A diary is a daily record of events or thought. According to Wikipedia, “A diary is a record with discrete entries arranged by date, reporting on what has happened over the course of a day or other period.”
According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, a diary is “a book, sometimes with spaces for each day of the year, in which one writes about one’s daily experiences, records one’s private thoughts, etc.”
And, according to US Calendar, it is a book with spaces for each day of the year, in which one can write down appointments, things to be done in the future, etc. e.g. “He/She maintains a desk diary, making a note of the next meeting, etc. in the diary.”
So there are two types of a diary — Personal and Official. In a personal diary, one writes about one’s personal interests, personal experiences, personal contact and other personal matters, even one’s private thoughts and observations. And an official diary is maintained for the official purpose. An employee keeps his/her records of the experience of the fieldwork or office work. He/She may write about the future plannings and appointments, etc. also in his/her diaries.
The diary is a kind of document to know a man intimately. In personal life, diaries help in having useful retrospective views. The practice is to note down briefly in the diary at the end of the day about activities done during the day, with some observations, if possible. These reactions and impressions of events that occur around us, as also thoughts that flash across our mind, are of great importance for knowing our inner self by maintaining a diary.
It is also very helpful in knowing a man’s ins-and-outs when he becomes famous and plays an important role in the public life of a country. Those jottings in the diary provide the source-materials in reconstructing his life-story.
Great men of the past used to keep diaries regularly. It was very much in vogue in the 19th century England of Queen Victoria. Dr Johnson’s diary helped Boswell a lot in compiling his monumental work — Life of Dr Johnson. ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank is a famous work. In her diary, Anne Frank recorded her experiences during 1942-1943 when she and her family fled from their home in Amsterdam and went hiding for the next two years in ‘Secret Annexe’.
Litterateur like Andre jide kept diaries that subsequently took the shape of intimate journals. In fact, personal diaries of Virginia Woolf and Mary Wollstonecraft are now documents of immense literary value and judgment. Diaries of Evelyn and Pepys of 18th century England are valuable literary Accounts of thoughts, doings and observations of the diarists. Political diaries of Nazi leaders like Goering and Goebles and that of Count Ciano, the Italian
Foreign Minister, created a great stir just after the Second World War. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru used to maintain jail diaries that provide sidelights on his public life. The recently published Diary of Dr Shyamaprasad Mukherjee shows his recorded reactions to contemporary political events. Rabindranath Tagore used to keep little bits of information along with his enlightening impressions when he was on a foreign tour. It is a source of research and recreation for future generations.
Diaries often serve as memorabilia to us. By turning over the pages of one’s diary one can visualize his past and build up his future with past experience as the guide. Through the diaries, one can look before and after. It is, indeed, an eye-opener.