Sunday, January 12, 2014

In Memory Yet Green, In Joy Still Felt: On turning fifty

In Memory Yet Green, In Joy Still Felt

When I read the book, the biography famous,
And is this, then, (said I,) what the author calls a man's life?
And so will some one, when I am dead and gone, write my life?
(As if any man really knew aught of my life;
Why, even I myself, I often think, know little or nothing of my real life;
Only a few hints--a few diffused, faint clues and indirections,
I seek, for my own use, to trace out here.)

-Walt Whitman

This was never supposed to happen.

Turning fifty was never part of the larger scheme of things. I am completely ambivalent about this sudden state of affairs- for one moment you are what you are, and the next, half a century old.


Imagine this, five years ago, on this day, I started this blog. This post is, for better or worse, the hundredth. Have the thousands and thousands of words amounted to anything, I wonder? Well I have been paid for many of them, I must acknowledge this, and I have been commissioned to write a good number of pieces because of previous blog posts, so there is a happy syntagm between blogging and continuing to blog.

When I started this, the intention was largely to preserve memories. I did state that as a rough and ready credo in my first post. And subsequently a good many became an archive of my own past. This blog is an ever yielding tell, and I am an archaeologist of my own memories. It is both self serving and indulgent, but as I have mentioned before, a defense against short term memory loss. However, in the course of posting, I have ended up writing on a very large variety of subjects, as can be seen just by looking at the list of labels, which I am sure have crossed a thousand. So what is it that I am doing?

No idea, really. I am large, I contain multitudes.

My most successful post in terms of footfalls has to be the piece on Mario Miranda. It has already crossed 13,000 views. In December 2009 itself, the number of viewers of this post crossed 7000, and this bumped up further on Mario's untimely passing.

The closest in terms of this success was a long time coming. It is only half way through last year that another post crossed a thousand views and that was my translation of MirzaGhalib’s famous ghazal. I have been a magpie, and have written about what ever shiny object that has attracted my eye. Translations have become a passion that has been fueled by this blog and the early appreciation it got. This has led to two offshoots that have been steadily growing- two separate blogs of my translations of the poems of Muhammad Iqbal and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. I have, looking back translated (in bits and pieces) the works of the entire Urdu pantheon- Ghalib, Iqbal, Manto, Sahir and Faiz, even Sharyar I have also translated a few poems from the Marathi- those of Arun Kolhatkar and Narayan Surve. All these were done for pleasure and this is a movable feast.

Bombay, or what’s left of it, has always provided fodder for thought, and I have chewed and ruminated on its urban affairs in a variety of ways. Pieces commissioned and written in Time OutMumbai, FirstPost.comthe Indian Quarterly, Times Crest and the EPW, among others have been archived here and are places I return to from time to time. The cultural history of the city as personal memory is always available as a common troth to dip into, and cinema, radio, television and reading form the signposts to growing up.

While the best part of being is the unending sense of awe, that quite counters any embedded cynicism, there is a joy that emanates from the company of friends, and friends as readers for whom I am forever grateful. You have ensured that these virtual pages are not mere contemplation of one’s belly button but a useful discourse that has fine tuned my own worldview.

This brings me to my current shop-worn state of five decades of having existed.
I would like to express my full-blown angst at this, and state that whatever I do henceforth I do under protest. I shall be dragged kicking and screaming into the future, and the scuff marks that my unwilling shoes shall leave in the dirt may well be the stuff of future posts.

So don't say that I did not warn you.