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The disappearing diary

punjab Updated: Jan 29, 2013 10:35 IST

"A diary is a part of one's life that a man can read to himself without blushing." In most cases, a diary contains things that one writes for others to read or stumble upon. Except when faced with grave and imminent danger and the prospect of meeting one's Maker makes the truth ring with bell-like clarity, man is naturally disposed to lie without compunction. If it means that the intended reader or the chance discoverer can be made to think better of the author, the falsehoods flow with impunity.

Who does not want to be thought of as good, kind, honest, principled, dynamic, popular, exciting, talented, or successful? So what if some of these qualities cancel each other out in real life and do not co-exist in one human being? Most of us have an exalted opinion of ourselves anyway. How can a diary be anything but an attempt to convince the reader of our greatnesses?

A man may keep an account of his good deeds alone and carry his misdeeds to his final abode, leaving behind a tome-full of memoirs for posterity to admire and for heirs to advertise, provided he has left them well-provided for. Or he may record his list of good investments and carry his misgivings to the grave -- 'will my sons squabble over that park-facing property and let it go to seed while the lawyer makes money and the tenacious tenant enjoys his hold over it?'

Ever so often, people write daily diaries of income and expenditure, leaving behind them a tall stack of useless data detailing the prices of commodities and services over the years and showing their preference for one store over another, or how their consumption of milk grew, plateaued, fell and grew again when the grandchildren arrived. As evolutionary journeys go, such records can either be regarded as mournfully mundane or surprisingly sublime, depending on how favourably disposed one is to the writer.

People with talent have no dearth of things to write in their diaries. Recipes, knitting patterns, verses, quotes, drawings and other outpourings of the creative mind come alive as one turns the pages of a leather-bound classic or a simple cardboard-covered notebook. It may record only a small portion of a vast spectrum of thought -- lofty or base, melancholic or mirth-filled. The pages may have turned yellow with age, the ink faded to a precious scrawl, but a diary is a window to the mind of the chronicler.

Diaries today are usually full of initiative, and completely lacking in 'finitiative'. If January leads with good resolutions, February falters in fits and starts. March meanders along before April gives up the effort entirely. For the remainder of its life thereafter, a diary is living proof of promises to oneself that were made at the altar of noble intentions.
Imagine the tedium of living and the ordeal of simultaneously writing about it…the first is inevitable but the second, thankfully, need never be.