Monday, March 24, 2008

Of Kittens And Blogging

When I was a child, we had a cat. Every evening at six, when it was time to get milk from a nearby vendor who milked his buffalos, we would find it sitting at the gate. At the sight of the milk-can, the cat would jump up, tail at 90 degrees, and would follow us to the kitchen, crying "meeaow, meeaow", till she was served with some of the milk. After some time, she gave birth to five kittens, and soon we had an army of cats waiting at the gate at six. Whoever got the milk would be followed by six upright tails and the collective "meeaow, meeaow." The milk would be served, and the mother cat, by the virtue of its size, would reach the bowl first. But the kittens would soon get in between, and the mother, after taking a few sips, would move away, letting them have the milk.

Why I am reminded of the story, I don't know. Actually I had wanted to write about something else.

It was a night like this, about two years ago, when I was wondering what to blog about. Suddenly, an idea: why not about idlis! So I started writing, as my wife sat next to me, forced to do her own thing. When I finished and asked her to take a look, she was already sulking: she was taking the flight to Bombay in a few hours and here I was, blogging about idlis!

For many, many months after that, I was told time and again what an insensitive husband I was -- blogging when the wife is leaving the next morning. Blogging, for her, was a waste of time, though she never said that in so many words. All she would say was: "I can understand if you are writing an article or your column, but blogging?"

But then, I was addicted. One small idea and I would weave a thousand words -- something I would never return to read myself. It was alcohol that primarily made my fingers type. And perhaps the urge to show to certain people that I had things to say and that I had the courage to articulate them. Basically, to impress them.

As a journalist, I was used to reader response. But when people begin to respond to your innermost thoughts, especially in a favourable way, you tend to get addicted. So the blog became my favourite toy. When not writing a post, I would keep checking my mailbox for comments. When there were no comments, I would go to Statcounter to look at the number and the nature of hits on my blog. If nothing else, I would simply stare at my profile page, wondering if the number of 'profile views' would ever touch the 1000-mark, or the 2000-mark. Basically, addiction.

After about a year of being married, I got rid of the addiction. For the better or worse, I do not know. But there is one thing about blogging: it unclogs the arteries of your brains and trains you to be a better writer. It makes you realise that you too can write effortlessly and why did you not write all this while. In other words, it prevents your thought process from getting constipated.

But I hardly blog these days. By and large, because of other preoccupations, but there is also a practical hurdle. I rarely find the laptop free during my creative hours. My wife sits on it, and she is blogging!

It all began with a contest announced by The winners were to get a cash prize of Rs 10,000 -- a sum that would have seen us comfortably through a brief holiday we had planned on a shoestring budget. I would have raised that much of money in a single month by simply abstaining from smoking and drinking, but that's where men are different from women. Men think of 'me', women think of 'us'.

Thus, the doors of her creative energies were unlocked and out came one post after the other. I never knew I had a wife who could write. I would watch in amazement as she sat in front of the computer with a determined look, adjusting her specs every now and then and typing away. She would write in the mornings, in the evenings, on Sunday afternoons -- whenever she could. Only once I tried rewriting her copy, and I could see she did not approve, and I let it be, but with a murmur: "Look, I am a writer, I know what works best." But then I thought, who is the real writer: she or me? She wrote with determination when she had to, and nothing would stop her. Whereas I wrote only when inspiration supposedly struck. If only I shared her determination, I would have finished my long-pending book by now.

The more she wrote, the more response she got. Addiction was waiting to happen. And unlike me, who is far too lazy to respond to commentators (or at least to individual commentators), she responded individually to every commentator. Individual interactions followed, and soon the addiction had firmly gripped her.

The prize money never came (for whatever reasons), but by now she had become a professional blogger. And till date she remains one. And while I post a blog once in about two months, she had already shifted gears from writing prose to poetry, winning even more admirers. And while I still have only an online relationship with my readers/fellow bloggers, she has gone ahead and met, or at least spoken on phone, with those who share the blogspace with her.

Today, I am familiar with almost everybody who blogs on, because a lot of our bedroom conversation centres around that -- who wrote what, who left what comment on whose blog, and so on. It is almost like her going to an office party and then narrating me the incidents -- who said what, who did what, who was cosying upto who, etc. How much I love all this -- I almost feel like the cat who steps aside to let the kitten drink the milk.