The fifth anniversary post
While I was involved with student magazines, it was only during grad school that I started toying with the idea of long form writing. The first idea was a Clancy-style Desi thriller — a Muhajir general in Pakistan army trying to affect the ground realities in Kashmir, setting off a nuclear crisis, which is defused by a daring Indian Muslim academic with the help of a Bollywood heart throb with a secret past… It was good six months before the Kargil War, which (along with the pressures of school) put paid to that story.
The next idea was a bit more serious — a group of Desi boys and girls growing up in a Sydney-like city, with its sun and surf, but also the ethnic suburbs, you know, the angst and the agony of the whole ABCD existenz. Zadie Smith had just written a book on that theme, but hey, while she dedicated White Teeth to Jimmy Rahman, I was Jimmy Rahman. That story was to end with a spectacular explosion in some iconic location. The story was conceived prior to 9/11, and needless to say, it died on that day.
That story upset many of my closest friends because, well, I didn’t portray them in charitable fashion. I tried to redress it a few years later. With my brother, I wrote about 70 pages of this. This would have been the biggest, baddest Bollywood movie ever. Sadly, life got in the way.
Blogs are much easier to write. Couple of hours maximum for a long piece, half an hour for shorter ones. Write about whatever you fancy. Don’t need to continue on the same subject. That was the idea behind A-A-A.
As Bangladesh was sleepwalking into 1/11, I started following UV, where a blogger named Rumi caught my attention with his political analysis. While everyone was convinced that Iajuddin Ahmed was going to rig the January 2007 election for BNP, Rumi Ahmed argued that in the ‘digital age’, it’s very difficult for an unpopular incumbent (like BNP was at that time) to pull off a rigged election against a determined opposition (like the Awami League could have been). I agreed with Rumi bhai’s analysis, while he felt strongly enough about Ziaur Rahman to write to me personally about this post.
Correspondence continued after 1/11, with analysis of what happened and what was to come. By April 2007, I was blogging in UV. That was also when DWC started. By then, UV had decided to oppose the regime, and DWC heavily pushed the anti-1/11 agenda.
While I contributed regularly to UV/DWC, I needed a space to post personal thoughts/ideas/ramblings, most of which were too half-baked for broader association. A-A-A wasn’t really the place for it, not the least because the other bloggers there had little interest in Bangla politics. So, five years ago this week, this blog was born.
A lot has, of course, happened in the past five years. Back then, people worried about high inflation and sluggish growth, people sighed that America wasn’t ready for a black president with a ‘Muslim’ name, and people expected Gen Moeen U Ahmed to become president ‘any moment’. At UV, I tried to be part of covering events ‘live’. But somewhere along the way, it became very clear that this wasn’t my forte (which is partly why my involvement with A-o-D is minimal). For the past year or so, I have withdrawn from public writing, devoting much of my writing energy and time to this blog.
So, why blog?
Well, the simplest answer, at least for those (like me) who don’t get paid for blogging, is that it’s a glorified hobby. Of course, there can be other motivations for blogging. Blogging can improve one’s debating and analytical skills, which could lead to great career opportunities — people like Matt Yglesias or Ezra Klein also started out as hobbyists.
But even hobbies can matter. If there is something you care deeply for, blogging can make a difference. Who heard of Scott Sumner five years ago? While econobloggers have moved the US Fed, sadly, Deshibloggers have had little impact in recent years, wasting their time with whether Musa Ibrahim really made it to the top. How pathetic is it that when the war crimes trial effort is a farcical failure, the biggest thing to excite the Bangla bloggers was a crappy movie like Meherjaan?
So, why I blog? Mainly to keep my mind sharp. And if there is some positive change at the margins, that’s a great bonus.
Looking forward to the next five years then.
Meanwhile, here’s why he sings the blues.