Thursday, June 21, 2012



One would have thought that writing one’s own diary would be a personal thing; this is, in fact, how one maintained one’s diary before the advent of the computer, and later, the internet. One usually went to a good shop at Abdul Rehman street near Crawford Market in south Mumbai and browsed at the collections displayed at the several book shops lined up on that venerable road. Perchance, one saw a nice ornamented diary for the coming year (one generally went to shop in December), and if the price was right (the balance was between what one could afford vs. what looked elegant and beautiful), one purchased that book and took it home, thinking ahead of how one would embellish one’s daily record with some flowery margins or pasting pictures, or covering the diary in a nice shimmering paper.

After reaching home, one perused the diary’s front pages of information. A good diary would have, for example, a personal memoranda page, STD codes for all the possible, available places in India, ISD codes for international dialing, PIN codes of all the postal stations in Mumbai, an important telephone numbers (hospitals, police, fire, ambulance, etc.) page, currencies of the world, conversion tables (metric, apothecary, British, etc. for weights, liquid quantities, measures, etc.), political maps of the world, India, and Maharashtra, a road map of Bombay (Mumbai), Delhi, Calcutta (Kolkata) and Madras (Chennai), standard Postal telegraphic greetings (1. Happy Birthday. 2. Best wishes on your promotion … etc.), a list of Bank Holidays, and more.  At the back, the diary would have a telephone diary of about 6-8, sometimes more pages, and this value addition made the purchase even more sensible. Going through these almanac-like pages was one of the pleasures of buying these diaries, although, to be honest, one hardly ever referred to these pages after this first day’s study!

Come 31st December, and one would take out a fresh ball-point pen and start the diary by writing in some sort of a Godly symbol like 786 or Bismillah on the first page. One then filled up the “Personal Memoranda” page with one’s name, address, blood group, etc.  One then reverently put the book on top of the other books and prayed that one would have plenty to write about in the diary from the next day onward.

One then brought out the current year’s dairy and wrote something or the other for the last day of the year to satisfy one’s desire to end the diary in a blaze of interesting writing. The next morning, this diary would be relegated to the bottom of the books shelf/drawer and would become a thing of the past, to be looked at occasionally to recall some momentous event that had occurred during the year. Or, more likely, it would remain there, unattended, collecting the grime of time and the motes of dust that cover everything over a period of years and decades.

Many personal diaries were retrieved after the death of a person, and several were published in the form of books, e.g. "The Diary of Anne Frank”, while others were converted by talented groups of artists and people into plays and movies. In the meantime, something happened that changed the world of diary writing forever.

It was the birth of the Digital Age. With the arrival of the computer, die-hard diarists continued to get their kick from buying ever more ostentatious diaries and kept writing in them – as if defying the march of Time and the arrival of modernity. However, many others gave in to the pleasure of typing out their daily activities on the desktop computer and saved the page as a leaf from a soft-version of a diary, using MS Word. Over the years, diary writing infiltrated into the realm of Internet v. 2.0, and web-logging was born. Web-log became “blog” and the site “Blogspot” developed an internet based interface for people to write their diaries in. More such sites opened up such as “Word Press”, and pretty soon, blogging became a rage. People could now put up their blogs like a show-case to the world, and self-flattery and good writing became the new substitutes for honest, perhaps grammatically less correct, but emotive old-fashioned writing of one’s thoughts.

From that stage to public blogging was a faster conversion, and soon, blogs became a mode of trans-gender, trans-national, trans-religion, trans-everything form of sharing one’s news, views, and daily activities. A sort of public voyeurism was born, and people allowed their family, then friends, then acquaintances, and finally the whole wide world to peek into their personal lives – at least over the net – virtually. As eyeballs (the net equivalent of foot-falls) increased, so did the scope of blogging; people decided that if they were writing good stuff, they had a right to earn off it. And thus was born advertising on the blog. Companies like Google, Kontera, etc. developed software to place advertisements strategically inside a blog with the consent of the blogger. Not just that, the revenue generated from such placements and their successful conversion into buys, was shared with the blogger.

Internet v. 3.0 arrived with social networking sites like hi5, Myspace, Orkut, etc. and finally, the mother of them all, Facebook. Facebook-sharing became the norm for all blog writers, and thus increased the visibility of the diary before hundreds, thousands, millions of its users.

And this is where we are at today. We write blogs, allow advertisements in it, and invite readers to read our daily experiences … or we create blogs with topics that will attract people through targeted Google search or other search engines, and hope that readers will also click on the advertisements and buy stuff, thus generating revenue for the writers. At the same time, blogging enables the modern techie to continue evolving – as a writer and as a person. 

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