In a couple of weeks I shall turn four years old as a blogger. I was still not 35, and still single, when I started the blog. Circumstances were so different then. Writing was a pleasure then, and getting published a distant dream. Each morning, when I woke up to answer the doorbell, I didn't know which of the girlfriends it could be till I opened the door. There have been times when two people landed up almost at the same time, and the scenes that followed -- well, I wished mother Earth could swallow me right away. Back then, I had a mother whose sole mission in life, at the time, was to find me a wife.
How quickly things can change. Today, I am almost 39. Writing is still a pleasure, but it is also burdensome at times. The dream of becoming a published writer has been accomplished and therefore lost its charm: I have to now reset the dream and aim for becoming an accomplished writer. And these days, when I answer the doorbell in the mornings, it is either the maid or the cook. Their arrival is followed by a call from wife, who is usually at work even before I wake up: "Has the maid come? And what about the cook?" So I have a wife now, but a mother no longer.
But on the whole, Ganga Mail has had a satisfactory journey during these four years. Statistics can never match sentiments, but nearly 200 unique hits a day, about 2.7 lakh total hits so far and over 12,000 profile views till date (even though I am not a pretty woman) -- they make me feel good. These figures are very modest, even pathetic, when compared with the popularity of the blogs of the big guns. But then, I never aspired to be a big gun. Blogging, for me, has always been an emotional outlet. I share things I feel strongly about. If I like a particular Kishore Kumar song, or if I wish to make a point about relationships, I can't catch a man on the street and tell him about my views. Nor can I inflict my views on other people at a party or a gathering: I find that most obnoxious. The blog is the perfect ventilator: just type away.
Touch wood, I've always had a set of readers who seemed to agree with most of what I've had to say. In other words, I found acceptance, and nothing can be more gratifying than that. Acceptance is something that you seek all your life, so it feels nice when a set of readers shift a bit and make space for you in the middle of the sofa and tell you, "Come, come, sit here. Tell us your story."
Acceptance does not always come easily. There was one Ms P who did not like my blog when I started it. She was a reader of my column in the newspaper and she said she liked what I wrote. But about my blog, she had this to say, "I think it is sick!" Today, she looks forward to my posts and calls me if I go missing from the blog for a long time. She was only 18 then, today she is 22. Somewhere along the way, she accepted me.
But something strikes me now. Once you find acceptance, do you remodel your thoughts to keep them within the limits of what would be largely acceptable? Why I am asking this is because, before I started writing this post, I read through some of my earliest posts. This was the first time I was reading them ever since I wrote them, and I was surprised. Here was a man who wrote what he thought, and with considerable clarity. He did not have to worry about, "What will people say?" To tell you the truth, at the cost of sounding conceited, I was rather charmed by those pieces. I am no longer him. Today, I think a dozen times about what to write about and how to write it, so as not to offend anyone or invite someone's ridicule. The invisible faces of readers dance around my eyes as I write: I feel as if they are watching. Their invisible presence makes me extremely conscious, and as a result, I end up not saying half the things that I had intended to say. In other words, I don't want to lose the acceptance I have earned. In other words, I am still seeking fresh acceptance even after having found it.
It may be sad, but that is how life is: we all slog, till our dying day, to find acceptance. We tend to do things the right way in order to avoid rejection. As children, we seek acceptance from parents and teachers. As youngsters, we seek acceptance from people our age, especially from members of the opposite sex. As young men and women, we seek acceptance from our bosses and from the people we are dating or about to be married. As married individuals, we seek acceptance from our spouses and, in many cases, also from people from the opposite sex who are not our spouses. As parents, we seek acceptance from our children. When we are older, we seek acceptance from our grown-up children. After a while, we seek acceptance from our grandchildren: do they think of us as the ideal grandparents? Finally, we seek acceptance from the Maker. An entire lifetime spent in search of acceptance!
Most of the time, people around you don't even care whether you are acceptable or not. They just about tolerate your existence because you happen to be in their lives. If they find you useful, they will respect you. If you are of no use to them, they will ignore you, irrespective of how hard you have worked in order to become acceptable. To give you a frivolous yet illustrative example: when I was required to shave my head and moustache after my mother died, I was greatly distressed. As it is I was coping with the loss of my mother, and now I had to cope with the loss of my identity. Ever since as a teenager, I had never been without my hair or my moustache. The decision to sport a moustache was influenced by my admiration for Jackie Shroff, but after a point the moustache became part of my identity. And now it felt miserable to part with it. Would I still be acceptable to my society without the most important mark of my identity?
I need not have worried. No one failed to recognise me because of my missing moustache. And no one -- those who did not know about my mother's demise -- asked me how or why it went missing. In fact, there have been occasions when people enquired about my long absence from Chennai even after noticing my shaved head and the missing moustache. "Well, I had gone to Kanpur. My mother passed away, you know. Don't you see my shaved head?" I would say.
"Oh, is that why you shaved your head? I am so sorry. I thought this is your new look," they would reply. At least five people have apologised to me so far for having thought that I took my hair and moustache off because of "fashion". And here I was, killing myself at the thought of getting tonsured. The world doesn't really care: if it has to accept you, it will accept you no matter how you look or what you have to say. If it chooses to ignore you, it will ignore you, no matter how much time you spend in front of the mirror grooming yourself or practising those lines. But then, no one ever gets to know whether he or she will be accepted or rejected. Even if one is rejected, there is always a chance of being accepted the next time.
Therefore, we labour on in order to be accepted, and that includes us bloggers as well. None of us is ever going to write what we really want to write. Rejection by readers is too huge a price to pay. So you write what they want you to write, and not what you want to write.