Looking back at Fifty

No, this is not a reference to my age, though it very well could be.  This is my fiftieth post on this blog and time for me to reflect.  Now I know that there are prolific bloggers who blog every day or even multiple times a day.  I’m certainly not one of these individuals.  I had no intentions of starting a blog.  I would post occasional random musings on Facebook which seemed to strike a chord with my friends.  They would graciously “like” my posts and some, out of the kindness of their hearts would suggest that I should write a book.

They were being kind to me and I guess I got carried away one day when I told my wife that I should probably write my memoirs. My wife who has a practical bent of mind, asked me why anybody would want to read my memoirs.  “You are neither rich or famous nor do you have any claim to notoriety, so who would want to read your memoirs?”  She had a point.  I am just an average Joe, with no claim to fame.  “Well then”, I replied, “let it be the memoirs of an average Joe”.  I assumed that it would resonate with all the other average Joe’s in the world.  A book was out of the question, so I settled for a blog.  No commitments, no deadlines, no editors, no fear of rejection!  I could always self publish but that is too much trouble.  I registered the “memoirsofanaveragejoe” domain and set up a WordPress site in September of 2017.

My first post was actually something that I had written in 1994.  It was my version of “Coming to America”.  I had a printout of part of the article that I had written and I posted it on the blog.  There was the small matter of publicizing it and I shamelessly plugged it on Facebook to my friends.  I also set up a Facebook page.  Reactions were positive.  Friends who had attended other Universities in the US told me that they saw parallels to my experiences.  My next piece was on my early “attempts” at meditation.

When I was in High School, we had to write a composition every Monday.  The topics varied.  There were the usual mundane ones such as “What I did during my Summer Holidays” and “My Hobby”.  There were more interesting topics too.  In 9th grade, our English teacher, Mrs. Katre, asked us to write on topics such as “Jeans”, “Trees” and “Hamburgers”.  I found these the most fun to write.  Once I started writing, the thoughts flowed.  I was able to connect my personal experiences with comics, advertisements, scenes in movies, songs and quotes.  I ended my composition on Jeans with the sentence “Old Jeans don’t die, they just fade away”.   I rather enjoyed those composition classes and thought it would be a good idea to write one post each week.

Flush with the enthusiasm of a new blog, I maintained the cadence for 3 months or so.  I was enjoying the writing but keeping the streak going was getting to be a bit hard.  I posted the blog on Brer Rabbit while I was attending the AWS Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas and my post on Stone Walls was written on the plane enroute to the conference.  I soon realized that I would run out of topics and so I slowed down with the aim of posting twice a month.  This is a sustainable rhythm.

I started off with a small list of topics and added more as I went along.  It’s hard to gauge what people might enjoy reading.  I’ve found that blogs on people tend to be the most read.  My posts on my son, mother and father have been the most popular.  These were from the heart and the first two were written in single sittings.  I did not start with a theme, both were written early in the morning when the rest of my family was asleep.  I think these struck a chord with my readers.  We’ve been told by a couple of parents of special needs kids that their experience mirrored ours.  We’ve been told by his teachers that it provided a window into the early years of special needs kids something that they are not usually privy to and I’ve been told by friends that they had wondered what it is to be parents of special needs children and they were provided a glimpse into that world through my post.

The post on my mother also resonated with people.  Friends told me that it reminded them of their mothers.  My dad loved it.  I think people of my parents generation seldom expressed their feelings openly and he took special pride in that post.  When I had written it originally, he kept a printout on the table in our living room and he would proudly give it to visitors to read and he would beam with pride as they read the post.  After I wrote that post, I realized that I had never really told my mother how much I appreciated everything she did for me.  We wait for an eulogy to express our emotions and feelings.  The post on my dad’s 85th birthday was my way of expressing my appreciation and gratitude to him.  I’m better at writing my appreciation than conveying it in words.

My post on my friend Nagraj was also to express my admiration and appreciation for an incredibly optimistic and resilient friend.  I read it to him and asked for his permission before I posted it.  I got a lovely WhatsApp message from him thanking me and saying that his friends enjoyed the post.  Posts relating to my school also tend to have higher reads.  It is understandable since it resonates with the alumni of my school.  This is probably one topic on which I can certainly write a book.

Posts on travel or of historic nature take much longer to write.  My post on Jallianwalla Bagh was inspired by my visit to the memorial.  However, as I wrote the post, I had to keep checking the web to make sure that I had my facts right.  My introduction to the massacre had come from history books and from the movie Gandhi but as I delved deeper into the subject I found a digital copy of the independent investigation conducted by the Congress party in 1920.  I read part of it but the report is exhaustive and it is on my “to read” list, I hopefully will get to it someday.  I hope I get to travel more in the future and I look forward to blogging on the places that I visit. 

Music is another area that I feel drawn to.  Whether its Harry Belafonte, Tansen, Bahadur Shah Zaffar or the entire process of composing and recording a song, these have been some of my favorite posts.  They certainly appeal to a much narrower audience.  My post on the demise of the cassette player though was surprisingly popular.  It seems that everybody had one of these players and a favorite mix tape.  While I’m personally challenged when it comes to singing or playing a musical instrument, it does not stop me from appreciating music.

I lack the imagination to write fiction. Besides a couple of fictional pieces that I had written in the early Nineties (which I have lost) I have not written any.  Nowadays much of my composition happens in my mind as I drive to work.  After going over a piece for a couple of days while driving, I usually type it up at night.  Then there is the small matter of finding pictures to accompany the blog.  I try to rely as much as possible on pictures that I have taken.  I have relied on sketches from my friend Naren as well as my wife for a couple of blogs.  After I have created the draft on WordPress, my wife does the proof-reading. She points out things that are not clear and gives suggestions on the layout and once that’s done, I publish the post.  It can take two to four hours for the whole process.

After that its a matter of posting the blog and sharing it on Facebook.  I will admit that there is a narcissistic element involved as I look at the likes and read the comments.  It is most gratifying when an article triggers off a chain of memories and my friends share their own thoughts and reminisnces.  I understand that there are is a lot out there to read and people’s time is limited.  I indeed consider it a privilege when people take the time time to read my blog and comment on it.  In a way, I’m still the school boy in 10th grade writing and enjoying compositions, I’m just sharing them with a larger audience.  I hope I can write a post reflecting on my 100th post.  If I do, it will be two years from now.

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