27 December 2013

Diaries, diarizing and the happily ‘un-diarized’*

These are diary days.  Calendar days too.  All institutions, big and small, private and public, are busy getting diaries out.  It is probably considered a serious come down for a self-respecting corporate entity not to print diaries for distribution among clients, employees, politicians and friends, corporate and otherwise.  The diary bug seems to have stung the SME sector as well.  Everyone seems to feel a dire need to print a diary, even a pocket-size one.  Calendars too. 

These are also diary-asking days.  The cleaning lady wants one. Three wheel drivers, corner-shop mudalalis, garbage collectors, policemen, teachers and other everyday people in your life wants one, have you noticed?  Years ago I wrote a short note on diaries. It was titled ‘Diary days’ and appeared in the Island newspaper.  I was amazed by the diary mania that invariably engulfs Sri Lanka in late December and lasts until mid January.  Here’s a paragraph from that piece:

‘But people are obsessed with diaries. They do not want a diary. They want many diaries. I’ve never figured that one out, so this time I actually asked the question, "what for?" Followed by the explanation soliciting, "do you have so many appointments that you have to keep track of them for fear of forgetting?" and "do you record everything you do?" I know of at least one person who diligently did. Chula Unamboowe, my friend Bradley’s father, who insisted on maintaining a record of everything he did, everyone he met, everything purchased and so on. But none of these diary-seekers were anything like Uncle Chula. Diarizing was not what they did. Some I am sure have not written anything down in years.’

This was in December 2003.  Seven years later, nothing has changed diary-wise.  Diaries, I observed, were made for recycling.  The three-wheel driver wants to give one to the owner of the vehicle who passes it to his/her child’s class teacher, who in turn gifts it to the Grama Niladhari and so on. For what purpose, I asked then.  I still don’t have an answer outside of being noticed, being counted.  This time around, however, I have a different set of questions to ask. 

What happened on appointment-less days?  Why were some appointments marked and some not?  Were the unmarked appointments missed? Do blank pages of dairies used for jotting down observations indicate un-lived days?  Do people count the number of blank days at the end of the year?  Do blank pages view the inked ones with envy or vice versa?  What are un-inked days like? Are they made of things neglected, erased memories and absences, given and received?  Do inked pages object to being linked with the un-inked if diaries are recycled?  Do recycled appointments yield more fruitful conversations?  Do diary-gifters trace the pathways that gifted diaries take and do they visit them at their final resting place? If they do, would they observe a minute’s silence out of respect for distance traveled or guffaw uncontrollably at the utter ridiculousness of diarizing?

I wonder if anyone has calculated overall national diary-wastage.  I wonder if people wonder about the number of trees that are transformed into empty pages that do nothing for ‘diarizer’.  On a more serious note, what do people make of ‘blank days’?  And what do blank days do with people or themselves and one another?  In blank-worlds are expressions necessarily blank and do kisses cross each other out into happy oblivion? 

There are days waiting to be written.  Lived. Loved. Days that stand on their own, with or without diary, appointment and observation. 

What kind of 2011 have you planned, I wonder.  Mine will be diary-less as has been the case for many years.  Perhaps I’ve not lived if inking a diary or using the information therein are considered preconditions to be counted among the living.  Perhaps others are never sure if their ‘today’ is a Monday or a Saturday, whether it is the 14th or the 27th and therefore find diaries useful.  As for me, I have decided that I will spend the rest of my life in an eternal Tuesday, happily ‘un-diarized’.

*First published in the Daily News on December 30, 2010

Malinda Seneviratne is a journalist who can be reached at msenevira@gmail.com



sajic said...

You are so right. I have always wondered too about those diaries. This year I have been given 3 calendars-a very pretty desk one (Ican hardly see the numbers for the pictures, and I have no desk), a very beautiful Australian one (all AUSSIE holidays marked!) and at last an in-your-face hanging one- big letters, big numbers-from my pharmacist who knows my inadequacies.

Anonymous said...

I remember this one from 2010 too :) You used to write beautifully back then. It's a pity that the Daily News doesn't get that column anymore.

Anonymous said...

Lovely. But cant help wondering what happened on that particular Tuesday.hope you can tell us?
And yes those articles are so very beautiful.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

That 'Tuesday' was as much an illusion as any other day of the week. 'Week' is also an agreement, nothing absolute about it. Same goes for years. And of course 'January 1st'.

sajic said...

Time is an illusion as an old teacher used to say. You reinforce this-so I think today is Sunday and I think I slept through the sermon in church this morning! What a relief to think that it didnt really happen!
BUT-I do recommend diary-keeping.Just so that when you get old you can flip through the pages and remember-memories bring back a life almost forgotten.