Our second class English textbook had an excerpt from Anne frank’s diary, the one about Peter’s lost cat. I read that passage over and over, and the idea of keeping a diary impressed me. My mother watched a daily soap which had a character, a balding Gujarati man with round glasses, called Mota Bhai (elder brother) by his family, who always carried his diary with him, and wrote down his thoughts on a person he’d met or the observation that the samosa he’d just eaten was brilliant. The combined genius of that man and Anne Frank inspired me to keep a diary of my own. So I took one of the many leather-bound executive diaries lying at home and made it mine. I took it with me to school and wrote in it that our English teacher, Manju Ma’am had “teached” us so and so and had given me a star in my notebook and that “Maths period was yet to come.” I remember being so proud of my diary that I showed it to her and that’s when I learned from her that the past tense of teach was taught, not teached. At home, I carried the book around and told my grandmother to call me Mota Bhai, because I now had a diary like him. I don’t know where that diary is today or how long I wrote in it.
But the idea remained and when I was in the fifth class, I got myself another diary but failed to write regularly in it. I thought it was some rule that you had to write in your diary every single day, and on days when I didn’t, I apologized to it. Many of my entries on Sundays read “Sorry – no space to write!” because executive diaries had only a bunch of lines for Sunday and I could never adjust the day or my handwriting into that little space. I left the diary for weeks, then returned to it. My entries were irregular and far in between, and I failed to be a dedicated diarist. The diary remained abandoned, and a few years later I threw it away.
Then in 2012 (seventh class), I saw The Barbie Diaries and the diarist in me woke up again. Whatever Barbie wrote in her diary came true and I was convinced that it would work in real life too. So I asked my mother for a “spiral diary and a blue pen” just like Barbie and began my journey as a dedicated diary writer.
I think all of us, when we start out as amateur diarists, believe that we have to report our day in chronological sequence with details and that we have to write to our diary every day. That’s what I thought too, but my entries were more than the summary of my day – there were little of them in those pages. Instead, I wrote about what were my feelings about the rains that just wouldn’t stop, my complaints about my sister and wishes of becoming “the world’s most famous fashion designer” and crazy fantasies of hosting a fashion show before graduation. I tried highlighting, underlining, doodling; I posted interesting articles and images from the newspaper in it, as well as school circulars and pictures from our school trip, comics, a page with the lyrics of Connected, a recipe for tomato soup and my own weather and mood report. Even the plain black cover got a makeover. My first ‘regular’ diary was the most illustrated and colorful of all my diaries.
For my next, I chose a hardcover notebook in which I wrote a daily quote and made colored doodles. But my interest soon faded and I gave up diary-writing again. An year later though, I bought an ink pen and some black ink and a beautiful blue spiral diary, and I’m proud to say that I’ve been a regular diarist since.
It is indeed true that the more you practice, the better you get. It was during my first year as a diarist that I wrote as a hobby and discovered, thanks to my mother, that I should be a writer. A favorite pastime soon turned into a burning passion. I did not write many pieces then, but my diary entries were regular, and they show my gradual development as a writer – my composition, grammar, punctuation improved with time. I was able to express myself better.
But there is so much more to diary writing than just pretty doodles or decorated covers or daydreams and musings. For me, it has been a way to improve myself. As a writer looking for inspiration, I recently took up the task of reading all my diaries so far (seven) and dig out ideas from the words of the person I used to be. I kept a notebook and a pen with me as I read my own words and made a note whenever I thought something was important. However, as I progressed from one page to the next, I noticed the change not in my handwriting or composition over time, but the transformation in me as a person. Back then, I was a snarky 12-year-old who was proud because I thought I did things no one else had done – I was the only girl in our little class who had access to the internet, I spent a great many hours on virtual worlds, and did things that were considered “cool” (don’t ask me what they were). I thought doing those things made me better than others.
I believed in perfection and even had planned to write a book with my best friend, titled ‘How To Be Miss Perfect’ because I thought I was perfect and could help others be so too. I was jealous of people. Princess-y Barbie movies had led me to believe that you’re supposed to behave with the sophistication, grace and fragility of a royal, and so I hated everyone who had fun, made ridiculous jokes and were simply being themselves. I had become overly judgemental and believed that no one was as good as me in anything. And when I did come across someone who was just as good or even better than me, I criticized them in my diary to no end. My 12-year-old self sounded like the mean popular girl they show in movies and books.
I had never hated myself as much as I did when I read my own words. I found so little that was good about me in those pages. Maybe that’s how I really was, and my words clearly reflected that.
I’m glad I did not throw away my diaries like many people (including my mother’s grandfather) did or do. Memories have always been precious to me and I cannot discard them easily. Keeping my diaries was a decision that served me good. When I was done reading all of them, I realized they were like a tracker, a report card of my development both as a writer and as a person in general. They were a source of self-examination. I’m quite proud of the progress I’ve made. I’m not jealous of people anymore, and if I envy them, I make it a goal to make myself as good as them. I congratulate people on their successes. I love it especially when people are completely themselves around me – it tells me that they trust me. I don’t judge people, and speak up against those who do. I’m more opinionated than before and being perfect is off my list. I have accepted the person I am and seek to constantly improve myself. I’ve grown hungrier for knowledge and am more open to the curiosities of the world.
But my diaries were more than self-made report cards. In times of trouble, they became the listeners I didn’t have. I wrote about things that disturbed me and things that excited me, because according to others, I was too curious and enthusiastic and it was a constant complaint that I asked a lot of questions. So I turned to my diaries. Some days, I yearned to stop everything and write; it was reassuring to know that someone would listen. I could criticize myself, get angry with myself and motivate myself in those pages. But mostly, they’ve helped me solve my problems. I have observed it over the years that whenever I wrote about a problem, a solution – the perfect solution- suddenly emerged out of nowhere. I have resolved more things by writing than by discussing it with my friends or parents. I call it magic.
So, no, I’m not going to ever throw my diaries away. I’ll be always be grateful for the comfort they have provided me and the support they have given me. When no one was around me and those close to me laughed at my tears, the pages of my diary wiped them and lifted me up again. Those pages were the ones who laughed at my terribly unfunny jokes. My diaries are the reason I am what I am today. And they would be certainly something worth reading with my grand kids when I’ll be an eighty-year-old dog-lady.
Image from mogicaffe.tumblr.com