the possible precautions.

Mohan Singh learned that wise men take both praise and criticism in their stride. He also remembered one of Guru Nanak’s bhajans in which he says, “sukh dukh donon sam kari jane aur maan apmana, harsh shok te rahe atita, tin jag tatwa pichhana.”

June 21, 2008