The very first blogger was Love.
I mean that first love letter I wrote at the age of seventeen or eighteen to – we’ll let that be – in chinese ink, for God’s sake, with a sketch at the end of it like the illustrations to begin and close the chapters in an old Mitra & Ghosh publication. What did I think I was doing? Creating epistolary literature and ‘illuminating’ my manuscripts both at the same time? The lover and the poet? The poet and a novice monk out of Umberto Eco?
There used to be a large dose of asceticism as well as aestheticism in those analogue blog letters of mine, or should I say ours? After all, I’m talking about My Generation, about to disappear from view as if on a revolving stage. We were prudish too, hence no overt sexual allusions or innuendos in our letters. And yet sex used to rise like sap in those innocent scribblings. It was like W.B. Yeats the Irish poet going into the woods and crying out loud to get rid of his sexual frustration – as an adolescent. Same fellow would be writing the Crazy Jane poems later.
I couldn’t talk about what I really felt, in my very first love letter, so I talked about everything else – the parah or the block that we lived in, the city of which our parah was an insignificant part and I don’t remember what else. But I discovered the blog in the process, long before anybody had ever seen or heard of a PC – at least in Kolkata.
A blog is an oblique, crab’s way of approaching things. You watch a blog move and you’ll realise how naturally the thought runs this way and that, over this and under that, seems to go nowhere and then in circles – and still manages to do and to get what it wants, which can be food or sex or poetry. Blogs are insect life among the grass roots under the fallen leaves. Blogs are the biomass making up twelve percent of world literature.
Two of my girlfriends from the days when Muhammad Ali used to be Cassius Clay are still holding on to my first blogs, which they believe are love letters – as if every book were a love letter to the person named in the dedication.
In our days, love letters were the young man’s and the young woman’s first brush with literature – nothing adventurous like Hemingway going out and shooting greater kudu in Africa; maybe just that glimpse of the tiger in the reserve forest, of the lion in the game park, of literature in all her majesty yawning at the games that people play. Huh, Cassius Clay!
All literature is written as if a young girl were listening to it – like someone reading out Goethe’s Wahlverwandtschaften lying on a scented meadow in Falkau-Altglashütten in the Black Forest, while the girl chews absently on a grass stalk, otherwise stares dreamily at the silver fox farm on the opposite slope. Is she listening? And who cares whether Goethe wrote the stuff or I did?
All literature is narcissism – and that pond, that pool of water in which the poor fool saw his own reflection and fell in love with it, is the face of a young girl, a young woman, reading her first love letter – or what she thinks is the first love letter written to her, specifically to her. Let’s go back to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, if anybody still knows who the bugger is, or was.
Narcissus, totally in love with himself, was walking in the woods when Echo, an Oread or a mountain nymph, fell in love with him. Narcissus could sense he was being followed, so he cried: “Who’s there?” Echo only dared to echo back: “Who’s there?” When Echo finally told Narcissus that she was in love with him, Narcissus naturally told her to eff off – which left Echo heartbroken. She spent the rest of her days in lonely glens echoing her own sentiments and ours, I believe, in the process.
A blog is the echo that remains of all the unrequited love – for a girl, for a man, or even for art and literature –that life is made of and that we all carry in our hearts.