Nothing: Part 29

I used to invest in fancy looking journals.  Every now and then partially used Moleskines and other little notebooks with ornate covers emerge when I am eliminating clutter from various hidden corners of the home.  Each new journal I picked up from the paper stores stated a desire to write down how I felt.

Perhaps this desire stemmed from an inherent shyness when it came to conversing.  I was never able to find the right moment to jump into a conversation.  My very first co-workers used to say, “You know…it won’t hurt to add in your own two cents every now and then.”  I remember responding with a smile and saying I was listening and learning…absorbing things.  There’s no doubt I was doing exactly that, but it was also true that I felt that the moments when I could have made my point were fleeting and never quite within my grasp; they hovered around me, tantalized and soon fled. The witticisms that occurred to me, when they did, usually appeared on the second day after the original conversation.

So journals were where I often resolved to speak my mind.  I filled the pages with some regularity for five or ten days and then tired of the exercise, leaving them sitting around on nightstands, gathering dust.

When I first discovered blogging in the year 2001 I was thrilled.  The idea of penning my thoughts down in the relative anonymity of cyberspace was tempting.  I had never been particular about secrecy or privacy.  I didn’t care if people read what I wrote.  I never wanted it to be an exercise in self-branding.  I just liked tapping away on the computer as the screen filled up with words.  It wasn’t narcissism.  It was just an outlet, it was a pretend conversation, one I would have had if I ever encountered someone as mute and unresponsive as the blank screen of the computer.

The more I wrote the more I wanted to write.  Even if the writing was directionless, even if there was no stated goal.  The writing was nothing but a way to de-clutter the brain itself.  Maybe a little like the “defragmentation” exercise that we often conduct on our computers, where all the empty unused spaces get compressed and reconfigured, showing you that your hard drive really has more unused space than you thought it did.  Writing was like defragmenting; a way to fetter those floating fragments of clutter.

Of course one’s entire family and complement of friends weren’t online back then.  Now everyone is.  And, oddly enough, a few people appear interested in the flotsam and jetsam of my consciousness.  Things even get quoted back to me a couple of times a year.  The simple desire to just write has given way to conscious thought about what I’m writing, how it’d be perceived, who’d read it, what would they think? 

“What would they think”, appears to be the worst of them all.  Deep inside, I feel one shouldn’t worry about what anyone would think, that one should have as many degrees of freedom as our individual social consciousness and concerns permit.  There is no room for censors in expression.

That is the underlying theme of course.  But there are always variations.

One would never find me opposing the freedom of expression.  However, the older I get, the more I realize that I never feel exactly the same as I did in the last moment.  I read what I wrote two days ago and wonder why I wrote it, why I felt the way I did.  Some thoughts that get penned down are passing ones, even if they are dark and despairing.  Things pass, a new day brings new challenges, new perspectives, shifting dynamics.  Life flows.

When I started writing this I was thinking about a dark message left by a dear cousin of mine on a public, online forum.  My cousin and the entire extended family are still trying to find ways to deal with a recent tragedy and the debilitating grief that followed in its wake.

We’re all scattered far and wide and the virtual connection to each other is often the only one.  So her message of despair sent ripples throughout the entire family.  We were afraid, afraid for her, afraid for us, for her parents.  We wanted some assurance that she was well, that she was coping with the tragedy as best as she could, that she was trying her best to take baby steps forward, out of the darkness, and that she really didn’t feel the way she said she did in an online status message.

But perhaps what she wrote was just a turn her thoughts had taken in one fleeting moment.  Perhaps she felt better, more clear-headed, after she spoke her mind in such a public way.

Perhaps all is well.  The rest of us were concerned (still are) and seek assurances that all is well with her…but our concerns could be elevated and hyped by the fact that our lives are so much more public now.  Every thought has an instantaneous ripple effect. 

There is no “relative anonymity”.  We are inextricably intertwined in a messy mass consciousness.  So where does that leave the freedom of expression? It’s so much easier to raise red flags with our words, to wound with our words and perhaps set up cascading waves of despair with them, these days.

I recall coming to a realization here, in this space, that once you become aware of what you are doing, you fall off a groove, you fall off the bicycle you’re trying to learn how to ride, you hit the wrong notes in music, you get the rhythm and the timing of things all messed up.  I wouldn’t want anything I write here to appear filtered, censored and strained through a colander.  It is my space.  But readers, if any, please realize that what’s said here today may not be my reality tomorrow.


  1. This post has been so thought provoking, as are all your posts. I guess all expression does tend to become more self-conscious with time. But what you write has so much self-searching in it, it retains its truthfulness. I hope all goes well with your cousin.

  2. Thanks for yet another thoughtful comment Batul. I always appreciate it.I still need to update my blog's link to yours since you moved to WordPress. Do you like it better on WordPress?Thanks again.Pragya

  3. Yes, WordPress has better features for comments, etc. But I do miss the blogroll. I cheat, and refer to my old blogroll, to check up on new posts.

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