Blogging lets you define your readership, or as in my case, the lack of it. Not having a readership to cater to frees you from expectation, and I clearly sense that in the little work I have published over the last one-and-a-quarter year. The last year has been a time of change and consolidation for my family and me. I was nudged into taking off my cape and rolling up my sleeves. As a family, we were challenged with new demands, impossible schedules, and paradoxical finances. The net outcome was a period of above average growth. You can see from my unconscious choice of words what lies uppermost in my mind.
April is the cruelest month for most bloggers, as everyone gets into the tizzy of one post a day for the A-to-Z challenge. For many years, I thought it was a marketing campaign by Amazon. I tried my hand at it a couple of times after I got the general drift. The first time I went up to three or four days, the second time up to nine. The joy of not having a readership is that failures do not need to masquerade as pillars of success. My utmost respect for all who take on such challenges, regardless of whether they succeed or not, and regardless of the stuff it brings up. Feeds choked with one letter of the alphabet a day help brush the plaque off my demented vocabulary. This year, I am using it to teach Junior a few new tricks.
April is, yes, the cruelest month. In Hyderabad, you know it is April long before the pranksters get to work. You know it when the pavements teach you firewalking and the mattresses heat up even if you aren't up to anything. But then, April is also the start of the Zodiac, the beginning of the financial year, the birth month of Chandrababu Naidu and Jayne Mansfield. It is also the month that Dad was born in. The time of clear skies and fiery flowers on still green branches.
Dad refuses to have anything to do with literature that is self
published online. He measures achievement by shelf space occupied. He
himself has just a volume or two he can squeeze into one shelf of the
well endowed bookcase in his room. And he already has six or seven more
volumes in the pipeline, all of them "conceived and executed" within the
past year. You can see why the blogger ilk I so easily identify with
doesn't measure up in his scheme of things.
Blogging for me has always been about recording the life I live. Yet, more often than not, this goal of mine has been obscured by the clamor for views and ranks, comments and shares. Along with that, there were the years when I wrote to be a writer, one who makes a livelihood by writing. (I am almost there now - I write long apologetic emails to stakeholders every other day - persuasive writing I believe it is called.) So I worked furiously at creating a legacy of countless search optimized posts that endorsed everything from extremely pleasing birth control to morbid funereal innovations, with a few consumables thrown in between the two. Fortunately, it wasn't "too long" before I realized this was not the life I lived or the life I wanted to record.
I have no doubt about the hat I wear at all times. I write to document my being and my pursuit of what I perceive as the meaning of my being. This meaning is revealed in the most mundane of activities of daily life. Like our dinner table arguments, like Junior learning to say please, like Dad replying to SMS marketeers. The pursuit of meaning is life itself, and each one of us is called to refine that pursuit - sometimes to the point of survival, sometimes to the point of art. As a family, we have experienced firsthand many a time, survival, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, itself is an art. At other times, it is the pursuit of art that gives meaning to survival. As I struggle to document this, I get to reflect on reflection itself, on how to help you see what I see as closely as possible, perhaps even more closely than I am willing to look myself. In this way, I get to explore and strengthen, and experiment with writing.
I am frequently asked by friends and family why I do not consider translating what Dad has written and is writing. I am not "unversed" in Bengali, yet have read only a fraction of what Dad has written - to some extent because of the breadth of topics he writes about, much of which is outside the ambit of my interests, but to a greater extent because of the intensely close reading his work demands. Each sentence of his - even when dealing with the relative dryness of subjects like politics or history or interfaith studies - is a microscopic lesson in the art of writing. That is his art. And that is something that I am totally out of my depths trying to translate or transliterate.
As a kid, I looked to my Dad and wanted to be like him. Then I grew up and the hormones took over, and I spent most of my adult life rebelling against my genetic tendencies, kicking and screaming like Peter Parker and his dark side. As I advance in the years (a lovely phrase for the elderly), I find myself recognizing and celebrating what he stands for, and trying to create some semblance of it in my living - of course, suitably filtered by my arrogance (which presents itself as superior intelligence, for those who might not recognize the secret handshake when offered). When the day comes that I feel what I am doing with my life and my art makes some sense beyond the temporal, social, material fabric, I will want to measure it against what I have seen my father do.
Till that day comes, it is plastic eggs, Ganesha's daughters, and the IPL for me. Thorns have roses.