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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

This blog, Facebook and books

Looking back upon a post in April 2012, I just found that I was then eagerly waiting for the pageviews counter to cross the 100,000 mark. I had launched the blog in July 2006, and it took six years to reach that number – before which, I think, no one can call oneself a serious blogger. And now, already, within less than six more years, the number has jumped close to 550,000! At this rate, it will not be too long before I cross the million mark, if I stick around. How on earth did this happen? How did the readership grow so prodigiously within so short a span? What makes it doubly weird is that at the same time, the frequency of comments has dwindled: whereas in the early days some blogposts attracted twenty, thirty, even sixty comments, these days the number is at best below ten. So while my readers have swelled in number and/or frequency of visits, I must conclude that they have, for the most part, nothing to say about anything that I write. How is this conundrum to be explained?

One of the many reasons for the paucity of comments, I imagine, is that of late far more people are accessing the blog via mobile phone rather than via computer. The problem with this is that, firstly, internet access via phone is still very slow and erratic, and secondly, it is far more clumsy to use the facilities with such a small screen while you fiddle with your fingers: who knows but many people cannot even see the comments link, or have no idea how to use it! I don’t even know whether most of my readers have computers, but if they do, I would request them to use those in preference to their phones while reading my blog. One section of my readers tell me they follow my blog earnestly but can never think of anything to write as a comment. With them I can only despair. Even asking a question or supplying a nugget of relevant information can be a comment! There’s yet another category of older readers who say that after staring at the screen for ten to twelve hours at the workplace they don’t have the energy left … but if they can take time out to read my blog, why can’t they write comments at least now and then? That is something I have never been able to figure out.

I find it intriguing that some posts I wrote years ago suddenly come back into the most-read list. Rani Rashmoni has done so and stayed there for quite a while now; so did my reminiscence of my grandfather titled The end of an era for some time, and lately I can see my review of Sudha Murty’s book Wise and Otherwise has nudged its way in. How does that sort of thing happen, and why? I have no idea. But I shall once more strongly encourage my readers, especially newcomers, to click on the labels along the right hand column and visit old posts: many people get back to me after finding something interesting which I had myself almost forgotten, and that is always nice.

I like people with serious and abiding interests. Naturally, because I am one myself. I have been writing a diary since I was seven years old, and once the blogging facility came along I took to it like a duck to water, at the age of 43. I find it deeply therapeutic to write, and it tickles me that my readership is constantly increasing, even if I don’t hear from them as much as I’d like to (I also don’t think that any of my immediate neighbours even know of its existence! Make of that what you will). As you can see, I have stuck to it in a disciplined and regular way for twelve continuous years. Who knows what the years ahead might bring? One thing that has happened recently is that my Facebook page, titled ‘Suvro Sir’, which I launched purely as a notice board for current pupils (you can access it via Google by just typing ‘Suvro Sir Facebook’ without even having or logging into your own FB account, did you know that?) has very quickly caught on among parents, most of whom would probably never have read my blog, even if they knew what a blog is. So maybe I’ll publicize the blog a bit by linking it to my FB page. I don’t know if even that will persuade too many parents to do something as ‘boring’ as read a blog (as opposed to say shopping or gossip), but it would be good if a few at least did and talked around about it: it might go some way to dispel all the silly stories that have been circulating among the parent class in this town for decades, simply because they never made the effort to find out what sort of person I really am! Today’s parent class is in the late-thirties and early forties bracket; many of their generation were my pupils twenty five to thirty years ago. I hate to think they should remain as clueless about me as their parents were, even while sending their children to me in droves.

One last thing for now.  I have been trying for donkey’s years to spread the reading habit and a taste for good books among my pupils, against very strong resistance from parents, who (in my milieu at least, but broadly speaking all over India) believe strongly that it is a disease to be guarded against. I have succeeded with a small number; with a much larger number I have failed. I feel chagrined to see that the new generation of parents, many of whom as I said belong to the generation I taught 25-30 years ago, have caught the aversion from the parents, and many kids growing up right in front of my eyes, despite my most earnest efforts, have already, in mid-teenage, decided that their parents are right, reading is a disease best avoided, unless you are reading the Chetan Bhagat sort of stuff. The irony is that all those parents send their children to me to learn English well, and if I have said this once I have said it a million times, that you cannot really learn a language well by just doing some grammatical exercises and cramming a few textbooks: trying to do that instead of reading widely and well is like trying to stay healthy by popping vitamin and mineral pills instead of eating lots of green vegetables and fruits daily. Few things make me gloomier about India’s future as a civilization. Most of all the fact that so many millions are going around claiming to be educated but know nothing outside their narrow spheres of professional specialization (if that!), and read nothing, not even newspapers or serious magazines, yet claim a facile competence to comment confidently on almost every subject under the sun – as I once wrote long ago, journalists these days solemnly quote beauty queens opining on the government’s economic policy. You can have too much democracy, and that itself might eventually prove to be democracy’s nemesis! 


Subhanjan Sengupta said...


Just a question, though it may not be specifically related to this post, but comes from a wider context, that includes some conversations with my colleagues today, my pondering on a paper that I am writing, and your post (and all the other posts in this blog):

How do you write so well? How can someone learn the craft of really good quality writing in any language for that matter? And by good quality, I mean the kind of writing which has a flow of reasoning that is superbly structured together in simple words.

Thanks and Regards,

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Practice with reading and writing, Subhanjan, more than forty years of non-stop practice, what else? But thank you for the kind words.

Sayan Bhattacharya said...

Dear Suvro'da,

You are so very right in pointing out the malady of majority of today's folks in being prompt to read a short article on their handheld devices, but when it comes to typing a short response or comment, falling prey to laziness or procrastination. I sincerely hope that those who read this blog-post of yours do shake themselves up!

Your remarks on the declining reading habit of today's generation, rings in well with my own observation, having spoken to many readers around. An interesting discussion is that people will often say that they like to read a book in it's "printed form" and not the e-book version, and you may almost be convinced by the reasons they cite: "I enjoy the feel of holding the paperback, e-readers do not give me the feel of a book, it is harmful to the eyes," and the likes.. But you will hardly see these very people with either a paperback or an e-book in hand ! I have had such conversations with people in airports, on trains, on holidays, which by far are considered to be the most relaxed time to read a book!

You bet, whenever I had spoken to someone about my own books (call it a bit of self-attempted marketing, if you will!) I have always met with lot of keen interest showed by the other person. But majority of them will never try out reading a 'new author' (if I may call myself one), at the cost of spending two hundred rupees for either the paperback or the e-book! Better still, those to whom I had gifted a copy, many of them never came back with a word of feedback or comment, or simply to say "I read your book"! So much for our current crop of young readers!

Yet I am surprised when I talk to some of the publishers and almost fall for the optimism shown by them, even the grade B and C level of publishers. However, if you notice closely, you will see why publishers dissuade the author from traditional publishing and push for self-publishing today? Make the buck from the author, get the book out on the online platforms, print as per demand and scoot off with the money made... that's the business! Leave the author and the reader to find each other and connect to tell the story.

I sincerely hope that there is a turn in the tide soon and we see more people genuinely reading. As a writer, I will not mind giving my book for free to someone who genuine will read my story.


siddhartha pal said...

You said a truth that most of the mobile users even do not know but it is a fact that when someone opens your blog in a smartphone then one cannot see the link to your earlier posts and your the total pageviews. After reading your this post i tried opening this blog in phone and observed these. I have no facebook account but when i tried to access 'Suvro Sir Facebook' in google it asks me to login through my facebook account can you please tell me how can i access it directly.
You told that some of your post had recently came into the most-read list but why this has happened i am curious about the reason

Hope you are well

Yours sincerly

Aveek Mukherjee said...

Dear Sir,

I don't think many people will read your blog, even if you link it with your Facebook Page. For most people,nothing but a heated debate on Messi and Ronaldo, and few stupid memes thrills them. A enthusiastic reader would have found out by now that you write regularly in your blog.

And about reading books. Recently, I saw on CNN News 18 that a 'reputed,highly educated' teacher was asked to say something about Republic Day. The teacher said,'On this Pandit Nehru wrote our Constitution'!

With regards,

swagata chattopadhyay said...

Dear Sir,
"Most of all the fact... subject under the sun" set me thinking on the reasons many of us suffer from vanity although warned against it time and again. I am sharing a link which tries to explain the same. Link address below: