Sunday, May 25, 2008

Exposed: Why People Blog

Was (re)directed to this wonderful article on blogging in the New York Times Magazine by Emily Gould - who was an editor at Gawker Media, something of a cult-site on Media and Pop-Culture. She started with a personal blog called Emily Magazine - it's popularity got her the job at Gawker. Two heart-breaks (Heartbreak Soup) and several shrink sessions later she wrote this soul searching ( and, wrenching !!) piece. Here are some excerpts :

"Some of my blog’s readers were my friends in real life, and even the ones who weren’t acted like friends when they posted comments or sent me e-mail. They criticized me sometimes, but kindly, the way you chide someone you know well. Some of them had blogs, too, and I read those and left my own comments. As nerdy and one-dimensional as my relationships with these people were, they were important to me. They made me feel like a part of some kind of community, and that made the giant city I lived in seem smaller and more manageable.

"My blog post was ridiculous and petty and small — and, suddenly, incredibly important. At some point I’d grown accustomed to the idea that there was a public place where I would always be allowed to write, without supervision, about how I felt. Even having to take into account someone else’s feelings about being written about felt like being stifled in some essential way.

"It’s easy to draw parallels between what’s going on online and what’s going on in the rest of our media: the death of scripted TV, the endless parade of ordinary, heavily made-up faces that become vaguely familiar to us as they grin through their 15 minutes of reality-show fame. No wonder we’re ready to confess our innermost thoughts to everyone: we’re constantly being shown that the surest route to recognition is via humiliation in front of a panel of judges.

"But is that really what’s making people blog? After all, online, you’re not even competing for 10 grand and a Kia. I think most people who maintain blogs are doing it for some of the same reasons I do: they like the idea that there’s a place where a record of their existence is kept — a house with an always-open door where people who are looking for you can check on you, compare notes with you and tell you what they think of you. Sometimes that house is messy, sometimes horrifyingly so. In real life, we wouldn’t invite any passing stranger into these situations, but the remove of the Internet makes it seem O.K.


"Of course, some people have always been more naturally inclined toward oversharing than others. Technology just enables us to overshare on a different scale. Long before I had a blog, I found ways to broadcast my thoughts — to gossip about myself, tell my own secrets, tell myself and others the ongoing story of my life. As soon as I could write notes, I passed them incorrigibly. In high school, I encouraged my friends to circulate a notebook in which we shared our candid thoughts about teachers, and when we got caught, I was the one who wanted to argue about the First Amendment rather than gracefully accept punishment. I walked down the hall of my high school passing out copies of a comic-book zine I drew, featuring a mock superhero called SuperEmily, who battled thinly veiled versions of my grade’s reigning mean girls. In college, I sent out an all-student e-mail message revealing that an ex-boyfriend shaved his chest hair. The big difference between these youthful indiscretions and my more recent ones is that you can Google my more recent ones.

The Feedback Loop

"(With)The commenters ...... It wasn’t quite friendship. It was almost something deeper. They were co-workers, sort of, giving me ideas for posts, rewriting my punch lines. They were creeps hitting on me at a bar. They were fans, sycophantically praising even my lamer efforts. They were enemies, articulating my worst fears about my limitations. They were the voices in my head. They could be ignored sometimes. Or, if I let them, they could become my whole world.

"The.... compliments were reassuring. And though I was reluctant to admit it, there was even something sort of thrilling about being insulted by strangers. This was brand-new, having so many strangers pay attention to me, and at that point, every kind of attention still felt good. Occasionally, a particularly well-aimed barb would catch me off-guard, and I’d spend a moment worrying that I really was the worst writer ever to work for the site, or unfunny, or ugly, or stupid. But mostly, in the beginning, I was able to believe the compliments and dismiss the insults, even though they were both coming from the same place and sometimes the same people


"Like most people, I tend to use the language of addiction casually, as in, “— I’m totally going through withdrawal.” And when talking about how immersed I became in my online life, I’m tempted to use this language because it provides such handy metaphors. It’s easy to compare the initial thrill of evoking an immediate response to a blog post to the rush of getting high, and the diminishing thrills to the process of becoming inured to a drug’s effects. The metaphor is so exact, in fact, that maybe it isn’t a metaphor at all.

"The will to blog is a complicated thing, somewhere between inspiration and compulsion. It can feel almost like a biological impulse. You see something, or an idea occurs to you, and you have to share it with the Internet as soon as possible. What I didn’t realize was that those ideas and that urgency — and the sense of self-importance that made me think anyone would be interested in hearing what went on in my head — could just disappear.

".........a single blog post can capture a moment of extreme feeling, but that reading an accumulated series of posts will sometimes reveal another, more complete story......taking the once-public blog and making it private, though tempting, felt like trying to revise history.

Real Life

"Knowing that the worst of my online oversharing is still publicly accessible doesn’t thrill me, but it doesn’t scare me anymore either. I might hate my former self, but I don’t want to destroy her, and in a way, I want to respect her decision to show the world her vulnerability. I’m willing to let that blog exist now as a sort of memorial to a time in my life when I thought my discoveries about myself and what I loved were special enough to merit sharing with the world immediately.

"I understand that by writing here about how I revealed my intimate life online, I’ve now revealed even more about what happened during the period when I was most exposed. Well, I’m an oversharer — it’s not like I’m entirely reformed. But lately, online, I’ve found myself doing something unexpected: keeping the personal details of my current life to myself. This doesn’t make me feel stifled so much as it makes me feel protected, as if my thoughts might actually be worth honing rather than spewing. But I still have Emily Magazine as a place to spew when I need to. It will never again be the friendly place that it was in 2004 — there are plenty of negative comments now, and I don’t delete them. I still think about closing the door to my online life and locking them out, but then I think of everything else I’d be locking out, and I leave it open."

Those of you, who would like to read the full article, click on Exposed. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Would love to see your comments.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I met Vijay Tendulkar (Ten - as some of his young friends called him and he liked to sign-off on emails) only once. That was just a couple of years back, when I took him for an art exhibition by a group of young Bengali artists from Santiniketan – which he had agreed to inaugurate at the instance of a mutual friend.

We had arrived a little ahead of time at his tiny apartment near Sher-e-Punjab Society in Andheri East. But, there he was waiting for us – dressed in a crisp turquoise blue kurta and white churidar – a picture of calm and dignity. It was mid-monsoon and by the time we came down it was pouring. He was not keeping well even then – though I didn’t know it was myasthenia gravis. I was concerned as much for him as I was about his kurta getting wet – so offered to hold an umbrella and give him a hand for getting into the car. But, he declined both casually.

As we started in the car, he turned towards my companion and enquired - “now tell me about yourself”. Taken aback a bit – she said shyly, “I am just a house-wife”. “I wanted to know you and not what you do” – he snapped gently and I could immediately sense that a chord had been struck.

At the exhibition, he took time over every single painting – chatting up the artists. To me it was clear that he was doing it simply to encourage the young lot. By the end of it – they were so touched that one of them jumped up and plucked a painting off the wall and gifted it to him in a very spontaneous gesture.

On the way back, we talked about a lot of things. He comprehensively trashed the culturally challenged Indian media, lumped our leaders for not understanding the importance of the arts in the evolution of a nation, lamented at how the politicians have made a hash of New Bombay (he was a part of the committee alongwith Charles Correa which had originally conceived it )… but he was hopeful about the resurgence of Indian theatre and was particularly impressed by some new Marathi playwrights (one of them a young woman – whose name I forget ).

While dropping him home I wanted to present him a bottle of Single Malt and a set of Swami Ranganathananda’s Gita Commentary that I had carried. The latter (“the Gita – in the light of modern needs and modern thoughts” ) is my favourite gift for many whom I consider to be of liberal intellectual disposition. He accepted the whiskey but was livid about the books. He kept them all the same – sensitive of my sentiments. I knew he was an agnostic but didn’t think he would have a problem with the Gita. I apologized and got up to leave. He came to see me off to the door and invited me to come over and share the whiskey with him sometime. He promised to visit - health permitting -my daughter's school in the Sahyadris. But Bombay being Bombay – I couldn’t make it again. Soon he started spending more time in Pune.

The newspapers wrote, he didn’t want a fuss over his death. He had borne the untimely passing away of his daughter (Priya) and son ( Raju - an ace photographer ) a few years ago with equanimity. He told a close associate a few days back that, he was content with his “innings” coming to an end and wished a “quiet exit” for himself. His Doctor said, he tried to keep his last days at the ICU normal , listening to music and watching movies on his laptop. He had left strict instructions that the press should not be informed of his death before he was cremated. He had said "no" to condolence meetings. Amol Palekar remarked, “he wanted space for himself and we should allow him that.” Now, I understand – he didn’t need to read the Gita because he truly lived it.
(Vijay Tendulkar passed away at a Pune hospital on Monday - the 19th of May, 2008. He was 80)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Pat Pong Principles of Media Management

(Reading my last blog, a friendly critic – obviously nauseated by the ranting about pigs and sausages – suggested that, I write on issues that are close to my heart rather than straight from the gut. So here comes one from somewhere high above-the-belt…)

“You can try leaving the media, but – once bitten – the bug of media never (completely) lets you go “ – a veteran colleague had wisely warned before I quit to make - what I consider to be - a monumental move from ‘paper to concrete’, quite literally!! So I was far from unhappy – if truth were told – when I was invited to take a course on the “Business of Print” at MICA earlier this year. Despite some mild protestations (such as, I am no longer a media person and not an expert on the subject) and a couple of coy postponements later – I went to Ahmedabad one Sunday in mid-march, when the mercury had already begun to soar in Gujrat. I surprised at my own stamina in accomplishing a marathon feat of delivering 5 lectures in a row on a single-day much to the dismay of the second semester class, who after that - I was quite sure – would not venture anywhere near the print media.

But there’s no denying that media fascinates me. It is the chimerical character of media, (rather than AL Capone’s irresistible canine charm, as many suspect) which seduced me into joining ABP in the first place. So what is it now? Is it an unsatisfied craving for something that I tasted but couldn’t have for good – like an affair that fizzled out? Is it an old love whom I haven’t been able to forget and will keep returning to her from time to time? – probably not. Do I miss the people I worked with ? – most definitely not the majority of those I met at my last port of call. But, yet - I suspect – media would always remain for me like a flame with whom one has parted ways – but haven’t been able to get over completely – still wanting keep in touch and know what’s happening in her life – albeit from a distance - and sometimes wondering how it would have been if we had stayed together.

Perhaps, I always realized this at a sub-conscious level but wasn’t prepared to admit it upfront. So, when some friends suggested - I start a blog on media, I resisted the idea. For one I didn’t wish to remain to stuck in the past. I felt - once having decided to call it quits one must move on. Second, in any case, I find there are far too many media-blogs floating with every self-styled media pundit putting up their 2 bits into cyber-space. Media types are known for a healthy narcissism and I didn’t wish to contribute to that clutter. Yet I find myself returning occasionally to some old watering holes for a little draught of the world that I left behind.

So a couple of weeks back when a common friend called to say that Peter McCann (an Aussie, former Washing Machine marketer who had fallen into the "whirlpool" of Delhi media but was wise enough to quickly extricate) was coming to town and has suggested that some of us get together for a drink – I welcomed the idea at the prospect of indulging in some innocuous 'V-Man' bashing. Peter recently gave up his consulting assignment and changed track to join one of the largest condom marketing companies in the world ( ‘KS’ is their brand in India ) as the Marketing Head for Asia. This gave him a unique perspective - literally from ‘down under’ - about the goings-on at a 17th storey establishment somewhere in the vicinity of a “circus” in central Delhi, now a "chowk" renamed after a late Prime Minister of India.

When a motley crowd of four get together with a Marketing guru around what else would they talk about - but Marketing ? So, over bottles of Fosters going down like circulation into the Mahim creek – we chatted on how the Bangkok School of Media Management teaches delivering value to the advertisers. It seems that, according to the 'Pat Pong Principle of Stickiness' maximum ‘consumer connect’ is achieved when the readership of a newspaper slowly begins to creep up to match its circulation to reach the dream number of 'one reader per copy' ( which shows 100 % involvement - the reader feels so attached and possessive about his paper, he refuses to part with it even to a member of his own family for all the filial love in this world). There is a further ‘media-multiplier effect’ if the bulk of those readers can be co-opted - thru’ focused micro-marketing - from affluent areas, such as the one across the rail tracks to the east of Mahim. (Apparently, the problem arises only when one tries to 'feverishly' apply these canons of readership to listenership) .

We also talked about ‘blue-ocean strategy’ – of how to rescue a sinking oil tanker by launching a fleet of submarines - bank rolled by PE investors ( So after the 'sub-prime' crisis what - the newspaper 'sub-marine' crisis ? Remember you read it here, first) !! Analysed a live ‘case-study’ of an ultimate positioning master-coup – achieved by changing the entire 'paradigm' for a financial daily and marketing it not for its news content but its soft-columns and life-style section ( to be enjoyed like after dinner thin mint chocolates, while unwinding in a plush cognac lounge ) thus hoping to garner the maximum female audience for a Business Journal ( users of BVLGARI - pronounced as "Bavalgari" by some). Any advertisers' dream, but just that it simply doesn't 'ad' up to revenues. Discussed, brilliant "out of the box" marketing innovations such a model for ensuring newspaper customer loyalty by giving house-wives a lifetime's supply of "tupperware" and bed-sheets. And, we finally concluded that, to continuously delight its consumers - a newspaper must not only inform, educate and entertain but also enlighten its readers – leaving them asking for laburnums in Karolbagh.

Last week in Delhi, my very stimulating breakfast chat with an erudite economic editor, over steaming tumblers of strong Coorg coffee at Sarvanah Bhavan, was about the discovery of a Farm House index for the new Moguls of Indian Journalism. In the evening, at the IIC bar, of course, the subjects get heavier as the smoke gets thicker and we imbibe more of that familiar amber liquid. The venerable octogenarian holds forth on the shock and horror that the fraternity had felt some years back, at discovering that a known nymphomaniac had started demanding money for favours granted. And how, things came round a full-circle, as if by a stroke of poetic justice, when the same old lady was outraged at being denied free and unrestricted 'coverage' rights for the new 20:20 flick-shows. At this point, to distract him, a mischievous young compatriot chipped in to ask, if in his opinion a low pallu to bare midriff ratio worked as well for the sports pages of a national daily as it undoubtedly did for the sunday supplement (and he was not referring to cheer leaders here ). After a while, the discussions veered to the hot topic of the day - whether it's Jojo-ba oil that is making the edit-page Uncle’s bald pate shine so radiantly of late or is it something he got from (his) DNA but no one noticed ? We shall soon know.

Hearing an account of all this – a lady friend explodes, "you so and so… it’s not the media you love but you are simply titillated by our gossip, sleaze and bitching". Then, after a few moments of silent reflection, she lets out a candid admission: "but, that’s what media is all about and you are just like one of us".

"So, Welcome back to the club", she adds with an understanding smile !!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I love Bebo

A Nawab I am certainly not and I have a pot-belly that neatly curls up into six-folds (rather than the now famous 6 ‘Khan-Packs’ ) - yet, I too have a Bebo in my life – not in Bandra but in sultry Goa. As you drive up from Colva towards Martin’s – Bebo’s house comes on the left. Bebo acts in plays – so, is a local celebrity. You have to only ask at any roadside shop and they’ll at once direct you there. Tho’ not many in Mumbai have heard of Bebo – obsessed as they are with Bollywood’s Choti Begum-saheba in waiting and other such sprigly things – my Bebo’s fame too spreads well beyond the Goan shores. Many a lustful, middle-aged marauder like your faithful blogger – in Delhi, Dubai or Dallas begin to salivate at the mere mention of Bebo’s name. Celebrated non-resident Goans and immigrants who have acquired the status of honorary Goans, visiting apprentice Goans of my ilk, Goan politicians of all hues including successive Chief Ministers, local aristocrats and socialites all adorn Bebo’s eclectic fan-club.

Alas !! Bebo is a man – dark, greasy, podgy and reeking of Feni anytime of the day – but he makes the most sinfully divine Goan chorizos in the world. The tenderest of Salcette Pork is marinated in home-made vinegar and purest Kashmiri chilies – stuffed in hog-intestines, tied-up in small knots and hung out to dry on a clothes line in his courtyard. Soaking in the scalding seaside sun and salt from the air, they acquire a red hue and piquant taste that can turn on any man by setting on fire the most uninitiated palate. Bebo’s sausages are not like the commercially produced ones - long with chunky meat inside - that you get in Bombay cold-storages. His are more cocktail size with morsels that you can nibble on – sucking out the last drop of juice from the meat. They don’t have the sharp tang of acetic acid that comes out of synthetic vinegar and the Kashmiri chilies give them a lighter ruddy colour and a subtler flavour that tantalizes the taste-buds without damaging the orifices at either end of the human anatomy.

Bebo sells them not by the dozen but strings of fifty or a hundred ( not as much as you might think – because they are much smaller in size ) at a price less than third of the branded variety. And, if he really likes you – he would ask his wife to pack some of his secret Rechado masala in a bottle to take home for just the cost of the red-chilies (which come at Rs 150 a kg in the market, by the way). So next time – you are in Goa and in a mood to stray a little, give Bebo a call (9822584195) and drop by at his humble hut in Betalbatim to pick up your parcel. I promise you won’t be disappointed – or I would buy the sausages back from you ( cooked or uncooked ) – and that’s a Ghose lot of guarantee.