After writing this new year post in which I summoned all those things I want from and wish for in 2016, I went back and did a lot of journal writing. It wasn’t as if I was doing the soppy “he said, she said” in my checked notebook, but it was everything that I didn’t say to any friend. To add some zing and make prudent use of the color pencils I was gifted, I am now throwing in some rudimentary drawings. Very recently, I drew a stack of geometric figures because sometimes fewer words do mean more. So, there’s an equation in my notebook, a rather lovely one at that. For me, journaling isn’t an alien form of writing. What’s alien is the person I become in retrospect. For instance, my childhood friend found some of my old notebooks the other week and we laughed at the person who’d written it. Very well it was me.
So far, I’ve journaled about Emily Dickinson, grief, Cheryl Strayed, the sudden realisation of why I have a dull ache in my right side, violence, Joseph Brodsky, and about writing, itself. By no means is it a work of art, but it is of expression which, as this Iranian blogger has very eruditely said is becoming scarce now that “Facebook and Twitter are killing the Web”. He writes:
In many apps, the votes we cast – the likes, the plusses, the stars, the hearts – are actually more related to cute avatars and celebrity status than to the substance of what’s posted. A most brilliant paragraph by some ordinary-looking person can be left outside the stream, while the silly ramblings of a celebrity gain instant internet presence. And not only do the algorithms behind the stream equate newness and popularity with importance, they also tend to show us more of what we have already liked.
This became a concern that dawned on me when I travelled during December. Post that I’ve taken to reading a lot of articles on Pocket, Medium, and Quora. I find myself perusing some good content the further I go from Facebook. Case in point is this wonderful, wonderful read about bibliotherapists who give you a prescription of books based on your emotional challenges. For a person like me, I would be thrilled to be given a book as an answer to the question, “What is preoccupying you at the moment?” I don’t know why this kind of therapy hasn’t caught on like wildfire. But then again, I don’t know a lot of other things.
Perusing other reading apps and avenues have opened up a door through which I am happy to go. It may also have had something to contribute to my daily reading, which I do with renewed interest during my commute. Is it that going through the proverbial door has helped or that I have now some time to breathe, one cannot say. But I must say this, thanks to my plodding on, I started a new chapter (in the book I am reading) that has a really chuckle-worthy beginning. In the book, William Dalrymple has just entered Lebanon in the year 1994 and is thoroughly flabbergasted to find Armani shops in a country resembling post-Armageddon. The sarcasm of life is splattered over that book. The sarcasm in his writing of that chapter is splattered over the pages.
The real revelations on the final stage of the journey into Beirut—particularly after two months in the rural hinterland of eastern Turkey and northern Syria—were the glitzy American limousines queing at the lights, and the new ice cream parlours that have sprung up by the gun emplacements. This? I thought, after a twenty year civil war: This? Armageddon, I expected; but Armani I did not. – William Dalrymple, From the Holy Mountain
The phone arrived and J.C. dialled the number emblazoned below a picture of five smiling brunettes in matching pink leotards. After only three attempts he got through (quite a stroke of luck in a country whose telephone network was fairly recently so bombed-out that it became totally inoperable). – William Dalrymple, From the Holy Mountain
But there are so many perils of this kind of reading. The foremost being – finding someone with whom you can have a conversation. The arrogance of knowing. And worse, the despair of knowing. It’s true that the more you know, the more uncertain you become about everything. And that’s why I drew geometric shapes in my journal. I need something that I am certain about. Currently, that’s my preoccupation and anxiety. Because there’s so little I know for sure.
There’s also so much that has to be written. Whether it’s about the most beautiful poetry book I received as a present or about the plaguing fears in my mind. Or about the absolute wretchedness of our insignificance. Or better still, about the myriad of people and things came out of my office cupboard when I cleaned it a few days ago, after a good 3 years. So I stopped and looked at all the letters, no less than 18 books, souvenirs, and photos that came out and I looked at them long and hard and wondered – are they things or are they people? And I look at my life, was it about the milestones or was it about the memories? Or is it about the person I become when I look at myself in restrospect? Or the other way round?
As I thought about all this on my way back, my 108 song playlist shuffled and I heard this song by Enya that made me stop. It’s about a river. Maybe that’s the answer. It’s just a river. Easier said than done.