I can see the road I travelled as a blogger in the past 6 odd years. The road I left behind is a bit fuzzy, a bit clear in parts but mostly I never realised that unknown to me all these years, I was probably on a return journey.
The world of blogging for me really started with checking out out my sister’s online diary of sorts on blogspot. It was her secret corner hidden on the web and I wanted something similar for myself. I started writing on bombaypirate.blogspot.com(this very blog). I started writing on and off, but mostly it was about things I observed, things I got outraged by and stuff I found were cool.
“So what is your blog about?”
I was often asked this question by friends, family members. I was actually stumped to give a proper answer. I usually said something lame like “It is about anything that enters my mind” or even lamer “It is a blog about nothing specific but my views”.
It was bad manners to say “This is a blog about myself” – but it really was just that. My views, books and movies I liked or disliked, stuff I felt strongly enough to write about. But really most people (at least I think) do not think that their lives are that important, that it’s needs to be cataloged.
Blogging for me started out as creative writing but soon veered towards an interest in cataloging things. Back in 2009, I joined rtCamp and became its Editor-in-Chief. The title is a little over the top as to be honest, I was the only Editor around as such (only one on a full-time basis). I was now in charge of the popular tech blog Devils’ Workshop.
I had a tough time adjusting to the life of a tech blogger. Back then the focus was on writing content so often and so much that you topped search results. This in turn brought visits to your blog which made you money by serving those visitors ads. It was interesting at first but the excitement slowly diminished.
I was still very interested in tech, I read a lot through the day – but I had found my writing was losing its purpose. It was a game that many had figured out and end result was that it was not very ‘creative’.
Then I read a famous quote by Om Malik, a popular tech journalist
“Being authentic in your thoughts and voice is the only way to survive the test of time”
So the trick was simple. I told myself I am cataloging technology. I would imagine what if our civilisation was lost, what if the only stuff remaining about our world were blogs hidden or backed up in some virtual cemetery, thousands of years later? Would it be not so much better to be authentic about your views and thoughts?
Maybe just maybe that would help me love blogging once more. I was not mistaken. I loved being a tech blogger and cataloging technology. For current and future readers.
“My blog is about myself”
Today, I have more or less stopped being a tech blogger. I work solely on content for rtCamp. Passions have changed. I run along with some others a local WordPress meetup group in Mumbai. Life moves along and so does the nature of the work you are doing.
But since my life as tech blogger has more or less ended, I started to gravitate towards my old blog. My personal brand, diary, my not so secret corner of the web. I am well past thirty, I have a better perspective on my life. I know how many things I have been wrong about. I have learnt to appreciate kindness, learnt to be kinder – appreciate value of hopefully being a good person.
I do not any longer care about sounding modest. My blog is all about myself. I want to hopefully grow old and have a record of how my views on certain issues have changed, how I have been wrong about so many things and for sake of my ego – how many things I got right!
Blogging is odd business. Some people write for money, some for glory and some just to write. I think I have been in all categories in the past. Recently, I feel I simply want to write and read good stuff online. Now on this blog, there was a widget that allowed you to follow me on Facebook or Twitter and also subscribe to it via email.
It looked ugly, distractive. Why was I telling people to follow me on some social network instead of them just reading what I wrote. Hence I have removed the widget. Its plain, simple and just focused on reading. Maybe it will also keep my focus on writing.
Imagine one was studying economics and came across highly recommended books on the topic. The books came recommended by famous experts and claimed to be written with no bias. The books are given away free or at some nominal price.
Then out of every ten pages, three or four and sometimes more were Ads. Ads paid for by government agencies, corporate houses and political parties. The experts who wrote these books on law were themselves working for government agencies, corporate houses and/or associated or part of political parties.
Would you expect such books to be useful or valuable? I would probably hear an emphatic “NO”.
Yet, this is exactly how we consume the News. Almost all the News we consume is provided free or something close to free.
Yet, we do not complain and sometimes even carry out self-deception in the toasting our existence in the golden age (or should it be cage?) of “Content is free” and “Customer is King”.
But I think only one of those statements stands true. Content is free is almost always not a fact. The content is actually paid for – mostly by government agencies, corporate houses and political parties.
But the second statement, that of “Customer is king” is accurate. Just that the customer is not the one who is consuming the News. Who are they? Probably government agencies, corporate houses and political parties.
Maybe its time to embrace the term “paid media” – but paid for by consumer itself.
Last weekend was a culmination of months of preparation for WordCamp Mumbai. There were days when I was was extremely sure of it’s success and there were certain days, I had tremendous doubts on my ability more than anyone else.
How did the event go?
I loved organizing this event. I kept asking many people around if they were having a good time and enjoying the sessions. Most said incredibly nice things but by no means am I going to fall into the trap of thinking this was the perfect WordCamp. They were probably being polite and real feedback will soon start trickling in.
How WordCamp Mumbai was as an event? The best to answer that question, would be people who attended as participants, speakers and even sponsors.
As an organizer I am too close to it to be rational enough. Maybe 6 months down the line I could be more objective- hence I won’t get into rating the WordCamp sessions, events anytime soon.
But I certainly learnt a lot of things with this WordCamp and here are my takeaways.
Prepare like crazy! – First thing I take away is that one has to prepare for everything. Take your time and make plans and prepare for all eventualities.
Things will go wrong! – However much you prepare, it won’t be enough. Things will go wrong! (Hint: Crowding at registration)
And some more things will go wrong! – (Hint: WiFi)
A lot of things do go right! – And finally things do end up going right too. Sometimes its important to just keep calm and carry on.
Getting rid of Organizer’s Ego
Every organizer because of the amount of efforts they put into a WordCamp tends to feel a certain amount of ownership over the event. Personally I think that is a dangerous trend among event organizers.
Open source communities will have their famous personalities but we must not forget that we do not own this community or movement. I just had the privilege of organizing a meeting place for them.
As a organizer I hope I won’t fall into the trap of thinking that I have some ownership over WordCamp Mumbai or WordPress community. I do not.
Finally “Remember it’s a privilege!”
It is a great privilege to be an organizer of WordCamp. You become friends with some awesomely talented people.
I doubt I would have interacted much with any of my co-organizers like Vachan, Sahil, Yash, Jaidev, Chirag, Saurabh, Premanshu, Gaurav, Ajay, Ratnesh and so many more had it not been for WordPress meetups.
I doubt I would have had the chance to hang out with founders, CEOs, web developers, code geeks, WordCamp organizers from other cities, event organizers, journalists, writers, bloggers, sketch artists and so many more – if I had not been involved in organizing this WordCamp.
Now to what my plans are post WordCamp – It is time to chill out a bit, start reading some books and toss a few beers and enjoy turning a year older this weekend with some close friends and family.
Elections are near and the media circus is getting louder. Politicians and industrialists all complain of “media bias” and “paid media”. Despite the accusations about a corrupt media, all parties involved are buying up media.
When News channels host panel discussions and moderators sit spouting righteous judgmental pronouncements then- we are in trouble.
We blame the media for its elitism and lack of focus on what is important. But we seldom realize that media is just doing it’s job and doing it very efficiently.
The problem is with the perception. Many of us have not understood that media is not supposed to inform and educate us. It is supposed to be packaged entertainment. A product that is sold to entertain us, to shock us, to keep us busy enough to not ask questions. The current state of media is “Reality TV” at its most efficient.
Do you really want to discuss FDI, women’s rights, poverty in detail? It is so much more entertaining to see talking heads from different political ideologies call each other names while the TV host stopping them with a holier than thou attitude.
The media needs a bit of anarchy introduced. We need to promote self-publishing even more than we ever did. The fourth estate needs to stop being an estate.
I think the media does not need to be taught a new lesson or be regulated. It probably needs to be redefined and possibly changed.
A New Year is exciting and fills people with hope, gratitude and new found vigour. Then 2nd January hits home and everything is more or less the same.
I was asked a lot by people what my new year resolutions are. I never made any, except when I was little and decided to study really hard so I could top my class. I never even came close so… here is how I feel about resolutions.
Since you nice people are reading my sometimes silly ramblings. Thanks and wishing you all a Happy New Year.
Malala Yousafzai is awesome. She embodies the word “inspiration”. An outspoken supported of women’s education, she not just survived an assassination attempt but has stood up to the more vile brutes in a way only a child could have.
How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?
But for some something as basic as going to school is a struggle. Malala Yousafzai is from the town of Mingora in the Swat Valley of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakthunkhwa region. This is a region the Taliban started a campaign to shutdown schools for girls.
In September 2008, Malala only 11 years old spoke against the Taliban at the Press Club in Peshawar. She thundered “How dare the Taliban take way my basic right to education?”
Malala was shot in the head last year, a assassination attempt she survived with months being spent in hospital. Until yesterday, this teenage girl was nominated for the Nobel peace prize until they gave the prize to an uninspiring organisation which basically was sort of doing its job – it seems old men with desk and supposed gravitas won over someone who actually is inspiring.She appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and left him (and many others I am sure) speechless.
We don’t learn the importance of anything until it is snatched from our hands
We celebrate Independence day with hardly any real understanding of how people who actually lived through the event felt. The day is historic and there are a million such stories of micro history which are sobering reminders how people felt.
My Aji (grandmother) turned 82 last month, while an independent India turns 66 tomorrow. The date 15th August raises a lot of memories for her. Her mother was a political activist who had been jailed many times for her role in the struggle for freedom. She has in the past vividly described her visits to her mother in Nagpur’s Central Jail as a child. She had grown up knowing relatives who were political activists and often were either on the run or were imprisoned.
So when Independence Day arrived, it was a day of great hope and relief for the sixteen year old. Hope for a country and relief for knowing that her near and dear ones were now safe. Last year my sister while talking to Aji, asked her to write down in a notebook her memories of the first Independence day. She obliged. She narrated it to my mother on the phone today and I typed it out. Do excuse my rusty Marathi typing.
There is also an English translation at the end.
रात्री अरुंधतीचा मला फोन आला. आम्ही गप्पा मारत होतो . ती सहज म्हणाली – “आजी तू काय करत होती?” – मी म्हणाले “उद्या १५ ऑगस्ट. माला खूप पूर्वीच्या , १ ९ ४ ७ पासून च्या आठवणी मनात येत्तात, त्या आठवीत होते “. तिच्या सांगण्यावरून मी काही आठवणी तिला सांगत होते – तेव्हा ती म्हणाली “आजी , तू हे सर्व लिही न. नंतर मी वाचेन. ह्या सर्व आठवणी तू लिहून काढ .”
मी तर त्याच घटनां मध्ये अगदी रमून गेले होते. नेहमी प्रमाणेच १ ५ ऑगस्ट उजाडला आणि माला एकदम १ ९ ४ ७ च्या चौदा ऑगस्ट मध्ये घेऊन गेले . अकोला नागरी नववधू सारखी सजली होति. ठिकठिकाणी कमानी माळा , पताका लावल्या होत्या . लोकांनी घरांवर, दुकानांवर , काचेर्यानवर रोशनाई केली होति. १ ५ ० वर्षांनी भारत स्वतन्त्त्र होणार होत. पारतंत्र्याच्या बेड्या गळून पाढणार होत्या . देश मोकळा श्वास घेणार होता . आमच्या घरालातर सणाच – उत्सवाच रूप आल होत . माझी आई कै . सौ . प्रमिला ऒक तर तीन चार वेळा जेल यात्रा करून आलेलि. माझा चुलत भाऊ केशव, माझे थोरले काका बापूसाहेब, माझी मधली काकू- राधाकाकू , माझ्या मावशीचे यजमान श्री . अप्पासाहेब कुलकर्णी, हि सर्व मंडळी मुक्त झाली होति. त्यांनीही स्वंतंत्र लढ्यात उड्या घेतल्या होत्या , कारावास भोगले होते.
सर्वांच्या आनंदाला पारावर नव्हता . मी तेव्हा Fergusson College hostel मध्ये 1st year ला होते . आईनी आमच्या Rector-ना पत्र पाठवून माला आकोल्यास बोलावून घेतले होते . त्या ऐतिहासिक दिवशी आम्ही सर्व एकत्र असाव अशी तिची इच्छा होति. आमच्या rector -नेहि परवानगी दिलि. मी १३ ऑगस्टला दुपारी साडे अकरा वाजता आकोल्यास पोहचले.
सर्व घरभर आनन्दिअनन्द होता. काकांनी मला आईकरता गुपचुप एक सुंदर खादीची साडी आणायला सांगितली. ती त्यानी त्यांच्या कापतात ठेवली . आईने मलाहि साडी आणली. बाबाला नवीन कपडे, उमाबाईना साडी – सर्वाना सणासारखे नवीन कपडे मिळाले होते. चौदा तारखे पासूनच कार्यक्रमाना सुरुवात झाली होति. आमच आंगण व्यवस्थित सारवून, त्यावर सतरंजी जाजम गालीचा घातला . कडेकडेनी खुर्च्या ठेवल्या होत्या. दसर्यालाही असाच थाट असे . नागरिकांच्या सभा, झेंडावंदन इत्यादी भरगच्च कार्यक्रम होते .
आईच्याहस्ते दोन – तीन ठिकाणी झेंडावंदन झाले. चौदा तारखेला रात्री साडेसात – आठ वाजता, आमच्या घरी मंडळी येउ लागली. मित्र-आप्त सर्व आली. मोठी मेजवानी होती. बासुंदी – पुरी, मसाले भात असा बेत होता . जेवणा पूर्वी काकांनी आईला साडी दिलि. मी तिला लगेच नेसायला सांगितली . ती सुरेख पंढरी साडी – परवता सारखे काठ असलेले , कानात मोत्याची कुडी , गळ्यात मंगळसूत्र – असा साधाच पोशाख – पण आई खूप सुंदर दिसत होती . तीन्हेही काकाचं औक्षवण केल. आणि जेवताना काकांना कोर चांदीच ताट मांडल. तिने ते आधीच आणल होत . सरवाना फार कौतुक वाटल - It was a token of her appreciation and love for my father – for what he had done for her.
गप्पा गोष्टीत वेळ गेला. बारावाजता सर्वांनी नेहरूंच भाषण Radio वरून ऐकल. कानात सर्व प्राण आणून ऐकत होतो.
मग साडेबारा पासून झेंडा वंदन, सभा, भेटी – पाहते तीन-चार वाजे परयन्त चालू होत. १५ ऑगस्ट ला आम्ही सर्व मळयात आजीच्या पाया पडायला गेलो. आजीने स्वतः आईला हार घातला, मिठी मारली. सर्वाना आनंदाश्रू आवरेनासे झाले. सर्व वडील मंडळीना भेटून आलो. दिवसभर ‘वन्दे मतरम ‘ कानावर पडत होते. माझ्या आईनी आमच्या सुभद्रा वाहिनी करताही एक सुरेख खादीची नौवार साडी आणली होती. ती नेसूनच त्या जेवायला आल्या होत्या.
दोन दिवस धामधुमित गेले. मी १७ ऑगस्टला निघाले – १ ८ ला – Hostel वर परतले. तरी पण कित्येक दिवस त्या आठवणी मनी दाटून येत होत्या. पुढे आईचा स्वर्गवास – माझा विवाह – जमशेदपूरला आमच वास्तव्य. १९५८ मध्ये आम्ही टाटांच्या बंगल्यात – राहायला गेलो. बंगला मोठा होता. चारी बाजूस आवार होते. तिथे वारांद्याथून बाहेर अंगणात जाताना मी एक मोठा बांबू लावून घेतला होता. त्या १५ ऑगस्टला मी माझ्या घरी प्रथमच झेंडा वंदन केल. काही वर्ष तरी झेंडा वंदन करत होतो.
पुढे पुढे हि प्रथा बंदच झाली, झेंडा वंदन गेल, वन्दे मातरम हि गेल, पण १५ ऑगस्ट आला कि त्या सर्व स्मृती जाग्या होतात आणि आई, काका, बाबा सर्वांची खूप आठवण होते. आता हे सर्व अरूंनधतीला वाचून दाखवायचं आहे. तिच्या मुळेच मी हे लिहिले. Thank you, Arundhati.
A couple of days ago Arundhati called me. While talking on the phone she asked me what I was doing. I told her I was recalling my memories of 1947 and our first Independence Day. She told me to pen down these memories so she could read them later. I was lost reminiscing about those old days when 15th August dawned and it took me back to 14th August, 1947.
Akola, my hometown was adorned like a bride! Everywhere there were decorative arches and garlands. People had lit up their houses, shops and offices with rows of twinkling lights. After a 150 years – India was going to be free. The chains of British rule were to be broken. The country was going to breathe the air of freedom! There was an atmosphere of festivity in my house too. My mother Pramila Oke, had been to jail 3-4 times. My cousin Keshav, my uncle Bapusaheb, my aunt Radha Kaku, my maternal aunt’s husband Appasaheb Kulkarni, all had been fighting for freedom and were free today. Everyone’s joy knew no bounds.
In those days, I was studying in Pune’s Fergusson College and staying in the hostel. My mother wrote to the hostel Rector to allow me to visit Akola. She wanted all of us to be together on that historic day. The Rector gave us permission and on 13th August, 11.30 am I reached Akola.
Our house was drenched in joyous celebrations. My father had secretly asked me to buy a beautiful Khadi sari for my mother which he hid in his cupboard. My mother had bought a new sari for me, clothes for my brother, a sari for our cook Umabai – We all got new clothes just like we did during a festival.
From the 14th, the celebrations started. Out courtyard was covered with mats and carpets – chairs arranged around in a big circle – just like we would do during Dussera. There were many programs scheduled – meetings, flag hoisting ceremonies and more. My mother was invited as a chief guest to few flag hoisting events.
On 14th evening by 7.30 – 8.00 people started streaming into our house. All our friends, near and dear ones arrived. A big feast was served complete with basundi-puri (sweet) and masale bhaat (a rice dish). Before dinner, my father presented my mother with the sari which I coaxed her to wear immediately. A beautiful white sari made of khadi with a temple border – pearl earrings, mangalsutra all very simple but my mother looked beautiful! She too presented a silver plate to my father which she had bought earlier. It was a token of her appreciation for what he had done for her over the years.
Time flew by, with us chatting and exchanging news. At the stroke of midnight we surrounded the radio, listening to Pandit Nehru’s address to a free nation!
From 12.30 am onwards, there was a flag hoisting done, meetings were held, speeches made and celebrations continued till 4 am in the morning. Later in the day we visited my maternal grandmother at her farmhouse and took her blessings. She garlanded and hugged her daughter – a very emotional moment for all of us. The whole day slogans of ‘Vande Mataram’ echoed in our ears. Subhadravanihi, another friend and a freedom fighter, came for lunch dressed in a nine-yard khadi sari which my mother had presented to her.
Two days of joy passed in a hurry! I left on the 17th and reached my hostel in Pune on 18th August. For many days my mind would hark back to those wonderful memories.
Soon my mother passed away, I got married – we settled in Jamshedpur. In 1958, we shifted to a company (Tata) bungalow which was spacious with a large garden. In the courtyard that year, I hoisted the national flag in my own house for the first time. I felt proud and overwhelmed.
As years went by, we stopped the practice of flag hoisting, but still every year when 15th August dawns, all those beautiful memories of my parents, my brother, our celebration come flooding back. Thank you Arundhati, for making me write this down.
*Special thanks to Ai (Mom) for help with the translation.
Last year, I attended a WordCamp in Mumbai and ended up attending two more this year in Baroda and Pune.
Along with a few friends, we set out to start creating WordPress related meet-ups. The first one was an informal one back in January. The second meet-up was last month in May to celebrate the 10th anniversary of WordPress (unfortunately I could not be part of it).
Now I am looking forward to the 15th of June, where another meet-up will take place.