The wayward and cowardly introspector


No water and power at home today, so I wish you a horrible Tamil New Year’s Day, too. With nothing much to do – and the sun beating down upon Chennai at an unwavering 33° C that, in the company of still airs and 80% humidity, feels simply unlivable in – I sat around almost all day and thought about my life. Yes, unlivable-in conditions are always a good time to think about life.

For the last three weeks, the science editor at The Hindu, the man who becomes my boss every Wednesday, has been getting irritated at me and with good reason: I haven’t written anything for the science page. In fact, my only contribution to this page that comes out every Thursday has been the correction of a few spelling mistakes.

I’m not going to go on about not finding stories that suit my style or some shit like that. I haven’t been writing because I haven’t been looking for stories, and I haven’t been writing because, somehow, I haven’t been able to write. Yes, writers’ block (I’ve always doubted the validity of this excuse – sure, writers claim to experience it all the time, but what are the symptoms? I’m actually surprised the condition’s immense subjectivity hasn’t seen itself forced into nonexistence).

Why haven’t I been looking for stories? Two reasons. 1) I’m not able to ‘care about the world’ in that ‘direction’, and 2) Some other stuff came my way that seemed quite exciting. This isn’t to say writing stories for The Hindu isn’t exciting: I get such a kick out of seeing my name in one of the most respected newspapers in India.

You see, my responsibilities at The Hindu include (but are not limited to) writing for the science page once a week, writing a fortnightly column for Education Plus, concocting a weekly science quiz for the In School edition, handling The Hindu Blogs – that means ensuring our bloggers are happy and motivated, the content always meets the high standards we’ve come to set, the blogs section of the site is doing well in terms of hits and user engagement, and bringing in more bloggers into the fray – working with visualizations, writing that occasional OpEd, and helping out with the tech. side of things – editorially or managerially.

So not writing for the science page doesn’t really leave me in the lurch. I can’t just sit idle.

The writers’ block, I must admit, is just me losing interest, probably because I cycle my attention to focus on different things periodically over time.

Through this introspection, I’ve realized that I’m not interested in being a journalist. I’ve just been wayward in life, not paying much attention to what I’ve been or not been interested in, while following these simple rules which The Hindu has found a way to use:

  1. Don’t give up… easily.
  2. Always contribute.
  3. Take initiative.

The pro is that, even while working with a national daily, I’ve worked in a variety of environments that any other pukka journalist might not have had the opportunity to. The con is that I can’t think of anything I’m specialized to do.

Well, there’s blogging. I can’t really put my finger on why but I love blogging. I love writing – good writing, especially (I only recently found a mentor who could really help me improve my narratives) – and I love creating such writing about different things in my life, and I love enabling other people to do the same thing.

But the buck stops there.

There’s another route I’ve often considered – academics, research, philosophy, the like – but I’ve been repeatedly convinced by a friend that if I really want to make a difference, I should consider journalism to be a better option than sitting at a desk and writing about metaphysical stuff. Right now, I’m considering academics all over again. Maybe an hour from now that friend will turn up and tell me why I’m thinking wrong.

But by then, all this wonderment will have festered into one giant carbuncle of self-doubt and, eventually, that ultimate question: What if my interests and strengths don’t coincide with the activities that are capable of making a difference in this world? Or is the pursuit of individual interests the biggest difference anyone can make?

OK, I know what I need. I need the guts to be able to answer these questions myself.

1 thought on “The wayward and cowardly introspector”

  1. Shake things up, refocus, keep up your good work and solid clear writing on these difficult subjects. When asked how he achieved the remarkable results that he did, Manfred von Richtofen, the “Red Baron” pilot of WWI, said “First you must conquer the scoundrel that lies within.”

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