Greatest Hits of 2013

I want to fit in, to belong, to be one of the guys. I don’t come around often. The year-end makes it easier. I learned this last year as I rolled out the greatest hits of 2012.

2013 has been a wonderful year – at this blog and in our personal lives; those who follow this blog closely know that the two are thick. With a little help from my friends, I got out 40 posts on this blog this year, taking the total post count to 250 and pageviews close to 2 lakhs.  The Facebook page for this blog is inching towards 600 likes while subscriber count is just under 300. The Second Hyderabad Bloggers' Meet was a lovely time, and the third is on its way this weekend. And yes, Sunny Leone continues to top my search referral list.

On the personal front, after two seemingly endless years of living off debt, we paid our own way through all of this year. Our fledgling social media consulting practice that is built on the strangest of premises is slowly picking up, and several of our clients have actually come to us through Subho’s Jejune Diet. Our fine tea catalog is growing in popularity, another dream come true.


So as the year comes to a close, let me do what I am seeing all around me. A best of SJD. As I see it. Here are the ten posts from this year that I am especially pleased with.

A Special Gift

Finally – a truly “sponsored post” on SJD!! I am going to be paying myself handsomely for writing this one!!

This post is to make you aware of a unique gifting opportunity. You can gift your friends and loved ones in India the experience of truly fine tea. All you need to do is choose any of the teas listed on our catalog, and your gift will be delivered at their doorstep.  We deliver free of charge almost anywhere in India.  If you love tea, you will love our catalog. If you don’t know much about tea, just go eenie-meenie-minie-moe, and whatever you choose is guaranteed to be among the best teas of the season. That is my personal promise to you. And wait, there is more! For all orders received between now and December 31, 2013, we will be adding a small festive gift from our side at no extra cost.



Most of you who follow this blog regularly will be aware of our curated tea catalog. We list the best black, green and white tea of the season. You will also be aware of how this catalog is our attempt to build a new, responsible, ethical, sustainable, people- and planet-friendly business model. Many of you have become customers and offered us your feedback on our marketing strategy (or lack of it). We have been listening and reflecting. We have also been watching the data build up, which helps us take “scientific” decisions. We are thankful for your love and support to the tea catalog as well as to this blog. Please keep telling us what we can do better.


PS: One of the things that have been going on with this blog is an attempt to make it self-sustaining. Not as in pay for itself (what price what I do here), but in terms of promoting links of individual posts on the social network. But this post, since it is “sponsored,” will get promoted. So might as well piggyback for some attention. Here are some posts from earlier this month that you might have missed.

1. The Need For Livelihood Assessment: An attempt at answering questions my own questions.

2. What Happens Instead: An introduction to a guest post I wrote for Micky’s blog, one in which I detail my personal journey.

3. Poetry Is Easy: Another poem in my ongoing ars poetica series. :)

4. Angels Without Knowing: A showcase of some of the finest writing by others on SJD this year.

5. God’s Strange Ways: A short story on the ultimate falsehood about us – that we are a minority of one,  immigrant, excluded, seeker, dispossessed.

6. Homemade Peanut Butter, How To Make: Fresher, healthier, tastier and nearly four times cheaper than anything you can buy in a store.

Homemade Peanut Butter

I love peanut butter. Apart from its heart healthiness, high vitamins content, and antioxidant properties, I love it because it tastes so good.  I would buy peanut butter for about 300 Rupees for less than 500 grams. Mostly they were brands from US and Europe which were imported and sold in our stores. Over the last couple of years, we have a few desi brands, but at the time of writing, they all import the actual peanut butter, since they do not have manufacturing plants of their own here. I also wondered why peanut butter prices, like that of coffee for example, went up when global peanut prices went up, but did not come down when they did

After watching a Discovery channel documentary on how PB is manufactured, I decided to try making it at home. I looked up the internet and there are dozens of recipes across hundreds of websites. So here is my peanut butter adventure, costs, and lessons learned. I left out the "how to" in the title so that I don't get clubbed on the head for doing yet another "how to" post.


Ingredients
Peanuts – 500 g
Olive Oil – 12 Tbsp (edit: you can significantly step up on this. PB tends to soak it up in time, so don't worry even if it goes runnier than you want.)
Honey – 4 tbsp
Salt to taste

Method:

Roast the peanuts till the skin darkens on all sides. 

God's Strange Ways


Glass painting of Ganesha, the remover of obstacles
The Remover Of Obstacles

(This post was featured in BlogAdda's Spicy Saturday picks for December 28, 2013)


*****
The warmth of the tea slowly spread outwards from her throat and stomach to her numb hands and fingers. She had been cold from the time she came to know and her head and eyes had started aching soon after they set out before any of the neighbors woke up. She had put on all the clothes she cared to have and tried to make him do the same, but he would not listen. She feared that if they packed a bag they’d be too conspicuous.  She feared they were already too late. They followed their long shadows down the narrow lane out on to the main street. She knew the city poorly, rarely going out beyond the local grocers or to the nearest theater on Sunday mornings when they had a single screening of films from their land. She knew that if they kept going along the big road that all the buses took they would reach the station. And that is what she had done, holding his hand tightly in hers, their shadows looping between the pools of sodium vapor melancholy.

Hamid turned the pump stove off and in his mind made a checklist for the afternoon. He had to pack up and reach the prayer hall before people arrived so that he could dust the chairs and keep the water ready. The milkman had already reminded him that he was due for last month’s money. Thankfully, his landlord never complained even when he was two months behind on the rent. He probably thought of it as alms to the faithful. The rains had cut business back in a big way, with fewer people out in the streets. He had hardly made any money all morning in spite of it being a regular working day. He had less than a month to save up money to be able to visit home. Like the two customers at his shop now, he too was an immigrant. He looked at the two of them, their quiet conversation slipping out reluctantly from between their clenched alien teeth, and hoped they would order a second cup. The boy asked for a biscuit. He had a lisp. She first said no, and then after some time, asked Hamid for one. Hamid dipped into the jar and handed the biscuit to him with a smile. He believed that as long as he continued to create the right causes, his victory was assured.

Angels Without Knowing

The growing chill in the air makes it imperative to think back on the year going by. Those who follow this blog regularly will have recognized some of the changes that have shown up in my writing. I am increasingly being compelled to reflect on purpose, not only at a personal level but as a people too. I have been reflecting and questioning the premises of readership and promotion. Where these new directions will take this blog is for time to tell. I am happy with where I am and excited about where I am headed. Anyway, that is not what I have in mind for this post. This post is to celebrate my friends!

Bloggers' Breakfast in Honor of blogger Satish Raghav Peri's Hyderabad Marathon Run
Bloggers' breakfast organized by blogger-entrepreneur Laxman Papineni
The very first bloggers' meet in Hyderabad

Profound discussions from the first Hyderabad Bloggers' Meet

The Poetry Group that was a spin off from the blogging group

The second Hyderabad Bloggers' Meet

One of the loveliest experiences of this year was the gifts I got from fellow bloggers in the form of guest posts. While some were from people I have known for years, others were from friends I had made recently. Receiving these gifts made me realize how writing and blogging had made me a part of a larger community. As the year comes to a close, I thought I would share some of them with you, just in case you missed them earlier. Here are the finest guest posts on Subho's Jejune Diet.

Poetry Is Easy



Poetry is easy. Write
Your heart. Break 
It into short lines. Not
Where one’d expect them
To be broken. End.
Obverse.

Avoid words everyone
Knows. Avoid words like
Like. Avoid aligning.
Right or left.
Avoid writing directly 
About truth

That greets us every day 
Crowded buses 
Or death or 
(ignore this line)
Price of vegetables
Or fragile livelihoods.

Clothe your thoughts 
With flowers and butterflies, 
Names of colors and
Roots. Let verse 
Lead to question
Answers we live by.



Hyderabad
November 2013

What Happens Instead: A Guest Post on Micky's Blog

Sometimes, life puts things in perspective. It makes things in the basement crawl and claw their way up the stairs. Some days it makes you feel like Don Quixote, some days like Sancho Panza. Sometimes, it forces you to see that you are simultaneously both and neither.

Eight years back, when this blog began, it was entirely a personal journal. Over the years, it has grown into an exhortation, a call to look within to question ourselves, our choices and decisions. In the process, one of the things that has gradually been let go of is the personal aspect. I have lost a few readers who used to read this blog to stay in touch with what was going on in our lives. But like any human being, I love to talk about myself, sometimes. I must have more than two dozen drafts where I have started writing about my personal journey of the last three years. Somehow, they have all led to my writing another post of the kind that you find here. Of course, all that you find here is personal too, but its not the went to this restaurant, watched this movie, witnessed this injustice, was inspired to write a poem, read this book kind of stuff. I have tried to balance things, but writing has a life of its own, it decides for you. The people I need to apologize to probably no longer visit this blog, so I don’t know how I can make amends.

My week starts on a Sunday. What about yours?
Yours sincerely on a Sunday morning

All is never lost for the self-obsessed, as I recently got an opportunity to write a guest post for a very dear friend, +Micky Fernandez . His blog, Observations and Experiences of an Expat in India is an unusually objective weblog on life in India, crammed with information, facts, numbers, analysis, with a subtle but relevant opinion running through it like a finely cooked dish. I honestly do not know that much about anything. So when I started thinking of a post for him, I had to take on the only thing that I know a little about. Myself.

Do take a look, since he set me free to be who I can no longer be on my own blog.

Read the whole post at Micky's blog>>

The Need For Livelihood Assessment

In the last several months, I encountered a rising incidence of job losses among people I know. Some of them were told that their services were no longer required, while others were offered revised terms that were neither practical nor humanly possible to agree to. Some others chose to step down since it was just not possible to put up with the work environment any more. This phenomenon, along with the upheaval that it causes in the life of the person concerned, is something that I have been trying to understand for the last few years. In this post, I will try and fulfill a promise that I made to my readers over 30 months back, to share my understanding of right livelihood and how I am trying to live by this understanding.


I quit working about three years back, convinced that there was something better I could do with my life beyond helping a corporation make money for its shareholders. In these three years, I have realized that this simple decision of mine held the key to a lot of what bothers all of us. For a person to function at his best, there needs to be integrity, a singleness of purpose, a harmony between what one believes and desires and what one does and says. For a large number of professionals, there is a disconnect between what they believe and what they do for a livelihood. Yes, there is greater good being created at every step, but often at a pace that seems to favor those least in need of that good. Professions like medicine, law, law enforcement and defence are obvious examples, but with a little introspection, it can be found in almost all organized professions. This would also explain the attractiveness of not-for-profits to the youth of today.

Rest Not Our Business

The rain feels straight out of a Marquez story. The low-lying clouds echo the familiar sound of long distance buses drawing up to the crossroads, their wanderlusting air-horns slicing like swords through the hiss of the incessant rain. In my mind, I can see the auto drivers, heads covered with kerchiefs and their uniforms buttoned up all the way, as they squint their deals through at the disembarking passengers in the scant light of the cold, wet dawn.  I have overbrewed my tea, it is bitter, but I still drink it, grateful for the leaves that have chosen me.  As the warmth of the cup seeps through my palms, through my tongue and throat, through the residues of the dreams that I have dreamt, last evening’s conversation gently comes into focus.


The romance of the dim, rainy daybreak fades like the end of an overture to be replaced by the restrained semantic flourish of the times I live in. Can writing be taken to the level of a craft, to a point where it is independent of me, of the personal, of my politics? Can great literature be received and appreciated isolated from its context, from the contexts of its creator? Does writing for the sake of beauty (or truth) alone also contain within it a personal agenda? Or is writing really nothing more than another tool, another path to the answers we most need? Is writing perhaps the medicine that keeps some of us well and others safe? What is it about this morning that makes these questions seem important?

SoCh: Little That Precedes

"What happens next? We don't really know. There are people who think they know the answer. I'm not one of them. My view is, we don't understand very much about human beings or human affairs, so anything that would be done has to be experimentally tried, but I think there are some leading ideas that make some good sense." ~ Noam Chomsky
"We accept, without judgment, the inability or unwillingness of those entrusted with social improvement to translate their mandate into effective action. We believe that social change has to be organic, and cannot be thrust on a people. We believe that the individual contains the multitudes, and that all it takes is one individual to initiate the process of change. We believe in the collective wisdom and power of a people to determine and implement what is best for them. We believe that all we need is love, and the willingness to express that love through tangible action." ~ Ancient Punjagutta saying
An Escher graphic that makes total sense to me now

Most conversations with people I meet for the first time commence with “so what do you do?” It took me a while to get there, but now I usually answer with “I write.” Invariably, this is met with some puzzlement, usually with undertones of “another misfit crackpot,” and grudgingly followed up with “so what do you write about?” It took me a while to get there too, but now I have it down pat. “I write to encourage people to simplify their lives, quit their jobs, follow their heart and start saving the world.” The conversation usually quickly moves on to other topics. Sometimes, it is the last time I have a conversation with that person. No offense to anyone, myself included, and yes, I totally understand.

It has been through writing about “saving the world” that I began to see that to most people, seeking the essential, living in the spirit and leading a simple life is a task, a project, something to be put on your to-do list. Burning yourself out trying to amass wealth and possessions, indulging in mindless entertainment, or keeping up appearances comes much more effortlessly. Refusing to reflect on the consequences of our actions seems natural, while connecting with the universal spirit calls for a web search or joining a meditation group.

Also through writing, which I do primarily on my blogs, I discovered a whole world of people who are tirelessly working to “save the world,” usually anonymously and against great resistance. This resistance is not just from rigid mindsets but also from lack of resources, support, funds, and understanding. This discovery is what led to the interesting experiment called SoCh.


SoCh was born out of a conversation with my friend, Nivedita, who runs a publishing house (but refuses to publish me, again totally understandable) with whom I have partnered a few initiatives for writers, poets, and bloggers. We were sharing our amazement at the work being done by people we were meeting as we went about trying to promote the creative arts as a way to stop feeding destructive forces. After a couple of discussions, we decided to go ahead with our idea and see what happens. The idea was simple and open-ended – put together a group of change-makers and connect them with an audience of interested people. Get the change-makers to speak about what they do and the how and why of it, and then let them interact with the audience. Armed with this basic outline, we set out by shortlisting some of the incredible work being done by people we knew. Then we created an event page on Facebook and started telling people about it.

As Good As It Gets

The greyest area of my thinking must have to do with purpose.  That is why, I would like you to believe, I write. A closer look might reveal the denial of mortality, the desire for approval and acknowledgement or the need to hear myself speak. At the end of the day, I know that I write to keep a record, as close as possible to the truth of my being, of my extraordinary life, an extra-ordinariness that has nothing to do with me – but rather the extra-ordinariness that is reflected back by all that surrounds me, the extra-ordinariness which some claim is nothing but a projection of my mind. Tonight I write about who I have become, without judging how or why. Tomorrow I celebrate my treadmill marathon. This is as good as it gets. No jokes.

ship of theseus
Boat on Godavari

During my teens, I used to write a lot of poetry. Books full of it. Much of it was mechanical emulation of the romantics and the avant garde, right down to multi-layered classical allusions and synesthetic mimicry. Where I ran out of source material, I invented it, sometimes masterfully. When I read my adolescent notebooks today, I wonder how, more than why, I indulged in such juvenile academic calisthenics. Yet, there was a strangely refreshing spontaneity and tension about it, which now visits me rarely - like a new budget airline setting up shop. Of course, I am also able to see how I was exploring the power of writing, how I was trying to seek and strengthen my own voice. From another perspective, also that of writing, it is a record of my evolution, an essential and perhaps private chapter of my incredible journey. If I have to seek a parallel, however, it would have to be that of painkillers.

I was barren but aware of a truth within that I had no access to, and I was trying to use all that I encountered to try and divine that well, similar to how the intensity of mother-in-law/daughter-in-law soap operas help cope with the vapid selfishness of the small world outside us. I have grown since then, as only a novice can claim, in my understanding of the art, the craft, and my content. Yet, the moments that would earlier have translated themselves into verse began to be spent more and more in silent wonder and thankful prayer. With time, and personal accomplishment, I began to shed what I considered baggage, to let go of the need to fit in and feel a part of. For a good part of my life, I became content with just being in the presence of the mystery of life. The artist in me, one could say, learned to see, and in sight, turned into a monk.

SoCh - Taking Social Change beyond just thinking about it

This is to let you all know that I am alive and well. The absence of updates on this blog is primarily due to the fact that I am traveling, on work and for pleasure, a vacation of sorts after ages. However, there is a lot brewing at the community that you have built around the work I am trying to do here. One of the projects that has shaped up over the last several months is SoCh, a (presently) Hyderabad-based platform for connecting and promoting real change-makers. No, we do not have a website, and no, there are no membership charges.


SoCh is an experiment in community building that brings together innovative change-makers and gives them a platform to present their work to an audience made of media, bloggers, writers, community workers and thought leaders from diverse backgrounds. Our hope is that this networking opportunity will strengthen and broadcast the work being done by these amazing individuals and organizations. Of course, this will be possible only with your love and support.

The first public event of SoCh takes place on Saturday, August 3, 2013 at Our Sacred Space, Secunderabad. Please do come if you are in Hyderabad, and if not, please do share this post or the Facebook event page with your friends in Hyderabad. We look forward to seeing you on August 3. Here is a brief outline of what you can expect on that evening.

Jazz Around The World


Jazz is universally acknowledged as an American art form. In truth, though, America only provided the circumstances in which jazz could be born and nurtured. It really is a coming together of influences from all over the world, being churned in the melting pot of post-colonial America, resulting in a music that is plaintive yet frolicky, deeply structured yet spontaneous. What is also interesting that jazz is really music of victory - victory over oppression and the unfairness of the world. And jazz has found a home wherever people have stood up against their circumstances. This aspect of jazz is not commonly spoken about. I strive to do this in my writing and and it was a pleasant surprise when Prasad, +Prasad Np, the man behind the immensely popular travel site, Desitraveler, asked me if I could turn one of the talks I gave recently into a guest post for his blog. It took me a while, but I got there, and here is the post I wrote for him, putting three of my favorite pursuits together - literature, travel, and music.

The post retraces the route taken by Phileas Fogg in the classic Jules Verne novel - Around the World in 80 Days and listens in to how jazz has been owned and adopted by cultures across the world. And yes, it includes a whole lot (80 minutes) of music!

Read the whole post at Desitraveler: Jazz Around The World>>

Film Review: Man of Steel

When I was a kid, my favorite story was the story of Madhushudhandada. My father told me this tale once during a weekend break at Ashoka Lodge in Hazaribagh, and then had to tell me the story a few thousand times over. I knew the story backwards, but I never tired of asking him to tell it to me again. And every time he did, he would throw in new tidbits, a new character here, a twist in the tale there, and I listened with the intentness of a seeker of truth. It wasn’t till I grew up to where my father had been, that I realized that in my seeking that telling of the story over and over again, I was creating my own understanding of the rules that life deals by, learning to comprehend the playbook, and to improve my own game.

It is the same with Bhagavad Gita, the book of Genesis, Pagla Dashu or the story of Superman. Each reading reveals new contexts, new meaning and leaves you with new insights. Depending on where you are in life, you learn new ways to apply the lessons. We love these tales because they assure us that we are all paired with another end of our spectrum that is flawless and unlimited, that good will eventually triumph since that is the nature of the universe, and that the mess that we are in is there for us precisely because we can overcome it and prove that the spirit of man is indomitable. And some other things too, which I am perhaps too old to look kindly upon.

Chris Nolan set the reboot expectations high with Batman, and it is difficult to leave them aside as one takes a look at Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Like many of my generation, it was not a movie that could wait for next week, and so there we were on a weekday evening, our 3D glasses on, delving into a retelling of a story we all know too well with the same excitement with which we watch election specials on television.


I am not big on reviews, especially for new releases that I look forward to, but it was hard to escape the overall sense of disappointment that critics were voicing. But then, that is why they are called critics. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t till I started watching the film that I began oohing and aahing at the cast. The story begins with an in-depth look at the conflict that led to the downfall of Krypton, the enmity between Superman’s father and the rebel leader Zod, and the arrival of Superman on earth. The visual depiction is gorgeous. For those who have been cribbing about the overdose of CGI, well, this is a celluloid-on-steroid comic book hero, not exactly Citizen Kane. And yes, it is shot on celluloid. Henry Cavill looks like he has walked out of a men's grooming product ad and it is not till well into the film that you start taking to him. By the end of it, regardless of gender, you will admit that he is kind of hot.

Things I Am Grateful My Father Did Not Teach Me

'The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being.'  ~ Nichiren Daishonin

My dad is superman. The flurry of fathers’ days posts this weekend drove this point home to me more forcefully than ever before. Not superman in the sense of being a man of steel, but in terms of being what every man should be (not all of which is steel, by the way). More than what he has taught me, I am grateful for what he did not teach me. Here are some things he did not teach me for which I will remain eternally grateful.


All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others

Dad chose to skip this lesson, and allowed me to grow up respecting all people equally, regardless of their erudition, ethnicity or economics. I was taught to treat those less fortunate than me with the respect that is due to all sentient beings, and the question of discriminating never occurred to me till I began to see it in others as I grew up.

Nothing Lacking, The World Is Yours

I bumped into Micky Fernandez on Indiblogger, and since most of his writings revolved around Kolkata and movies, I got hooked. He wrote because he needed to write, and he didn't care about what the trends were, or what the done thing was. His O&E of an Expat in India is like a breath of fresh air, and I immediately assumed he was a relic, a statistical anomaly. But his photography, his opinions and his experiences seemed to suggest otherwise. Here was someone who was not iffy about what he believed in, and was doing all he could to get others to see his point. His expat perspective made it all the more interesting. Somewhere down the line we got talking and then we met, and it was a true meeting of minds, since we were both thinking and doing the same things, trying to get at the same mother lode from different points of the cultural spectrum. As is always the case, this post has been sitting with me for a while, waiting for me to edit out those bits that I find mushy, the bits that I fear might not go well with the "broader reading public." But then that would take away the essence of this piece. So here it is, as it was written, as it was meant to be read.

*****

Shortly after I became aware of Subhorup Dasgupta's blog, I began to admire him because not only is he a good writer but also he and I seem to share the same "less is more" philosophy. More recently, we started corresponding by emails. In a recent one, he surprised me by asking me to consider writing a guest post for him. I had heard of this concept, but I had always thought of it as being a waste of valuable time. After all, I am concerned about maintaining my own blog. Moreover, I did not know the mechanics of it; I did not know in what manner or format I could send a post to him. Nevertheless, because I felt honored by the request, I considered it.

I thought that I had two options: 1) I could ask him to replicate either My Life in Boxes post or My Life in a Suitcase post which describe my minimalist philosophy, or 2) I could write an original post elaborating on these concepts and showing how they can be applied and of benefit. After reading his Guest Posts page, I decided that the latter was more appropriate and better.

Grace and Abundance
Grace is a state of mind, of being able to see that receiving is really the other side of giving, that without one, the other cannot exist.

I realized, though, that I did not know how they can be applied and of benefit in other situations and for other people but I knew that I would arrive at a solution. I believe that I have done so now. I believe that because I believe that. I believe that it is best not to harm other individuals. If I believed otherwise then it would be incumbent upon me to change my belief. After all, why believe in something that is objectively not good, or not as good or better than something else? Moreover, I have come across some statements that verify the veracity of my approach.

A Turning Soon



The mountain tells me I am free. I hear it being said but it seems faded and untrue. The numbers just don’t add up, just aren’t fair. The closer and longer I look, the more it smarts, the larger the cheat!

Is this what my lips once quivered for? This the chain I turned my back on the world for?

This pain is not freedom.

The mountain tells me I am free
Every cell of me rises up, echoes, yes, yes,
In annoyance, in disagreement, in impatience, in hate.

I hear it sung, but it seems too painful, too difficult, and maybe too slow?

Life sings its own song, but my song is borrowed. The majesty of the snowy peaks belongs to all, but I belong only to the cold silence of the hilltop. Who will help me find the words to my song? Who cares a damn?

Waking up in the middle of the night, circles of vodka in my head and orange juice in my stomach, I rejoice in the absence of a memory, I am free, I am freed, I am freeing, letting go of the anchor, letting the wind take me, hearing the mountain but not what it says. I am free to be, to feel, to seek. I am free to turn towards or to turn away from, as I had always been. Who will help me find the words?

I hear it being said.

Yet all I know,
As I wall out gardens built,
Bury the swelling pain,
Take sides within myself,
As I see defeat in what feels like victory,
Is that the mountain is not wrong.


****
Subhorup Dasgupta
Hyderabad
2007

The Firewood of Earthly Desires

Greed is a major driving force of our times. The wheels of commerce and consumption have made greed legitimate to a point where not being greedy is a sign of being a loser, a misfit. Of course, you don’t openly call it being greedy – you call it ambition, go-getting, and other fancy names. Whether it be politicians willing to risk their careers or reputation by becoming party to scams, businessmen willing to ignore the consequence of their decisions, or sportspersons willing to let down the very essence of the game, greed is no longer seen as a sin, especially if you can get away with it. Yet, it is also one of the greatest causes of suffering, cutting across classes and masses. Even the wealthiest are not spared as they crave and slog to possess more and more. Those who are lower down on the "wealth" ladder suffer as they pine for what the world tells them will make them happier, wiser, sexier. The cycle is endless for all. No one ever turns around and says, "Hey, I got there!"


Why does greed play such an important role in our lives? Where does it come from, and what is it supposed to do for us? Why do even the enlightened and the educated fall prey to it? Is there a way out? I will try and share what I believe in this regard, and I promise to be kind. The thoughts expressed here are not based on an academic understanding of greed but on my personal experiences, so there may be times when what you read might be at variance with what is taught in “mind schools.” If you don’t like it, leave it.

It is hard to distinguish between greed and need, since greed manifests itself in the mind as a need. It needs to in order to thrive. This distorted perception of need can arise from a host of factors. At the core of these factors is a deluded sense of self, but that is taking things to a philosophical level. So let’s look at what causes this greed business to happen.

Anatomy of the Discussion on Rape

Sometimes in the smoke and dust of wars, it is easy to forget what we are fighting for. The joy of victory often blinds us to the pain of victims. And the fascist in us usually helps us by providing a binary answer to how things should be. The recent national outcry over crimes against women is a good example. It paints the world into rapists and victims, profiles women into those who are prone to being raped and those who are not, and dismisses the genetic programming of males as something that we overcame back in the times of Napoleon. Why it even divides people into those who are making an unnecessary hue and cry and those who are wisely taking it in their stride. The comfort of having an explanation, of having it all fall neatly into place, of having someone to blame, castrate and hang, is too tempting. And all of this is made palatable by the offer of public spaces to protest at, revisions to the law, and FMCG sponsored citizen initiatives.


We as a people are so fond of this comfort that those who are "forward thinking" have always capitalized on it. That is why the priestly classes emerge, why people wage wars over borders of thoughts, and why the same corrupt politicians keep getting reelected. Watching the public reaction to the recent rape of the five-year-old one afternoon made me write something that I could not make much sense of as I wrote it. I sent it to +Bhavana Upadhyaya of TillingTheEarthWoman as a guest post since I did not know what to do with it. She redacted it, very simply and with as good as no changes, into a readable piece and published it on her blog in two parts. You can find the posts here. Do take a look and join in the discussion.

Rapes On and On … (Qs We Need To Ask)

Rapes On and On … (Solutions We Need To Seek)

How Tea Got Its Name. Seriously!


 For the last two months, I have been trying to write a piece to announce the launch of the rehearsal for the uprising. However, in spite of written two or three such pieces, they all lie in the Work in Progress folder. Perhaps one reason for that is the complexity (insane is always complex) of the thinking behind it. Then - this guest post from Rickie Khosla showed up, a followup from a long forgotten conversation. I could think of no better way to introduce our fine tea catalog (see link in first line of post) than with this.

Contemporary Indian writing in English is, to be kind, a minefield. Duds abound. The blogosphere is no exception. When I chanced upon Rickie's (measurement and information) writing, the first thing that struck me was his precision with narration time, narrative and dialog. The next thing was his totally weird sense of humor. Much of his writing revolves around popular culture, and his gothic irreverence comes through with an insider glee that is hard to describe. The richness of his wisdom and the depth of his knowledge are finely balanced with an Aragonesesque darkness (quick, light, irreversible, piercing) that is all his own. Knowing my fondness for rambling, he has provided an introduction to this Georgian delight himself. Without any further ado, SJD gives you - Rickie Khosla.

Deride without Prejudice

Hundreds of years ago, a plain Jane English writer called Jane Austen wrote an epochal novel called ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Quite miraculous that she would achieve that, for, the woman had heard nothing of Blogging in her day. Despite that, how she procured the clarity of thought, the grasp of storytelling technique, the dry wit and humor, attributes that all Indian Bloggers are naturally blessed with the first time they hold aloft a pen, we shall never know.

Anyway, my research has shown that Miss Austen may not have found it that facile to produce her seminal work, as proven by the multiple versions of Chapter 47 that she wrote longhand, one of which I have reproduced here. Moreover, I found it quite interesting that this particular trashed piece alludes to a certain beverage that +Subhorup Dasgupta has great affinity to – making this a remarkably serendipitous find! Read on to find out more.


I wish Miss Austen had retained this passage in the book instead of the inferior one that she ultimately went with. Had her writing been of the Blogosphere born, that lapse of judgment would have never occurred.

Ah, well.

Chapter 47

Draft 4

Mrs. Bennet woke that morning with a start. Forthwith upon doing so, she was dismayed to notice that her right eye was fluttering recurrently. “Oh dear, this is not going to be a good day!” she exclaimed to herself. Yes, as her past assays of similar harbingers portended, the omens had aligned for this to not be a good day at all. The fluttering left eye one could cheerily contend with. But the right one? That was to cause nothing short of dread! Each of Mrs. Bennet’s flights of fancy, for her mind was wont to vigorous ones at a moment’s notice, flung her to similar and thoroughly tragic consequences.

National Poetry Month: Red Leaf Poetry Evening

Linda and Nivedita are two amazingly enthusiastic poet friends of mine who spearhead a movement that I am proud to be a part of, Red Leaf Poetry. The objectives of this group are to reclaim the creative arts and bring it back to where it belongs - among the masses. They have been mixing memory and desire to come up with activities to commemorate National Poetry Month. The regular meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m., Saturday, April 13, at the usual 2nd floor corner at Landmark Somajiguda. (Hope to see you there.)

Our guest speaker this month is Anand Vishwanadha who describes himself as an (allegedly) unemployable copywriter and corporate communications professional who spends most of his time looking up into trees and photographing birds, and also writes the occasional poem. He has published two well-received volumes of poetry.

surjodeb basu
One of the outcomes from the last Red Leaf workshop merging poetry and photography.
Recently, the group was covered in a Times of India article on how poetry groups in Hyderabad were creating a new awareness among the people. Here is what they had to say. You can click through and download a full res image if you wish.



In addition, Red Leaf is also conducting Poetry Appreciation workshops for young people (class 6-12) at various schools in and around Hyderabad. Confirmed workshops are at Delhi Public School, Chirec Public School and Mosaica International School. If you would like Red Leaf to help organize an event at your location, please send an email to hyderabadpoets (at) gmail (dot) com.

Zero Sum: A Song for Kashmir



Zero Sum (aka Mount Despair)

Come sit with me and rest a while, come drink my salted tea.
Smell the hills, the open skies, in all you'll know of me.
Take off your bunting, your hurt, your creed; what good come from these?
Wash your hands in the silent warmth of our samovar of grief.

The Bugloss flowers brightest blue; its roots red as blood.
The lotus stem holds forth the truth from ancient beds of mud.
Paisley prints the stolen beats of witness protected lives.
My valley isn’t twice cooked meat for your sharpened carving knives.

March 9, 2013
Hyderabad

[Uncredited image found across several Kashmir related blogs and site. If it belongs to you, please let me know, will gladly credit.]

Babul Films: Because It Matters

How did we observe Earth Hour 2013? On March 23, I met Gangadhar Pandey, the person behind Babul Films, an organization dedicated to promoting sustainable lifestyles. We met on the occasion of a painting competition organized for children to observe Earth Hour. Earth Hour is the 2007 campaign created by Leo Burnett for World Wildlife Fund that asks you to turn off the lights for one hour on a March Saturday evening. The next morning, however, you are free to return to your life of consumption and wastage. A couple of us had been invited to judge the contest, and since I have never been asked so nicely, I didn’t say no. It took a few misplaced emails (true to his style, his email handle is admn without an "i," another clue to the mind behind the face) before it was confirmed. It turned out to be one of the most life-affirming decisions I have ever taken.

babul films earth hour
Participant at the Painting Competition organized by Babul Films on the Occasion of Earth Hour 2013. Photography by Bhavana Nissima

Who is this Gangadhar? We bussed our way down to the outskirts, and took an auto for the last mile. Much of habitation, both affordable and high end, now implies places which are not serviced by public transport. We walked into the community we were supposed to reach, and looked out for Babul Films. We were met by Renu, the man behind the man, as she bustled around managing more than two dozen kids in the basement of an apartment. She led us to where Gangadhar was struggling with stubborn wiring to set up the screening area. We soon realized that Babul Films was really a one-man army. Two-man actually, since Renu’s contribution to this movement is as critical as Gangadhar’s. Later we learned that after they packed up the event for the evening, they needed to pack up their home, since they were moving to a more accessible location the next morning! Then I figured out a possible explanation for the name of their endeavor; it was a misspelling of Bubble Films, since the two of them were constantly bubbling with enthusiasm about their role in creating a better world.

Arrogance: Breaking It Yourself

Arrogance has to be the greatest pain one can inflict on one's self, the biggest obstacle one can put in one's own path, and the most difficult personal failing one can attempt to address. As I sit in the stillness of a summer dawn, birdcalls and intercity bus horns (and the softly playing Ghost Trio) slicing through the dim air, it strikes me as a good thing to write about. A good thing to remind myself of.

All of us aspire to a broader canvas, a better life, a brighter, warmer, safer nest. That is at the core of our evolution, of our survival. The tools to get there are provided by nature - in the form of intellect, reason, physical ability, etc. I will never forget the words of my friend, Joseph, the man who walked on fire by mistake, when I expressed wonder at how he mastered the art of sewing/stitching in a few hours. He said, "God gave me hands, and God gave me a brain. There is nothing that cannot be achieved."

arrogance
Man "dicovered" fire. Man created wikipedia. Image of Discovery liftoff from wiki commons.

This very ability - to overcome challenges and achieve anything, a virtue that we should be grateful for - becomes for most of us, the foundation of false pride and arrogance. We forget that each step we have taken to get where we are today has been possible only through the collusion of a million different factors. Starting from the attachment displayed by my mother (and father) on my birth, to the zillion times I have strayed and tested fate, to the opportunities that have found me - if one reflects on what has gone into making this "me," one can only be amazed at how insignificant our own role has been. I have been coaxed, nudged, rapped on my knuckles over and over by a million different protective forces before I learned even the basic lessons of social behavior. One can only guess at how much input goes into shaping thinking, personality and intelligences.

Strangely, this realization is largely kept hidden from us. This is part of the cosmic April Fool joke. We are given what we perceive as free will, only so that we can sculpt our destruction. We are given just as much choice to build upwards as we are to bring that edifice crashing down. Having been in the "business" of helping people (little time in the conventional "helping" profession and much more time in the "training" profession), I have seen this happen to everyone without exception. The best example, of course, is my self.

Dialog: The Starting Point, The Common Ground

One of my gifts from blogging is the joy of knowing Bhavana Nissima, a sentiment shared, I am certain, by all who have known her. All. I love her distinctive approach to things we see around us. Her posts question what we take for granted, yet in a very gentle, non-confrontational way.

When we announced a blogger's meet in Hyderabad in 2012, she caught a bus (after missing her train) and came to encourage us all the way from Chennai. Her posts blend social responsibility with her personal quest, with her commitment to reclaiming the feminine and with quiet moments of self disclosure. The result is a fine tapestry of thoughts and feelings (and a lot of facts) that reaches far beyond the individual and showcases what we as a people are truly capable of. This also comes through in photography illustrating her posts (as well as on her photography blog, Photobhavna).

Bhavana embodies the belief that concern by itself, unaccompanied by action, is of little value. In this guest post, she sheds light on the very essence of the journey from conflict to wholeness - Dialog. Before my introduction becomes longer than the post itself, over to Bhavana.

*****

I began this piece the day after the Hyderabad bomb blasts, sitting in an office not far from Dilsukh Nagar—the site of the blasts. In some, there was anger, in some, helplessness, in some, a real physical pain, a loss, and for others life went on— “lite teesko” as they kept reminding me.

A stream of fresh air blew through the crack in the window reminding me to think afresh, anew and to think of dialog again. Yes, even now.


You see when folks think of the word dialog, they think of two people sitting together, in a polite, civil manner, talking soft sweet words to each other, listening and comprehending and that after sometime folks come to an understanding--a consensus.

What is the use of dialog when we are speaking in chorus? What is the use of dialog when we are already in agreement? When what is at stake is not important enough? When memories don’t hurt enough? When values are not deeply rooted enough?

Dialog when you believe that a dialog is impossible. And here is how. Not a full and a sure how. But a “thereabouts” how.

Pre-Dialog

Dialog begins within yourself first. This is the toughest area of dialog.

1. Dialog is sometimes not even with a person or a community—it may happen with a book or an idea or a faith. It is not so much an “inter” process as it is an “intra” process.

2. If you are psychologically or materially invested in the issue, you have to develop an emotional distance from the topic, a process I call as “disidentification.” Identify ways in which the issues prick you and ponder on their roots. Then disidentify by mindfully observing the thoughts that course through your mind and work on being still.

Mental Health: Expecting Different Results

"Fairy tales are nice." ~ Syd Barrett  (6 January 1946 – 7 July 2006)

Most of us will have had some interface or experience with the inhuman practices that go on in the name of mental health treatment. We have heard of patients shackled to their beds being burnt to death, we have heard of rape and abuse, and we have heard about the horrors of addiction treatment methods. Most of us would have also experienced the stigma and the shame attached to mental health issues in a social setting. The combination of these two – a poor understanding of mental health and an ill-equipped, verging on abusive treatment environment - make a perfect recipe for tragedy. And this tragedy plays out in a million lives – both in the afflicted, and in the affected – every single day in our country.

One of the compulsions that made me step away from my life in the helping profession was my inability to understand or agree with traditional models of mental illness and its treatment. In many discussions, I have been branded an escapist, preferring to stay away rather than commit myself. Everybody is entitled to an opinion. In this post, which was originally started on the birthday of Thelonious Monk (which coincidentally is also World Mental Health Day- Google it) and completed on International Women’s Day (coincidence, purely, trust me), I share my thoughts on this topic by looking at three examples that will be familiar to most readers. This is a post that got written very, very slowly, and to allow our understanding to develop, I would invite you to read it slowly too.

We are all searching for our center; it is just that some people need to travel far and wide before they get there.


I must acknowledge my indebtedness to Aarathi Selvan and NVL Satish for helping me to clarify my thinking, for reading and suggesting edits to this post, and for sharing their expert understanding of the subject at hand. I am also inspired by the writing of Indu Chibber and Surabhi Surendra who tirelessly promote a better understanding of mental health through their blogs.

Are You Mentally Healthy?


The etymological root of the word “health” is shared by the words “whole” and “holy.” The World Health Organization defines it as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In the case of “mental” health, the WHO defines it as "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community."

Leaving aside physiological and organic disorders of the mind, which easily and universally fit into this definition, one then wonders why the understanding of mental health differs from culture to culture and across periods of time. The answer lies in the fact that the general understanding of mental health closely overlaps the “clinical definition” but adds the concept of normative behavior to it.

Own/Belonging



At the fourth cross, holding the kerb
Search for a sign, any, easy to please,
An elf in a waiting car window looks at me
And keeps looking, and I keep looking.

A film, a memory, a number, no background.
On the public address system, mother says,
If you see anybody loitering around suspiciously
Please report it to the nearest police station.

Lights change, making life simpler to see.
The car moves on, the brat still looks at me.
The questions, the fears, the world, shiny reflections.
I am wanted! I am wanted! I am wanted!

Hyderabad, February 2013

Review: When Your Granny Was A Little Girl

On the occasion of my parents' 51st wedding anniversary, here is a guest post of a different kind. This is a review of Mom's memoirs written by Ritwik Mallik, a promising young (three bestselling novels old) author. Ritwik is currently associated as a content writer with a travel company in Delhi. His official bio mentions that he is a former School Captain of DPS Noida and presently a UG student at Hans Raj College, DU.


Ritwik Mallik


WHEN YOUR GRANNY WAS A LITTLE GIRL by Manju Dasgupta
Sanskar Publications, 24 pages

Review by Ritwik Mallik


It is seldom that one comes across inspiring stories in our daily lives, let alone inspiring people. However, Manju Dasgupta is one such exception. Septuagenarian, Madam Dasgupta or MDG as she is fondly called, decided to pen her debut novel in a bid to share with her grandchildren priceless accounts of her childhood days. This was done in an attempt to bridge the gap that grandparents face in communicating with their grandsons and daughters in an age dominated by Facebook and other forms of social media.

The narration starts with the earliest memories of MDG and ends with the story of her father’s deteriorating health – a time when the author believes that her childhood ceased to exist. It is a journey of thirteen years dipped in history, nostalgia and most importantly subtle social messages which very few would’ve been able to pull off so brilliantly.

Family Matters

Families are strange things, and I have had my share of learning and unlearning about what families really are. Like halogens and noble gases, apples and roses, and Homer and Bart, poets and madmen have been instrumental in this learning. My family today includes each one of you in addition to the proverbial menagerie that our home and our lives have grown into.

A couple of weeks back, a group of poets were busy chatting outside Landmark Book Store after their monthly meeting to share poetry and poetics. Linda had just returned from launching her first volume of verse at Kolkata and was discussing the title of her next volume with Madhavi. Nivedita and +sandeep ingilela were busy comparing how getting married impacts poetic output. I was busy checking out the landscape for inspiration.



Nivedita is a poet, writer and a publisher who has been instrumental in getting many of us networked. She has already published three books. Linda edits a magazine on education and is an avid (and acclaimed) Haiku writer. Her book Significance of the Insignificant is a collection of Haiku and has nothing to do with Herodotus. You can buy her book online here. Sandeep is an artist, a poet, and a music buff who presently obsesses over animation and computer graphics. I am a self-employed full-time tea drinker. As we passed the smoke around, Nivedita mentioned that her next publishing project was going to be called Family Matters.

All of us asked in unison, "Why Family Matters?"

The Love of his Life


The worn out lines of the wooden table looked back at him as he sat warming his numb hands on a half empty glass of tea. He had driven as far out as he could from the city, and then turned off into the dark, losing track of time and direction, till he found this particular tea shop in the middle of nowhere. The owner and his wife were in the middle of an argument in a language he didn’t understand and a small girl sat at the back, her skin and her dress merging into the shadows, rocking and reading gently aloud from a book. He thought he heard a voice echo like someone announcing the departure of a train from a station. Surprised, he looked around. Then he realized it was the doctor’s voice still ringing in his head. He wiped at his oily forehead and sipped at the hot, sweet, milky tea.

subhorup dasgupta the love of his life

His life was one that was easy to envy, and many envied him too. He was looked up to for wisdom and prudence, and he was talked about for his gentleness and his compassion. He spoke kindly to everyone and people around him believed his life was as harmonious as one could wish for. Yet he knew how easy it was to both understand and misunderstand a language one did not know. The agitated voices in the shop distracted him for a moment. The shopkeeper’s wife was obviously calling the shopkeeper lazy, while he was denying it violently, pointing to various parts of the shop to show all the work that he did while she -- now he was pointing out at the darkness -- was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he was talking about her affair with another man. He smiled at the acrobatics that his mind was doing and told himself that, for all he knew, they were discussing who to vote for. Or more likely, where the next day’s expenses would come from.

There are truths that go to the grave with a person. And there are truths that can only be revealed after a person goes to the grave. It worried him that the doctor might actually not have told him all that was there to be told. Strangely, this thought led him to think of the many women he had desired in his youth but who had not felt that he was the one they wanted to spend their life with. In his mind, they had died, and each of their husbands, or fathers, or sisters, or sons, came to see him, to tell him, hesitantly, one by one, that it was he, and only he, that she had truly longed to be with. The shopkeeper and his wife stopped their discussion abruptly as they looked in his direction to see what he was chuckling about. When they resumed their argument, he was as certain as one can be that it no longer was one.

Horn Sutra: The Orgasmic Frenzy of Indian Traffic

I am not the envious kind, but I clearly recall a bad episode of it while reading +PURBA RAY's A-Musing for the first time. She already was a celebrated blogging phenomenon; I was green. If you have ever watched green turning green, that was me - now and then. Her way of making me laugh and boil at the same time, her casual yet profound, almost dummies-friendly, conversational style, had me hooked from the start - unlike many, perhaps equally clever satirists who leave you wondering what they are talking about. And no, that was not an obscure autobiographical reference. Like Anurag Kashyap and Shah Rukh Khan, she makes the most of meanings and words such as dichotomous. And as if her attitude wasn't bad enough, she has opinions too. Just imagine.

For a long time, she was just a writer I read and admired, identified with, and did not dare irritate or imitate. Little did I know that she has this way of slipping under your skin, subverting your thinking and making herself a part of your life - without you noticing it. I still remember that during my very first exchange with her about two years ago, I ended up chatting with her as if we knew each other for several lifetimes. That was when I realized how powerful her writing is. I began to see her mastery - making writing seem so natural and graceful, that the art is no longer visible to you. She makes you believe what you are reading are your thoughts, just presented cleverly and humorously, no big deal. To my mind, that is the goal of good writing, no big deal.

Picture of our family (foreground) with Purba Ray (background)

Must have been the greens in the cheesecake, but one fine evening, I asked her if she would consider writing a piece for Subho's Jejune Diet. A few days later, I found this in the mail. Without any further delay (it has already been sitting in my drafts for too long), here is Purba's take on the only thing that matters - survival.

*****

Horn Sutra: The Orgasmic Frenzy of Indian Traffic


The 21st century saw many emerging traits, relegating the old ones to the dustbins of history. But we still insist on conning our newer generations into believing that the peacock is our national bird, even though all they see is crows and pigeons cawing and cooing and shitting on window ledges. The national animal is the near extinct Bengal Tiger, while mongrels continue to multiply merrily under Maneka Gandhi’s patronage. We now have a national insect – the deadly mosquito, a national pastime – outrage, and a national crime – rape. Our school textbooks, however, continue to focus on kharif and rabi crops and Gandhi’s satyagraha movement.

India has moved on. Her record keepers obviously haven’t.

Sexy Thing: Understanding Sex and Love Addiction

The first lesson in politics is learned when a growing infant realizes that his or her behavior can exert control over that of his or her parents. The second major political lesson is years later when one experiences the power of sexual attraction and hormones. All the stuff that you learn in the students unions and in working committees of political parties is really about how to subvert things – baby stuff when compared to the power of controlling, dominating, possessing, abusing another – body, mind and often soul.

The politics of sexual attraction and sexual control is commonly unappreciated and rarely spoken about due to the guilt and shame associated with it. How many men would be willing to admit that if there were no social repercussions, they would have not been as controlled as they are? Perhaps not many. Given circumstances, perhaps not even me. But, science says that is how we are. Of course, science is wrong.


Most kids, at least in Indian societies, do not grow up seeing their parents be intimately affectionate towards each other. If they (the parents) are intimately affectionate, it is usually accompanied by a disclaimer – do you have no shame, in front of the kids? Some of us, if not most of us, learned about sex from our peers or from porn, both of which are terribly off, let me assure you. Took me years to unlearn some of the stuff I picked up there, with its due share of heartache and poor self esteem. There was no sex ed in our times, and my parents turned blue if I asked them how one could “plan” for a brother or sister. A large part of the rest of us, sadly, learned by being victims of sexual abuse, usually by close friends or family and sometimes by strangers. The pleasure associated with the act make the process of victimization even more shameful, and most of us grew up with deeply conflicting ideas about sex. Add to that the common interpretation of religious views on sex.

Is it any wonder that we are this messed up as a society about sex? While we try and figure out what a truly effective, rational and compassionate response to the present mess around us now should be, here is a look at what turns sex into a destructive and addictive force instead of a celebrant, life affirming one.

Click here to read the full post>>

Hyderabad Bloggers' Meet 2013 - Enabling Change Through Social Media

"The pure lotus flower blooms out of the muddy pond, the fragrant sandalwood grows from the soil, the graceful cherry blossoms come forth from trees, the beautiful Yang Kuei-fei was born of a woman of low station, and the moon rises from behind the mountains to shed light on them. Misfortune comes from one’s mouth and ruins one, but fortune comes from one’s heart and makes one worthy of respect." - New Year's Gosho, ND

The Hyderabad BloggersMeet 2013 started out as an email connect on New Years day among the small group of people who were part of the first meet in June 2012.
Over the next three weeks, it turned into a unique social experiment that led up to the event on January 20, 2013 at ITC Kakatiya. The theme was Enabling Change Through Social Media. Details were put up on the social networks five days before the event. It was by invitation only, and the press and media were not invited. In no time, we had more confirmations than we had planned for, and ITC was kind enough to make arrangements to accommodate us all.

Chef Sekar with Pattu (C) and Bhavana
Ashok and his friends - part of the team led by Mr. Kishore who helped us out with the arrangements at the venue.
The staff of ITC were extremely courteous, and when we walked in to the venue, we found the executive chef of the hotel, Chef Sekar, in his work attire, waiting for us. We thought he wanted to discuss the arrangement for refreshments. To our surprise, it turned out that he was a blogger too, and contrary to what one might expect, a social responsibility blogger who has been involved with several social activism movements across the country. He joined us for the entire meeting and shared his valuable insight during the discussions that followed.

Satish Kumar listens as Sekar speaks about his journey as a blogger

The event kicked off with a talk on the bells and whistles of attracting search traffic and page ranking presented by Satish Kumar of CoolPCTips (as well as Director, Maxthon India). The fundamentals of SEO that he shared made us realize that all of us could benefit from keeping small technical details in mind when we go about our blogging work. He also shared how blogging could be a financially lucrative opportunity too. His passion and his expertise came through as he excitedly shared how easy it is to make your page look good to search engine robots. His passion and expertise came through repeatedly during the meeting, and his passion and expertise came through repeatedly during the meeting.


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