I wrote such diary one other time: When I first fell in love. That was twenty years back, and I did write about my daily experiences - did she notice me or did she not kind of stories - every day in a diary. I was an awkward teenager then; I spoke no English and dressed strangely, and could barely speak in front of strangers or girls. But I was deeply in love, and knew then that I have to overcome myself to get anywhere in that relationship. So, I tried, only to be spurned repeatedly; the only reason I kept persisting is my imagination that I was making progress. Indeed, no one was that optimistic, and being a rather shy and introvert person full of pretension, I had no friend to share it with. I wrote all of it in a diary, and truth be told, soon the diary became a fiction of what could have been than a documentary of what it was. But this helped: It allowed me to imagine myself, get ahead of the reality and aspire to become the person I was writing about.
I eventually got the attention I wanted and soon, I had no time for my diary. It served its purpose. In fact, when I tried reading it again many years later, it was funny, awkward, badly written, full of pretension and completely unreal, only redeemed by the virtue of my self-love and memories of my teenage self: It brought back many a moments from back in time, frozen and framed. By then, I was pushed right in the middle of hustle of life, became a man of the world trained in the art of flattery, lost my innocence and the ability to play games with myself. Reading the diary was being hurled back to my youth, feeling stupid but innocent again, shy but proud that the transformation did indeed happen. I did think that the diary, an old blue page-a-day diary of 1988, changed my life. This is why I am trying to return to the art when I am trying to reinvent myself yet again.
My life is no less hectic this time, and my passion no less intense. I have spent a good amount of my life trying to be average: My ideas of success defined in terms of my own house, family, car etc. There were a few twists - like I wanted to see the world and the house I dreamed for was to be in England, and I did force myself out of my comfort zone and migrated, and lived a difficult life building up my credentials in a new country from scratch - but the goals were still too mediocre. I would have been successful if I managed to catch up with others, admittedly the other successful migrants, and the price I was expected to pay is servitude: A commitment to barter my time for cash so that I can pay my mortgage dues for twenty years at a stretch. This was indeed a simple, acceptable goal, but it appeared to me no more desirable than various stereotypes that I faced in my adolescence - the cycle of a government job, an arranged marriage, an uneventful life chugging into retirement and a painless, almost pointless, death. Call it mid-life crisis if you must, but I wanted to reconstruct myself as a completely different person, doing pleasurable things, rediscovering new ideas in an increasingly monochrome world, and die meaningfully. This is why I wanted to keep a diary.
Indeed, this isn't a new thought, and I have been trying to make a new start for a while. However, I made several false starts over last couple of years, and eventually almost given up, deciding to return back to India and retire to a comfort zone of a corporate job late last year. I had felt no sense of mission at that time, no attachment, no pleasure in my work and no possibility of being able to make a difference. It is only a chance encounter early this year, and a spell of introspection, made me do what I did - walk out of the pointless job that I had that time, sit at home unemployed for a month and eventually find something that I really wanted to do. It was indeed nerve-wrecking at the time: I was reminded that I was walking out of a job right in the middle of a bad recession without anything in hand (and not any savings to cover myself for more than a few weeks) by my ex-employers, who were particularly nasty and never accepted the fact that I could want to walk out just because I did not like the job. It was my little rebellion against servitude, which my employers correctly spotted and wanted to stamp out completely. Various conflicts ensued, and I had to, finally, choose my freedom over a fear-induced sell-out, and walk out without a job in hand. Despite various warnings about recession and a bad job market, that was the only thing I could possibly do.
My idea was that I start again, which I finally managed to do. I was prepared to face the level of difficulty I faced when I came to this country initially - work in a warehouse - but I did not have to go that far. In fact, I am fortunate enough this time to get an opportunity to work in the sector I wanted - education - doing what I wanted - teaching and writing. This is a fresh start, and I have taken it as such: I thought it to be a gift I earned because I did not sacrifice my life because I have to pay the 'bills'.
So, I am doing what I promised myself to do: Hard work, complete commitment to learning and doing, a different life altogether. I still see this as a state of transition. My working days often stretch to 12 to 14 hours, and I am spending whatever little time I got left after that studying Adult Education and Learning Technology at the UCL. I squeeze in some time to write this blog in between, often early mornings if I managed to get up early (which are rare these days, because I am so tired most of the days and don't manage to get to bed till late), or in between work, if I got a few minutes without anything specific to do. I am enjoying teaching, and discovering that I have some kind of ability of public speaking, which I would want to develop. I am developing a practice, consciously, and hopefully this will allow me to escape corporate life altogether in a few years time.
When that happens, I shall restart again: Go back to Kolkata and live there. This may sound counter-intuitive, but that is what I want to do: Live with my own people, not feeling like a stranger every time I step out of my house. I came to Britain to see the world and expand my horizon: That is happening. However, I would not want to give up my identity in the bargain. This diary hopefully will capture the story and keep me on the message all this time.