17 July 2007

A Notebook

Last week, on Friday, a small package arrived from Montreal, accompanied by a note from eldest brother, Alain. It said,


'Dear Sister,

We came across this while cleaning in the attic. When I saw what it was, I
stopped reading at once and packed it to send to you. I knew you would want it.
Sorry for everything. I hope the memories aren't too intense for you.

Love, Brother Al


Of course, I ripped the packaging off immediately. It was a notebook.

I have always kept a journal of one sort or another. Usually after a time I burn them, unless they contain something extraordinary, figuring they have served their purpose in the writing and not wanting them to fall into unfriendly hands. I had kept an extensive journal of our trip to India, supposing it would be something to remember all our lives. (Yeah, right!) That, unfortunately, burnt with the house.

This journal, however, was written afterward. I opened it and gasped at the date of the first entry: 29 November 1984. That entry consists of just two scrawled words, the most obscene expression in the English language. So much for the [saintly] Mai! I do not remember writing any of it, but it is all in my handwriting and I know the thoughts are mine.
On the inside front cover, two pictures had been pasted: the first formal portrait of the three of us as a family, Sandeep only a few days old, and the one taken the day before we left for India, Sandeep trying not to look excited, Mani not even trying not to look excited and me trying not to look apprehensive. (If only they had listened to me. 'If only, Lord, if only.')

I read it at once, from beginning to end, no easy task, partly because I seemed to get an allergy attack and my eyes wouldn't stop watering and refused to focus. Also my handwriting, while I'm told is beautiful to look at, isn't easy to read, and much of what was written was almost illegible scrawling.

I have been pondering what to do with it. I know it belongs on this blog in some form. But there are problems. To begin with, it is loaded with anger and profanity. No self-controlled, civilised young lady wrote this thing. This is the sipahi without the sant. I need to decide how to handle that. To remove the profanity would destroy the impact and would be dishonest...to leave it in is indecent. I am working on a compromise I can live with - and you can stand to read.

[Click here to read the whole unexpurgated journal. The 'nice' version can be found in this blog under the labnel 'journal.']

I would like to work on it and publish it here in November. However, I am told by the medical professionals that I may well not last that long. So I have made a rough transcription and given it to Suni and Vini (Maman) and asked them to handle it at that time. if I am unable or unavailable.

By the way, I don't believe Al even one little bit when he says he didn't read it. My brother the psychiatrist wouldn't dream of sending it to me without knowing what was in it. He is, after all, the head of the family and, besides, a real snoop.


  1. I think a good compromise would be to use a few asterisks for one or two letters of the 'naughty' words.

    I very much hope you are well enough and going strong Mai. So sorry to hear that your health is bad. I am impressed by your high spirits and good humour.

    I've had to burn/shred a few journals too. Hopefully if your brother did have a peek, he couldn't read your cryptic scribbles! Good idea actually... ;)

  2. ha ha.. i personally, would love the uncensored. There are times when the sipahi cannot really call the Sant fast enough, and 1984 sure was such a time!

    Also, november seems too much to wait.

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  4. Dear Eleanor and How,

    I think I will probably post a semi-expurgated version here, things like 'mother [f*****s]'using [--] to contain profanity and publish the unexpurgated version on an orphan blog I started but rarely use. Would that work?

    The parts that concern me the most now, actually are some of the things I wrote about 'the [Hindus]' which I know many of my friends now would find as offensive as I find Sardar 'jokes.' These are views that I don't hold and only expressed in the anger, pain and frustration of the moment. People read my blogs, much to my amazement, and I do not want to be quoted as saying these things. More importantly, I don't want the 'Sikhs' to be quoted as having said these things and holding these views. Collective responsibility is stupid, but it does exist. I need more time to think about this.

    A random thought has occurred to me. I have had a couple of offers to publish this blog in printed form. Silly question: would such a book be banned in India? I think of the censors' reaction to Amu:“Why should young people know a history that is better buried and forgotten?”

    Thank God - or Al Gore, hehehehe - for the Internet! Oh, yes, I am in a fine mood today.

    Thanks for your comments. They really do make my day.


  5. Yup, I reckon that would work. I'm fine with you including all expletives/cussing/swearing but I understand your concerns.

    If there are bits which you are concerned about upsetting certain people then maybe you could interrupt with italics in [] and explain how you feel about it now. But, for your sake, it could be better to exclude anything that is going to cause you stress at all. Do it for you and how you want it; what you would like to share.

    Yes, good on the internet. This way many of us can learn and understand things we may never otherwise come across.

    Oh, and how wonderful to be able to publish! Very exciting!



Please feel free to speak your mind. Dissension is allowed and welcomed. I only delete illegal comments and spam. OK, maybe obscene, but not usually.

If you want to contact me personally, my address is theroadtokhalistan@gmail.com