Recalibration

Over the last decade or so, I’ve started and stopped some 4-5 different blogs. Each had different themes: business, books, personal finance and so on. About 1-2 years in, I’d lose either interest in the theme or the ability to commit to regular writing about it (mostly due to other life/work commitments).

When I started this blog, I told myself that I would keep it as my permanent online home by sticking with it and switching themes and topics as interests waxed and waned. And, while I still intend for this space to be about India in some way or another, I have been struggling recently with managing a requisite level of interest in the India that I encounter on a day-to-day basis (outside of the social and broadcast media echo chambers, that is). This is most likely because I’m living, as most of us do, in my personal bubble with limited awareness and understanding of the diverse, varied India out there (which, of course, was the reason this blog was started: to learn about and understand India better). When I’ve been able to venture out of the bubble and turn away from both social media and broadcast media, I’ve had some rather interesting encounters and experiences. Unfortunately, most of them are too personal to share on this kind of platform. I will, over time, try to write about some of them after ensuring appropriate permissions.

So, as I was mulling over possible new tacks to keep this Indiatopian journey going, I recalled one of the commonly-held beliefs about India: how the three biggest pastimes of the nation — politics, Bollywood, and cricket — unite every Indian, no matter what his/her religion, caste, class, creed, ethnicity may be. This is not too far from the truth as at least one of these can be found to influence, explicitly or implicitly, almost every noteworthy incident or undertaking happening in any field: business, arts, technology, finance, education, or whatever. I daresay a similar set of 2-3 over-arching everyday influences could be found in any developing country. Certainly, in India, these are so deeply-entrenched in daily life that there’s no escaping or ignoring them — not for the poorest who live on the streets and definitely not for the richest who live in massive mansions. Strike up a casual conversation with any Indian and you are likely to snag on one of these pricking briars.

Sadly, on any given day, these uniting factors leave me so disinterested or disillusioned (except for certain aspects of the game of cricket) that I am not inclined to waste precious time reading, thinking, and writing about them. That said, as I mentioned earlier, there really is no ignoring at least one of these in any story about India or her people. Perhaps, though, a change in the narrative/storytelling approach is in order such that, as Virginia Woolf famously wrote, “the accent falls differently of old” and “the moment of importance came not here but there”. Which is to say that I am going to attempt to look for, as I continue writing India-related stories here, different accents and moments of importance than the conventional ones I’ve succumbed to till now.

And, to inspire me to stay on that track, here’s the entire quote by Woolf — one among many of her quotable bits that I’ve loved for decades. Though she was referring to novel-writing, of course it applies to all kinds of writing.

Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions – trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig-lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit?

~ Virginia Woolf, ‘The Common Reader

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