On an average, each post in Ganga Mail is about 500 words. Now multiply that by 500, and it will easily translate into three 250-page books. Three books! Alas, I can't keep them in the shelf. They are invisible books. But they've earned me what real books achieve for their writers: a little bit of recognition.
Tomorrow, if fame comes knocking, the credit will still go to Ganga Mail because it was this blog which helped me find and develop a distinct voice as a writer. I still have a long way to go, but at least I know now that I am capable of telling a story. This would not have been possible without the constant encouragement from the people who read and have stood by Ganga Mail -- to all of you, my heartfelt thanks. With you around, life isn't so lonely.
Ganga Mail was born out of loneliness. I was two months short of 35, still single and, for the first time in my life, without a steady girlfriend. Forget steady, I did not have any woman in my life, with the exception of my mother, who was worrying herself to death about the fact that her elder son was still not married.
There were a couple of women in my life, but they were unknown, unseen beauties with brains who were capable of engaging you in a conversation all night without letting your interest sag even for a moment. They were among the people who read my column in the New Sunday Express and had got in touch, and the conversation with them, even though intense, would be anything but personal. They had built such strong walls of anonymity around them that getting anything personal out of them was next to impossible. Moreover, after a long, stimulating chat, while they would go back to their respective beds or lovers or perhaps spouses, I would be left alone sitting on the mattress and staring at the screen. I had no one left to even call up.
Thus was born Ganga Mail -- as an attention-seeking device. I wanted to be read, to be appreciated. Writing for the paper was not sufficient enough -- that was just my job.
If you dig into the archives of the blog and read the first fifty posts or so, you will encounter the soul of a lonely (though not unhappy) man. In my opinion, that lot contains some of my best posts -- honest and free of the fear of being judged. I would write a post over several drinks and by the end of it would click on the 'Publish' button in a mildly drunken state, without worrying about what I had written -- something that I no longer do.
The lonely phase didn't last long. I started Ganga Mail in October 2005, within six months I was married. By then the blog had assumed a life of its own. It had become my diary, my conscience keeper, my mouthpiece, my front desk, my scribbling pad -- all rolled into one. Above all, it had become my best friend, who not only showed faith in my writing skills and helped me sharpen them, but also taught me that every single moment in your life, no matter how mundane or insignificant they may seem, can be transformed into an engaging piece of writing provided you put your mind into it. That way, you never consider anything to be mundane -- be it the 90 seconds you spend at the traffic signal or the 30 minutes you wait in the queue to pay your phone bill -- every moment, every experience is laden with a ripe fruit called the 'story'. You only have to know how to pluck it. Ganga Mail taught me the art.
Tonight, as I write this landmark post, my mind goes back to the old posts that gave Ganga Mail unprecedented visibility and helped it earn new reader bases. Two such posts easily come to my mind: one, my eyewitness account of Mani Ratnam in action, and the story of Shivani, a fictitious woman I had created.
But the two posts that will always remain close to my heart happen to be written during the lonely phase: one, my search for a particular song, Raat banoon main aur chaand bano tum; two, my eventual realisation that the route to immortality is only through mortality, courtesy a Sahir Ludhianvi song from Kabhie Kabhie. If Ganga Mail were to have an anthem, it would be Raat banoon main -- and it is not even sung by Kishore Kumar, the singer this blog is committed to celebrating.
Then there are countless other posts which I am proud of and wish people would read and reread them, but I can't recall their titles right away to run a search and reproduce the links here. But one of them would certainly be my experience of cremating my mother at the Manikarnika Ghat in Banaras, a place where every devout Hindu desires to be cremated. My mother, even though highly devout, never went to Banaras with the intention of being cremated there: she was merely visiting my brother who happened to be posted in the city, and she just died one fine afternoon while having lunch, three days before her 59th birthday and exactly three hours after I had spoken to her over the phone.
Here again, Ganga Mail came to my rescue: the moment I received the news of her death, I became a blogger-reporter who set out to cover his mother's funeral. I was no longer thinking of my mother, but about how to deliver the news and describe the event to my readers. The readers had become my relatives.
Six long years and 500 posts on, Ganga Mail continues to flow. May not be with the same ferocity when it could be heard even from a distance, but perhaps with a gentle gurgling sound that encourages you to step into the cool waters and splash some of it on your face.
During its journey through the six years, Ganga Mail has received numerous compliments. People who gave those compliments, at various points of time, might have forgotten all about it, but the nice things they had had to say about the blog not only remain engraved in my heart but also lie scattered, as evidence, in the comment boxes of various posts.
But one compliment deserves special mention. It came very recently from someone totally unknown to me, someone who hails from Lucknow, who mentioned my blog on his friend's Facebook wall, saying, Inko padhte jaiye, jeete jaiye, zindagi chakhte jaiye.
Inko padhte jaiye, jeete jaiye, zindagi chakhte jaiye -- Keep reading him, keep living life, keep savouring life.
Now, isn't that the mission statement of Ganga Mail?