Monday, January 30, 2017


Published in Deccan Herald dated 30 Jan 2017


Brig A N Suryanarayanan

I had my own codes to hide names of girls. Saroja used to be SJ & Kalanidhi, KLN.

After a four-day camp last year, a first for her without her parents’ presence, Maya, my 10-year-old granddaughter told me she had maintained a ‘journal’ and showed it to me. I told her, diaries are highly personal and should not be shown to others, including ‘thatha’.

She said it was a journal of daily activities as suggested by her teacher and not a diary and that she has been maintaining one for some years. I explained that it would soon start containing her feelings, which are best kept to herself. I told her it was a very good habit and that I used to maintain one myself from age 14 to 18, but discontinued it later. I didn’t tell her the reason, however.

I used to express my adolescent feelings in a diary. For instance, a girl’s smile or a playful retort or just seeking guide-books/class notes to copy or an odd occasion when 3-4 of us boys went for a picture with a girl (I recall Maya Bazaar in 1957) found a place in my diary.

The ‘diary’ was made annually out of foolscap papers cut to 1/8 size by me, stitched with a thread and placed in the plastic/rexine cover of a discarded diary. I used to keep it hidden from the dozen-plus children in our joint family, but more so from my eldest brother (older by five years), who was the most curious of all.

My elder brother had once written “catched the train” in his diary, which the eldest had stealthily seen and inadvertently mentioned in a conversation. Offended at not only his diary being read, but also at a fault being found with his English, he discontinued the diary thereafter. I had my own codes to hide names of girls, but coming from a boy of 14 in 1955, how good could they be without modern gadgets, Google or army service!

Saroja used to be SJ and Kalanidhi used to be KLN. In 1958, when I was away on an NCC Camp for 10 days, I had forgotten to carry it and ‘the curious one’ laid his hands on it and read through. The day after my return, he foolishly taunted me if I was going to meet SJ. We had a roaring fight, which led me to take out and destroy all my diaries. And, with that ended my diary keeping!

It was 41 years later that I would read about the abbreviations ‘LKA’, ‘HN’, ‘A’ etc in the Jain hawala diaries case and about 17 more years when the Sahara-Birla diaries would be revealed. How the politicians would have loved if the latter diaries, too, had only initials and not names with designations. Still, they got lucky with the Hon’ble Supreme Court dismissing the PIL!


Marianne de Nazareth said...

Very easy read and so enjoyable -- of an era which was uncomplicated and simple!

SURYA said...

Thanks a ton, Marianne.
Grateful it is coming from an accomplished journalist!

Arathi Manay said...

A good read Brigadier. Nice to know that Maya keeps a physical diary. You can keep an e-diary to keep your thoughts safe these days!

SURYA said...

Thank you, Arathi
I am still a century behind!
Though I have been using the net for 20+ years, there re many things I don't access/use!

mightyseven said...

Simple and direct,this is so engrossing that when I came to the last PIL mentioned by the Brigadier, I thought that this must be the code for a later day girl friend he had picked up- Puthiya Indira Leela, for eg !.

Unknown said...

Your inimical style of simple story telling brings back nostalgic memories of childhood of those born in the fifties when life was simple and time was plenty.

kevin smith said...

An excellent read and a great recount, as expected, keeping in with your elephantine memory.
Maintaining a journal/diary is important, especially in one's growing days and I realised it when I commenced writing my blogs. I could never recreate the situation, I could never bring in the emotions and feelings of a tween, a teen, an adolescent and a young man/woman. I could never put down the frustrations I faced growing up, I could never recount the friendship with my classmates and also the fears for the teachers with that gusto and innocence as I would have experienced it then. As one grew up, these relations turned more into mutual respect, whether with teachers or with classmates. A recall from memory I realised did not have that punch. Hence, I have been insisting on our children maintaining a diary or journal of events, thoughts, dreams, ideas, feelings etc and as you have said - keep it to yourself and confidential.
Writing about one's life, thoughts, dreams, ideas, feelings and so on would be boring to those people who find those boring themselves. The first step is to gain the confidence that it is one's own life and is always interesting to oneself. There is no need to impress someone with your journal writing and it is never to score brownie points.
By putting down your thoughts and feelings on paper, one is sure to get better clarity of what is happening in one's life and thus attain better clarity. At least, there is someone ready to listen to you and your problems and frustrations, without castigating you and making you feel guilty. It would serve as a self reflection.
It is surely a place to record your dreams, aims and goals (please click here to read my blogpost on the subject) and to make an assessment of what you have achieved. It can also serve as a tool to review your goals and aims. Surely one needs to revisit the aims and goals, may be weekly, monthly, quarterly or half-yearly with a view to redefine them, raise the bars, change them if needed, and at times even discard them to find new aims and goals.
Journal writing is an ideal place to try out one's language skills and improve it. It inculcates the habit of regular writing and will surely help you as students for the examinations and also at work. It will in fact turn into a book about yourself. One can make the journal look more appealing by using different coloured ink, making a few diagrams, with references to people with codes (as done well by the author), links and references used in research for future use, and the list is endless.
It would be more prudent for the young journal writers to write with a pen on paper, rather than converting it digitally into the laptop or cell phone. The idea is not to use the backspace or delete key to wipe out your thought of the instant. By writing it down, you may score it off, but will remain on paper for you and will surely come handy later. Further, one got to write an examination or a paper and with a better way to improve your handwriting and the speed of writing. The most difficult is to get your ideas flow through the nib of the pen to the paper at the same speed as you think.

SURYA said...

Dear Mightyseven,
I just found you are Bala , but which Bala, I wonder?
NO,I have no latter-day girl friends to whom I can give a code. Now at age 75 and 35 years in the army, 'coding' would have been better though!

SURYA said...

Dear Unknown-Anupindi,
Thank you, probably you meant 'inimitable" instead of inimical.. I was wondering who I had made an enemy of in this short piece!

SURYA said...

Thank you, Reji.
Had you not called from Toronto now, I wouldn't have realized it was you.. except after raking my brains .. Of course I saw "Nikgrad-2' when I clicked on Kevin Smith. I would have then known it is your son!
Well, you have written almost a paper on Journal writing/ Diary Keeping, and brought out the essentials. Will pass them to my granddaughter!

LF said...

Nostalgic!!! Lucid n simple narratn with touch of humour,makes reader enjoy the most.. Guranteed smile at the end..

Prem said...

Great fun reading about diary entries of 'others' made public. I tried for a few months. Admired my own candid comments and candor and then felt too exposed, so that was the end of that effort. Now I rely on my memory with the 'NB that if I forgot something it was obviously not worth remembering. Now, much later I realize the power of NOW which underscores the behavior of the mind. Prem Hejmadi. Seattle.

SURYA said...

Thank you, LF, why have you left yourself without an identity? Anyway, thanks a ton

SURYA said...

Thank you, Prem. Nice to hear you enjoyed it..and your own experience!

S Thomas said...

What a fun read Uncle Suri!

'The curious one' seems to have not only killed your diary days, but also robbed us of many more laughs! But then again, thanks to your regular middles & books, we the readers are sure to get our fix :)

Prabir said...

Sir, good to read. I do have one or two of my old (1960 to 62) diaries still - don't know where though. It also lists cost of dosas, a movie, a cycle hired for an hour and so on. No girls though! I was in a boarding school at Belgaum. Receiving an extra pocket money of 4 annas one weekend, for writing a letter home, was the highlight then. I know the value of those abbreviated names too, though, used for other stuff.

I am enjoying reading your blogs and writings. Keep up the good work, Sir.