[Note - This is the wickeder version of the earlier post. For those of you who prefer the straight and narrow, you will find the older post here.]
I walked out of the drizzle into CCD for a bloggers meet in Hyderabad. It was largely unoccupied. There were two ladies sitting in a distant corner chatting like school friends meeting after a long time. They noticed me come in and immediately pulled their bags and phones closer to themselves. They drew close to each other and whispered something. Then they turned around at me and asked, “Subho?”
I smiled and said, “Yes, How did you guess?”
Pattu, radiant in her yellows, golds and reds, said, “You look so ….,” and starting making waving motions with her hand. It looked like she was trying to describe wool being pulled out of an old sweater and rolled into loops. Or maybe blending spices into freshly cut raw mango pieces.
Bhavana, who didn’t at all look like she had taken an overnight bus from Chennai, came to the rescue. She exclaimed, “… you look so Jejune. It would have been impossible not to know that it was you.” Their warmth and sincere joy at seeing me convinced me that whatever they were feeling and thinking was a good thing.
The lounge suddenly grew darker. It wasn’t just me. It was Sandeep blocking the light. He had found out that the large empty table in the center was reserved for us. In any case, none of the smaller tables had enough leg room for him. As we sat down and introduced ourselves and our blogs, Nivedita walked up to the table, more gurgled and bubbled than walked, and flashing a grin that was disarming and childlike, asked, “Bloggers?” and plonking her blue umbrella on the table, sat down.
We all replied, “Yes, yes, please come. Sit, sit.” She leaned forward slightly, pulled out the end of her stole from under her and sat down again. Pattu looked at the direction and angle of the raindrop and made some mental calculations and figured that it was raining in her part of the city and became very happy. Amazing stuff, really, traditional wisdom!
The five of us began chatting. Pattu talked about her blog about terrace gardening and traditional wisdom, while Bhavana spoke about her work with empowering small farmers with organic farming methods. Pattu explained that she had come to the meeting thinking she might get some medal for being the seniormost blogger or some such. She and Bhavana shared their concerns about the long term consequences of India’s so-called green revolution and the way biodiversity and organic approaches to agriculture have been sacrificed at the doorsteps of biotechnology giants. Then they looked at our blank faces and turned to Nivedita, “Tell us about your blog.”
Before she could start, it grew dark again. It was neither me nor the rain. It was Satish, followed by Sampath. Satish introduced himself, “I am Cool PC Tips, number one blogger in the south, Google PR 5, Alexa 40.” We all turned to the chapter and verse and got ready to sing if needed.
Satish went on, “I also blog about helping people who are depressed and suicidal, especially students who are dealing with academic pressure and the challenges of transitioning into adulthood. I have psychologists and counselors and personal development bloggers writing for my blog. I have a staff of 12 and some interns as well.” Much later, he started mixing work with pleasure, doing a series of drop tests for his new phone, and we were glad that he knew all those psychologists and counselors.
Sampath told us about his niche, gaming, but pointed out that he also wrote about social issues on his gaming blog itself, sort of like working at a butcher shop during the day and attending night school for a master’s in literature, ham in the morning and bacon at night. The only person who was able to understand what Satish and Sampath were talking about was Sandeep. They discussed violent shooting games, Diablo (the game, not the party president’s nickname, silly) and things that sounded like how to retrieve things that sounded like pissy boots using things that sounded like eunuchs for some time before noticing our boot failed expressions.
Sandeep, the eternal gentleman, ahemmed deep into himself and looked hopefully at Nivedita, “You were telling us about your blog.”
Nivedita burbled and giggled and told us about the work she does with the disabled, using writing and writers to generate awareness about physically and intellectually disabled children, adolescents and adults. It was amazing to hear her talk about the projects that she is involved with, the tales of courage and determination in the face of disability and discrimination. She gets writers to contribute to books that are published, designed, printed and bound by the disabled and then sold to raise funds to carry on with the work. She spoke about the writer’s carnivals that she organizes to use literature to focus on social issues. In a flash, she had added a totally different dimension to her gurgly-bouncy twilight toothed sunshine, and we all sat and listened reverently to her personal mission of social change.
Sandeep spoke about his fascination with travel, the mysteries of the stars and the galaxies, and his nostalgia for the simpler life that we seem to have forgotten about in our mad, endless race for the illusion of enough. Like all good blogger, he was self effacing and modest, yet as he spoke about his blog, you could sense how deeply he felt about what he writes about.
By this time, the very elegant Gautam arrived. Gautam was the organizer of the meeting, and maybe the rains and the ensuing traffic had delayed him, but his urban cool was untouched. He honestly confessed that he didn’t think anyone would turn up. We quizzed him about his blog, and he turned various shades of pink and said several sentences in succession that all meant the same thing. I was amazed at how much he sounded like one of my blog posts.
It turned out that he is what one would call a closet blogger and this was his big outing. He has been writing for several years, but keeping most of it to himself. He has been participating in blogger meets regularly, but still feels awkward sharing his writing with everyone. It really takes all sorts to make a bloggers meet happen, we realized. In our heart of hearts, we all felt very thankful to him for having taken the lead to put this meeting together. His enthusiasm and excitement was infectious and he soon had us leaning into his thinking behind organizing this meeting.
He then outlined what he had in mind, a simple idea that resonated with all of us – to use our social media presence to create greater awareness about issues that we felt needed urgent attention and action. Though there is nothing trailblazing about this idea, we realized that we could work as a group to create synergy in this direction. We also realized that we were only the proverbial tip of the iceberg of the blogging community in Hyderabad, and decided to work towards mobilizing all the bloggers in the city for that planned meeting. Everyone agreed with this focus, and with that out of the way, we turned our attention to more important business – food and drink.
In the meantime, S arrived. Once she was convinced that it was safe to come in out of the rain, she went and got her two kids and her husband. Her younger one, Samvit, was feeling poorly, so she sat with him in her lap. She explained that she had taken to blogging only recently and that she was trying to build herself up as a writer while juggling with her responsibilities as a mother to two young angels and as a homemaker. Not surprisingly, her blog was about productivity tools for the homemaker writer. Her enthusiasm for writing and her determination to make it to the bloggers meet in the pouring rain and with an unwell child drove home the significance of what bloggers are really doing with their lives and their work. She also helped us realize how our family members and loved ones support us in our attempts to actualize our true mission. Mr. S sat patiently at another table, humming Kishore Kumar songs and did not report us to the management.
It was soon time for Bhavana to leave to catch her overnight bus back to Chennai, so we called for the bill. After spending five minutes arguing about how it should be split, we decided to split it equally among all. Then we spent another five minutes arguing about who should be the divisor and who the dividend. Pattu, the ex-banker, took one look at the total and began doing vedic maths first in her chidakasha and then on a napkin, while Sandeep and Satish simultaneously started counting us over and over again straight out of Monty Python, repeatedly falling short by one. Bhavana inspected the bill for a long time, presumably for VAT, CST and Service Tax. In another five minutes, we arrived at a quotient, only to realize that we had not included a tip. So we started over again. In less than 20 minutes since the bill arrived, the nine of us had it figured out and paid for.
The evening had been one endless bout of laughter and excitement, yet through it all, the underlying tone was one of believing in one’s dreams and pursuing it against all odds. The instant bonding and the joyousness of the evening stemmed from the fact that each of us had recognized this in the others, and it was a homecoming of sorts. Very strange sorts, but a homecoming all the same.
Pattu offered to drop Bhavana at the bus station, and Sampath got a ride with S and family, and since it was still raining incessantly, the rest of us sat around and shared tips and tricks that worked for our blogs. Satish, a veritable minefield of information regarding SEO and ranking methodology, gave us a detailed lesson on what not to do with regards to keyword use and link strategies. Nivedita spoke about the publishing world and the struggles of first time authors and how she was doing her bit to help. With no sign of the rain stopping, we finally decided to call it a day and headed homeward.
When I reached home, I was delayed for our traditional weekend gathering to watch classic films and music concerts from our collections and I was soaked and shivering. A towel down and dry clothes later, I settled in with my friends and family to watch Leaving Home, the documentary on the indo-jazz fusion band, Indian Ocean. Hot cups of tea and onion pakoras, raw banana fritters and spicy chicken popcorn slowly restored my system to normalcy. This was a film I had watched several times, including once on the big screen with all of eight people in the auditorium, and I found myself thinking back on the evening, and how mystic it was.
Not for a moment did any of us feel that we were meeting for the first time. The alleged chasm between technology, social responsibility, and creative writing was proved to be a myth of the first order. We realized that, regardless of what we were focused on in our blogging work, we were all creative artists and agents of social change in the new world that is emerging. The film Leaving Home is a must watch for all people who hold on their faith in their mission in the face of difficulties and uncertainties. The meeting with fellow bloggers was similar in many ways.
I realized that I was not alone in my longing for a better world. I realized that the world I longed for was being painstakingly created by the combined efforts of positive thinkers in myriad fields, one small step at a time. I realized that I was living in the best of times.