There’s something about the number 100 that’s quite unsettling. Believe me.
Let me explain in cricketing terms.
For a batsman, scoring a century brings a whole lot of joy, reflected in the bat-raising, the air-kissing and, in case of Virat Kohli and his graceless generation, a celebratory barrage of expletives to go with it. But, it also brings about a sudden sense of completion and an accompanying anxiety that tells you: ‘Your job, sir, is done.’ It is, in a sense, as bad as the nervousness of the nineties. That’s probably why so many great players get out soon after getting to the milestone.
(Yes, there are exceptions, just as there are some good people in the world. Not for nothing are talents like Lara and Sehwag so rare, you see, since they went on at the same pace even after getting there.)
I am dreading that feeling of cold completion today, writing what is the hundredth column in a series that was started over two years ago, with the basic idea of having a voice that talks like people actually do, about anything and everything.
Over the course of writing weekly and then fortnightly, readers have told me to stop being a sarcastic jerk all the time, or a romantic mess; sometimes praised me in such ways that I’ve felt embarrassed to share the feedback with my editor, fearing that he’d think I fabricated the letter; and some readers have indeed asked me how it feels to be able to vent your feelings through a popular medium such as this newspaper.
It’s a risky business, this opinion-mongering, I tell them.
There are times when you start with an allegedly profound poem of your own that you thought was amazing when you were 15 years old. People then write in to remind you that you are way past 15 and need to stay away from poetry and exclamation signs. There are other times when you write such a long sentence that someone sends you a thousand-word letter explaining how to be precise and concise, and not go on until they lose their breath.
It is also not rare to have people suggest ideas as grand as the failures of the Iraq war or sometimes just the cattle menace in Chandigarh (I wrote about the latter, though!).
Vanity is only one aspect of it, but no letter of appreciation can ever calm your nerves after you address the cannibalistic urge of rioters who play the ugly football of 1984-versus-2002. After all, writing about it made you realise that a cannibal resides inside you as well.
No letter of criticism can make you feel bad, either, when you wrote something for someone in particular and she messaged you to say she loves you even more. There are things you can say in a newspaper column that you never could in person. The solitary nature of writing makes that possible.
And, with all due respect to readers who send letters and that one woman who identified herself as a ‘fan’ the other day at a lit-fest, no letter of agreement can make you feel special when you wrote about life in a suburb on a day when you could not think of any other topic anyway. Writer’s block is a female dog!
The writing process can feel like bleeding, but carries an intoxicating beauty. And the sense of fulfilment that you get after you finish writing something remains unmatchable. Sorry if it sounds crude, but to me it sometimes feels like a rush of blood felt only in an orgasm.
How many more times do I want to feel that feeling? How much pleasure or pain is enough to make you numb to it? The number hundred again whispers in your ears, ‘Your job, sir, is done.’ No, I want more.