All of this in a way started in 1999 with a “writing” site, www.manfrommatunga.com that I maintained anonymously on my own…everything from writing the code to the content. It was a “blog”, when blogging software hadn’t yet been invented. And, while the word “blog” was coined in 1997, it was only around 2001 that “blogging” in its true sense caught on in India.
When the Mumbai Mirror (MM) first started in 2005, there was a section called “Writer’s Bloc”, with contributions from people living in different parts of Mumbai writing about their respective areas. Since I was a “Matunga” person, despite the anonymity I had built around my website, the MM staff was able to flush me out and I became a regular contributor.
Writer’s Bloc continued for 3 years, with a dwindling number of writers, until at the end there were just two of us left, a lady who used to write about Kandivali East and I and I was itching to move beyond Matunga’s confines (I once even wrote about a trip to St. Lucia…via Matunga) and in December 2008, Meenal gave me this Saturday morning column.
It was a risk she was taking. I wasn’t a celebrity, or a political writer, or an expert writing on a specific subject, for e.g., film reviews, or books or literature or pets or money…which gave me the freedom to write on anything and everything, including Matunga, films, running, travel, restaurants, poor service, angst, top-10 lists, ageing, health, investments, medicine, friends, family, obituaries, etc.
It has been so much fun. 600 words each week, virtually without a break for the last 5 odd years, on any subject that came to mind that I felt was worth sharing with you readers, from the perspective of someone in his mid to late 40s. There has been pretty much no interference or censoring from the newspaper and except for certain ground-rules about the use of swear words and promotion of brands, I have been able to write about whatever I have wanted to.
This has also been a source of criticism from some readers. “You waste space writing about frivolous issues”, “even one article a year on running is one too much”, “why do you talk about Matunga so much”, “why don’t you use this precious newsprint to write about things that can make a difference”, “why don’t your pieces have a social conscience”, etc.
Friends and acquaintances have often asked me how I have been able to come up with something new to write about each week. My secret: I jot down every thought that enters my head that would be worth writing about. More importantly, I by and large, always write for myself, not for a specific audience. It has always been about feeding my narcissism, not about making a particular set of readers, or the editor or the paper happy.
It’s time to move on.
Five years is a long, long time for a newspaper column unless you are a Shobhaa De or Khushwant Singh. MM needs fresh voices and faces as well and I am sure it will be interesting to read other, perhaps younger and different points of view.
I would like to thank all of you for taking the time out to read this column on a regular basis and for taking the effort to get back to me and interacting with me. I have had a wonderful time! A big thank you to the newspaper staff, particularly Meenal, who has given me all the support that I needed, no questions asked!