Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.
There will be no birthday celebrations, but India Uncut turned four today. The first post of this blog was written on December 1, 2004, and since then I’ve written more than 6000 posts on this blog alone. Most of my blogging has been filter-and-comment, where I link to interesting or newsworthy pieces and comment on them, but I’ve also done a little reportage when I’ve been travelling on journalistic assignments, as well as op-ed kind of posts.
India Uncut has changed my life in many ways. I got much journalistic work because of this blog, including the weekly column with Mint that won me the Bastiat Prize last year. It helped me polish my writing skills, making my posts crisper, and less self-conscious and self-indulgent. I learnt more about the world while blogging, because writing a post on most things involves a certain amount of background research. I fell into many traps, and in the process became aware of them—such as the need to have an opinion on everything, or to have narratives that explain every event, and so on. (I will elaborate on this some other time.)
Many of my old posts make me cringe, either in terms of how poorly they were written, and how shallow the thinking behind them was. But they’re milestones on a journey I’m still on, and I’m thankful for that. Perhaps four years from now, the posts I write these days will also appall me. In fact, I hope they do—that will at least mean that I’m getting better, and there’s still a point to it.
The biggest thing I have gained from India Uncut is the readership this blog has. It baffles me sometimes—why would so many people want to read me? And I’m also deeply grateful for it. The biggest blessing a writer can have is a sense that people are reading him and engaging with his writing. I never had this sense when I wrote my column for Mint, or wrote pieces for WSJ, the Guardian or even a high-traffic website like Cricinfo. With India Uncut, I do—and feel immensely fortunate.
This blog has changed over the last few years—there are fewer posts per day, and since the time I stopped writing columns and op-eds to focus on being a novelist, less detailed commentary on economics or politics. Many of you have written in complaining about this—but I must confess that I never felt at home being that sort of a pundit. It wasn’t my natural ground; and though I’m quite pleased with many of the columns I wrote, and was getting better at the form as the years went by, I always felt that it was a compromise, and not what I would most like to do.
From the time I learned to read, I have wanted to be a writer of fiction, telling stories. Over the years, I have procrastinated, and eventually something had to give. It did this year, and I finally sat my ass down and wrote a book. Obviously I can’t say how good it is—maybe I’ll look at it a few books down the line and cringe, the way I do with some old IU posts. But I thoroughly enjoyed writing it, and felt at home. That’s all I want to do from now on, and I’m reconciled to the relative poverty that implies.
That said, this blog was a happy accident. Once I got used to the medium, I began to enjoy it throughly, and I shall continue to blog for as long as I can. (Or as long as my broadband connection allows me to.) It’s immense fun—and with so much WTFness in the world, maybe it’s even necessary. (For me, not for the world, which won’t change because of a few puny blog posts.) The nature of the blog has changed a bit over the years, but I hope you won’t mind the trade-off once my books start coming out.
On that note, I must inform you that blogging will remain slow for another week. The deadline I mentioned here, for handing in the final manuscript of “My Friend, Sancho”, has been extended by my kind publishers by a week. And I’m still at work. I’ll put up a post tomorrow with some more thoughts on the aftermath of the attacks, and then take it easy. We go back a long way, I think you’d agree, and a few days don’t matter. No?
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