When I sit to write my 500th blog post, I am overwhelmed by emotions. I thank all my readers; many of them I have known personally and many are still a photograph in the Facebook and yet another lot are those people who come and tell me that they read my blogs and they like it, whenever I travel out of Delhi. Thank you all. I have recounted once the reason for starting a blog in 2008. It was a challenge with an American friend at an art opening in Delhi that triggered the idea of blog in me. He had a blog and he said he was so fast. I told him I was faster. Then I was editing www.artconcerns.com, which is redundant now after three years of existence (2006-09). I started the blog with the help of a friend who was better in technology than me. Soon I learnt the techniques of posting and it became a habit. Initially I promoted it through a side bar in artconcerns and later through Facebook.
What I learnt from blogging was a very simple but a very pivotal lesson: If you have an opinion and if you are bold enough to express it in public you need not wait for any big magazine to invite you to write for it. You should be truthful to what you say and you should believe in what you say. You should have a style and you should have a convincing argument. And above all you should have the patience to sit for a couple of hours and jot down your ideas into a readable essay. Fundamentally you should be disciplined enough to maintain a blog. Blogging is not an easy job as most of the people think. Your opinions could hurt others, challenge their sentiments and hamper their image. In your blog you become the write, editor and publisher, and as you know the responsibility is many times graver than when you are just a published writer. You could be sued for your opinion expressed in your blog. I have faced a Rs.250 Crore defamation suit for writing a blog, which fortunately fizzled out eventually. That means, when you write a blog not only you earn a friendly reader but also you earn a lot of enemies.
Blogging became a boon for me when I found some of my views were not palatable to the publishing houses that brought out magazines. Also I found that most often the copy editors of the magazines severely punish the copies by rewriting them and almost killing them by homogenizing the style. A writer is recognized for his or her style. Most of the art magazines do not promote a personalized style of the writer. When I was the editor of www.mattersof art.com, www.artconcerns.com , later the editor of Art and Deal and the Guest Editor of Art Etc, what I tried to promote was the style of the writer. I am happy to tell you that I could bring out a set of young writers with distinct style during my tenure as the editor of those two online magazines mentioned above and the editor of Art and Deal.
When I started off as a full time writer in Delhi in mid 1990s, there were not enough avenues to get the articles published. I wrote my pieces and went to each and every newspaper office in Delhi and asked the page editors whether they wanted my pieces. Some of them accepted my writings and some of them rejected. I was fortunate enough to have a few good editors who helped me to flower as a writer. Though I had started writing in Malayalam in 1980s itself, writing from/in Delhi gave me a larger audience and more authentic voice. However, I would add that it took many years to polish my skills and strengthen my determination to be a writer. Today I am happy to say that I could find my daily bread through writing and writing only. It needed perseverance and discipline. I remember reading each and every magazine and newspaper published in India (in English and Malayalam) for years together and stacking them up against the walls in a flat where we lived in those days. Parting with them was very painful. One day I called a kabari walla (who buys old papers and utensils) to home. Upon seeing those huge piles of magazines he asked me whether I myself was a kabari walla! Preparation, practice and perseverance, that’s what makes one a writer or a blogger.
Towards the end of 1990s, newspaper spaces for art criticism was shrinking. Its place was taken over by automobile and real estate advertisements. A person like me who was depending completely on writing features and reviews found it heart wrenching experience. I continued to be a writer by joining certain magazines and journals as a staff reporter. By 2005 I could come up with the first online magazine in India for art, www.mattersofart.com and then www.artconcerns.com in 2006. I do not want to glorify myself as a blogger. But I have only one advice for the young and aspiring writers; you need not wait for the great gods from the sky to give you an opportunity. If you have an opinion, please write and post. It will take time to catch up with the public imagination. We are living in a world where soothsaying is what everyone wants. People read or cursorily look at soothsaying types of writing and forget them eminently. But when you tell truth, call spade a spade, people will hate you but they will secretively admire you and your writing.
I remember one of my artist friends commenting on my social status as a critic and blogger. He said: You see JML, everyone wants to read you and really appreciate your way of telling it. But they are afraid of saying it out because it would bring a few enemies for themselves. They are like the god fearing people caught between a pack of atheists who have better arguments. The god lover wants to supplicate when he passes a temple but he does not want to give away to the atheists. So what he does is that he raises his hand to his chest as if he was scratching away some imaginary itch. People scratch their chests when they see you though they don’t openly salute you.” I take my friends words as a compliment though I don’t get carried away by compliments as I know very well that any time anybody could turn a staunch enemy depending on my next writing.
Initially, I thought of writing only general issues in my blog as I was writing a lot on art in many magazines and my own web magazines. But soon I realized that I should not shun the opportunities to put my ideas into a blog form. I started writing about anything that fascinated me. I feel that my blogging is a sort of prayer for me and a very blissful experience. I do not worry about the number of people reading my blogs. Google Analytics gives me a day to day picture of my blog’s reach. Some postings are visited 40,000 times by readers. I do not minimize the support of my readers. I owe them a lot. When I write I am not conscious of my reader but like Orhan Pamuk once said I hide a secret message for the reader, which is extremely personal and humane. When the reader gets that message he/she smiles. That’s the moment of real communication for me.