Most of us lead such insignificant lives that when our time comes, we would have done nothing worthwhile to even merit a marking, suggesting we existed at all. This fear is what probably had our ancestors institute special days to commemorate the memory of our forbears: Anniversaries.
My morbid fascination with death could be fallout of a long-standing association with Russian writers, whom I read with feverish intensity at an impressionable age. I remember they had a morbid affiliation to anything dreary. Those of you who had the pleasure of reading Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment would be able to relate with me when I say Rodion Raskolnikov’s mental struggles and the subsequent psychological breakdown were exacerbated by a brutal winter coupled with hunger.
Winter has been the imagery of choice of writers across the world to highlight the sufferings of their protagonists. Anybody who has read The Shining or Misery by Stephan King or Michael Punke’s The Revenant – all of which have been adapted for the big screens – would find that the principal character’s struggles begin during the winter, with summer bringing about a life-changing transformation. A perennial reading of gloomy writings is bound to leave an indelible mark on the mind, and that is what I suspect happened in my case.
Another novel that has had a life-changing impact on my life is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Needless to say, Stoker also employs winter as an agent of gloom. However, Dracula’s significance lies in inspiring me to take up making journal entries as a medium of expression, for they gave ample scope to write without the need to speak. A small, but not altogether unrelated, digression before I press the point. There is this couplet by poet Piyush Mishra that remains close to my heart:
Sukoon milta hai lafz ko kaagaz par utaar kar,
Cheekh bhi leta hu aur aawaz bhi nahi hoti
(Penning words bring relief to me, as then I become capable of shouting without uttering a word)
Let’s return to Bram Stoker. The novel is replete with journal entries, newspaper clippings, and letters among others. After reading the novel, I started maintaining a journal. That was during my time at school. However, by the time I outgrew my teenage, I realized that the lofty ideal with which I had set upon the task of recording the day-to-day affairs had ended up in a miserable failure. I wanted to incorporate the mental struggles, the indomitable will and sense of adventure of Robert Scott Falcon coupled with the insight and perceptiveness of Dag Hammarskjold into my entries, but I had ended up wasting reams of sheets filled with teenage gibberish. I wanted to depict my times in vivid detail, how the world I lived in was shaped by me even as it shaped mine, and tell the posterity how I lived and died
Now, Robert Scott Falcon was a British naval officer who led an expedition to the South Pole. His work, published posthumously as Captain Scott’s Diary, details the tragic account of four persons, whom the unforgiving cold climes of Antarctica consumed. He maintained a steady record of daily happenings in his diary, which later elevated his team to be placed in the pantheons of heroes.I still remember these profound and moving lines from Captain Scott's Diary:
But take comfort in that I die at peace with the world and myself - not afraid.
Dag Hammarskjold was the second secretary general of the United Nations Organization. A Swedish, Dag was the youngest person to be appointed to such a high position in the UNO. He was a career diplomat, who solved many a knotty issue riling the world. However, he met with a premature end when he died in a plane crash. He too maintained a journal known to us as Markings, which is replete with insightful commentaries regarding political and personal pursuits.
I maintained a journal for a while even after starting work. However, I soon realized that working in a newspaper, especially on the desk, where all my hours were spent writing copies, rendered me incapable of replicating the model at home. Though I would have liked nothing better than being able to string my varied thoughts into thought-provoking and meaningful sentences, penning them was becoming an issue. The classic mind-is-willing-body-is-not syndrome.
That is when YouTube resurfaced as a meaningful avenue to give a vent to my thoughts. Resurfaced because I was already on the platform, albeit irregularly. However, when the pandemic coronavirus began taking down nations, a sudden panic gripped me: What if I too fall prey to it? In a world full of uncertainties, death emerged as the only certain outcome of life. That’s when I realized that I had done nothing worthwhile. Hence, I am trying to create a community where people from all walks of life come together to discuss diverse ideas, and trigger a cultural revolution. I want a civilized discussion portal to open up, one which turns into a crucible for amalgamation of ideas. If I succeed, and when my time comes, I would be able to depart leaving behind a lasting mark, proclaiming to the world that I existed. I lived, and this community, the ideas it churned out, is the marking I merit.