This evening, a careful look at the dashboard made me realise that Ganga Mail is almost 400 posts old now -- 388 to be precise. Not a very large number, considering that this blog has been around for over four years and that there are 365 days in a year. But not a small number either, considering each of these posts have been painstakingly written, mostly in the dead of the night.
Only the first 20 or 25 were written during the afternoon, but that was because I was a bachelor then and lonely too and I didn't know how else to spend a gloomy, rainy day other than drinking and writing. Those days I was not required to show up at work all six days. And those days the blog used to be called Thought Process. But soon after, I discovered someone else had a blog by that name too. Moreover, I was myself not too happy with the name: I had wanted something that would be in sync with the URL of the blog, www.bytheganges.blogspot.com. Then it suddenly struck me.
Only about a year before that, I had travelled to Haridwar and to Allahabad, in immediate succession, and I had written a piece for the paper comparing the Ganga to a long-distance train running across the Hindi heartland: the coaches, the seats, the toilets are all clean when it starts from the originating station, and by the time it nears its destination, they all get soiled. And yet, thousands and thousands of people take this train every day in search of that elusive destination called salvation. I had titled the piece On the Ganga Mail.
Suddenly, I had found a new name for my blog. Salvation is always elusive, but in order to live you must seek it, and in order to seek it you need to make the journey. This blog is nothing but an account of a journey -- the journey that began two months before my 35th birthday and continues even three months after my 39th birthday. Was I really making the journey, or was I just standing on the bridge all these years, watching the Ganga flow under it, carrying with it the embers of my youth? I don't know.
Whether you are journeying or standing static, you can't avoid being carried piggyback by Father Time. And so you grow old. And at times, you also grow. Readers of Ganga Mail, those who want to know the real me, should read the first 200 posts. After that, it is the modified me. Did marriage change me? I don't think so, because one night, barely two months after our marriage, when my wife was to take the flight to Mumbai the next morning (she was going to be away for a month), I remember keeping her waiting for dinner and writing a post on idlis.
At times I regret having done that: after all, I was just writing a blog post, not even a cover story or a column for the paper, and that too on idlis! How shameful! But there are times when I think: what's so shameful about it? As a writer when you are seized by an idea, you are bound to become blind to everything else till you have finished saying whatever you had set out to say -- doesn't matter if the subject is as frivolous as idlis and if the publishing house is as insignificant as your own blog. What matters is the urge to write and the obsession to put your thoughts across as simply as possible.
My wife, very fortunately, understands all this and lets me be. The fact that I could conceive and write Chai, Chai only after I got married and can now think of writing many more books speaks volumes of the luxurious atmosphere she has created for me at home in order to write. This, in spite of the fact that she writes too. And unlike me, she does not need alcohol or an unending supply of cigarettes or the tranquil of the night to write. She has a repository of short stories, some of which I have read. My first reaction, as soon as I began reading her stories, was to straighten out the opening sentences without even knowing what followed next. Finally I decided to keep the trained sub-editor inside me on a leash and read through the stories like a lay man, only to silently wonder in the end, "Why didn't such ideas ever come to me!"
When you have a woman who is a sensible wife and a sensitive writer and above all a dignified human being, the least you can do is to keep her sensibilities in mind while writing a personal blog. In that sense, marriage has, over the years, changed the way I write. Even then, the change has only been minor: the things I write about still remain the same, only that they are now expressed more in the general sense than personal. Literary licence has its limits too: it may work fine for a book but not necessarily for a personal blog.
Age also is a factor, why blame marriage alone: at 30 or 35, you can openly write about your fascination for, say, breasts. But when you are touching 40, you are slightly dignified about the manner in which you express your thoughts. You either avoid a direct reference or call them mammaries instead of boobs or tits, at least while writing.
But then, what's in a name. Really. A sheep's clothing does not turn a wolf into a sheep, does it? So the journey continues, my dear friends. Welcome aboard Ganga Mail.