Tag Archives: BlogAdda

7 Secrets Of Shiva: A Religious Textbook, Not A Myth-Analysis

This is a book review for BlogAdda. The blurb of ‘7 Secrets of Shiva‘ by Devdutt Pattanaik says,

“Smeared with ash
Draped in animal hide
He sits atop the snow-capped mountain
Skull in hand
Withdrawn, with dogs for company
Destroying the world with his indifference
He is God who the Goddess shall awaken
His name is Shiva

Locked in his stories, symbols and rituals are the secrets of our ancestors. This book attempts to unlock seven.

This is not the first time I’ve read Dr.Pattanaik’s work. I immensely enjoyed ‘The Pregnant King‘ and ‘Jaya‘ enjoys a place of prominence on my windowsill book collection. I’ve also been following his articles and blogposts.

A lot of things draw me to Dr.Pattanaik’s writings. I have a dispassionate relationship with religion, customs and the concept of God & gods. I find it tiresome to labour through the reverence & perceptions that those of religious fervour, add to them. Most writing on religion reads like a priest’s preaching. I want to read about faith, belief & customs from an objective perspective and not from inside a “You must revere this or DIE!” mindset. All that I’ve read of Dr.Pattanaik’s writing so far, has matched that need. It has been refreshing to read his thoughts and even old stories, expressed without a fundamentalist ‘This is a God so we don’t question anything he/she does.’ attitude. I’m afraid 7 Secrets Of Shiva did not convey as much to me. It was as dry and preachy as the aforementioned religious treatises that I’ve taken much care to avoid.

Secondly, the other books I mentioned (Jaya & The Pregnant King) contained a fair degree of the author’s own analysis of beliefs. His articles often carry forward an idea from mythology and apply it to realities of our modern times. But 7 Secrets of Shiva seems to be no more than a collation of several floating stories about Shiva, with no sign of the author’s objective intellect showing.

There is a definite difference in tone from his earlier writing and this book. I used to think of Dr.Pattanaik as a keen, scientific observer of beliefs, myths and their relationship with human cultures.His earlier writing felt like a conversation between one intelligent, rational mind and another. But 7 Secrets of Shiva makes me feel like a stern-faced, elderly priest is frowning down on me while preaching from his dusty, religious texts.

Most notably, every Pattanaik work I’ve read so far has been beautifully illustrated by his own simple, distinctive sketches. I couldn’t find a single one in 7 Secrets of Shiva. Instead the book contains plenty of black and white photographs & paintings. The starkness of this is only compounded by a large font size, the kind you usually see in children’s books. Where is the quality I’ve come to expect from a Pattanaik book?

I get the feeling that I’m not the intended audience for this book. Perhaps it is a book for those completely unfamiliar with Hindu mythology and want a ready primer on the Shiva myth. Even so, I would rather recommend a simple Amar Chitra Katha over the dry, heavy tome that is 7 Secrets of Shiva. For the first time in my reading life, Dr.Devdutt Pattanaik disappoints.

Here are three other BlogAdda book reviews:

  • MyChocoletHandbag details each of the 7 secrets and why she was disappointed by the book.
  • ForeverInBlueJeans says that book is well-written but that she isn’t the right audience for it.
  • TellAStory appears to have liked the book and he too details the 7 secrets.

The Muddy River: A Slow, Cloudy Ramble Through Someone’s Mind

This is a book review for BlogAdda. The blurb of The Muddy River by P.A.Krishnan says,

The Muddy River tells and re-tells the story of Ramesh Chandran, a bureaucrat caught up in the machinations of Assamese politics and public sector corruption during his quest to rescue a hapless engineer kidnapped by militants. As Chandran bumbles along, he encounters the engineer’s wife, who is a pocket-sized battle-axe; a cynical police officer; a venerable Gandhian and Anupama, another engineer torn between professional integrity and her love for Assam. While the rescue drama reaches its climax, Chandran also exposes a massive financial scandal in his company and pays the price for ignoring warnings that he might push too far for an unashamedly corrupt society’s comfort. An aspiring writer, Chandran weaves the events of this time into a novel, while attempting to come to terms with his own marriage in the aftermath of the death of their only child. But how much does Chandran understand other people’s truths and motivations? And how much does his wife, Sukanya, know about the events of the novel?

Multi-layered and complex, The Muddy River blurs the boundaries between the story and the storyteller, victims and victimisers, keeping the reader guessinag till the very end”

The Assam connection interested me, since I know nothing about that side of the country. But mostly, the last line of the blurb hooked me, since it hinted at meta-fiction and at the complex relationship between writer and the written word.

The structure of the book is unconventional. It starts off with a chapter ending in two letters, correspondence to people who are not introduced in the earlier paragraphs. This is followed by a page that looks like a book cover bearing ‘This Street Has No Other Side’. A full novel follows after this, beginning with a prologue in the form of a letter. This ends with a chapter that starts and ends with a letter. This is presumably to convey the story-within-story effect.

The first chapter refers to a dead child and a violent encounter with the police. These are events that invoke sharp responses within a reader but they are not given closure within that chapter and one is left guessing about the circumstances and depth of each. Starting at this point, it is hard to fully embrace the mellow, subtle mood of the chapters that follow, which mention nothing of either incident.

The novel itself rambles all over the place, capturing individual moments in Ramesh Chandran’s life. It feels more like a personal journal than a novel. This still might have worked if the novel stood by itself. But the larger story looms above and weighs it down, leaving the reader with a feeling of restless impatience (“When will he ever get to telling the actual story??!”) Somewhere along the way, while the reader is muddling along in this dissatisfied confusion, events start to happen – a kidnapping, travel, meetings with the kidnappers, conversations with the conflicted locals.

Other characters pop up along the way, in vague references or side-rambles that seem to have nothing to do with the sections before or after them – the spouse, a friend, the daughter, the wife of the kidnapped man, a local officer, a minister. None of these characters are given enough time to develop and express their positions fully so it’s hard to empathize with or even understand their motivations.

The writing in the first chapter is beautiful, even poetic but it also feels very self-conscious, which is something that hampers any artistic expression. The novel within the book has a different style, more prosaic and dry in wit. This attempt to create different voices (the author of the novel and the narrator of the larger story) works well in itself.

All in all, The Muddy River was probably an ambitious attempt but falls far short of its mark. It actually took me over a month to write this review, because I had to plod through the book. I was tempted to give it up a number of times and never for the usual reasons (bad grammar, nonsense plotline). At the end, I just feel confused & dissatisfied and not because of the story itself but the way it was presented. A simple, linear narrative just might have done more justice to a story that needed to be told.

Here’s another review that thinks differently.

Book To Book: How Katy Brought Me To An Arsonist & Uncle John

Fifteen years ago, I won the first prize in a school singing contest. My reward was a gift voucher to the annual school Book Fair. And this book is what I brought home.

Nearly two years ago, I shared the story of how Katy came into my life and everything that happened after. Shortly after, I saw a BlogAdda contest asking people to share their memories of the oldest books they possessed. On a lark, I sent in a link to my Katy story. And I won! I quote Aditi Mathur, the judge:

The winners, in no particular order, are:

  • Vidya for the heartwarming post about her 1966 Wren & Martin, and memories attached to it
  • Bishwanath Ghosh who picked a brilliant book as his first one, and still reads it often, only to find a new implication every time
  • IdeaSmith for her beautifully written post, and the sweet nostalgia she conjures.”

The reward from Friends of Books came in today and here they are:

An Arsonists Guide To Writers Homes In New England

Uncle Johns Curiously Compelling Bathroom Reader

BlogAdda, Aditi, FriendsofBooks and of course, Katy….you really made my day!

Ideamarked Mar2011: Food, Music & Comfort Reading

March seems to have passed even faster than February. I went to Lavasa to cover the Women’s Rally and met a great bunch of women bloggers. Mumbai’s rare winter turned into the hottest summer I’ve seen in this city. I started a style blog (and style section on this blog), got trolled, survived and came back. Say hello to Divadom! I was almost tempted back into the corporate world but survived temptation island with my words intact. Much has happened on the personal front too, upheavals and life-changing experiences which show up, camouflaged as posts. But here’s what gave me respite online this month:

Mood Indigo-BlogCamp Dec 2010: Visual Blogging, Quality versus Quantity, Travelogues & More

On the coldest day of the season (according to the news), I stuck one toe out of my cozy blanket and groaned. “But it’s a Sunday!” Of course, since I’ve quit my daily job, every day could be a Sunday. But still…it’s the principle of the thing! By the time I’d washed my face, better mood set in as I remembered, “It’s BlogCamp!” Annkur was already at the other end of my phone line, brimming with all the energy of his (annoyingly) 20-something self and asking when I’d get there.

The best part about getting out early on a Sunday morning is the lack of traffic. I made the hours-long journey in 25 minutes flat, counting the autorickshawalla abruptly stopping mid-road to go pee. When I raged at Moksh about the weakness of male bladders, he chuckled and said, “The question to ask is why does this always happen to you??!” Good humour indeed, considering he had travelled through the night and just hopped off a train and I can’t accuse him of the same (annoying) youthfulness of Annkur. *evil smirk*

The last unorganizer, Netra was (hopefully) comfortably ensconced in the family home, following a bout of illness. We missed her even before the event began. And finally, our official partner BlogAdda were represented by Nirav Sanghvi.

The IIT campus was brimming with the usual high energy of a student community and trebled by the preparations for what they’re calling Asia’s biggest youth festival. Getting a BlogCamp fit into the Mood Indigo schedule was indeed, a coup de grace. (Pause to pat collective selves on back). I left behind the Mumbai dust and grumpiness at the gate with the security guards as I hurried into the lush greenery of IIT. The School of Management was home to the original BlogCamp, which started off as one room tossed out by the Barcampers to us low-lifers called bloggers. And to underline the nostalgia rush, I spotted Meetu (of WOGMA fame) entering at the same time. BlogCamp is where we got to be friends and she’s one of my dearest cronies today.

Aditi and her quiet-but-efficient team of Mood I (creative) volunteers had already set up the whiteboard, the auditorium, the projector and screens. I paused to have a word with Meetu about the WOGMA tee-shirt that was my last Ideart project, before whizzing onto the important-sounding business of setting up the wiki. Having entered the first slot onto the whiteboard ’11:00-11:20’ (with black marker pen…isn’t that fun?!), I proceeded to calm down Annkur who was in a terrible panic that no one would turn up. By 10:30 a.m., the auditorium had magically started to fill in and we started BlogCamp with a round of introductions.

The speakers

Meetu (Twitter, Blog) was the first speaker with her talk on ‘Writing Reviews Online’. She talked about the need to respect the creator of the offering that one is reviewing and backing up a viewpoint with explanation. Meetu’s WOGMA is one of the finest review blogs I have ever seen. In person though, she’s just an everyday person, nervous about being on stage. It was really refreshing to see how her confidence has grown, in her work and in talking about it. Listening to and chatting with real people (and not superstar celebrity types) forms the crux of BlogCamp so Meetu felt like an appropriate opening speaker.

Harpreet (Twitter, Blog) began with an image-bedecked presentation on ‘Sketching Experiences’. Harpreet shares his reflections and views with the world, online just like the rest of us (bloggers) do. But instead of text-based posts, he uses sketches and diagrams to depict his ideas. Harpreet’s presentation threw up a new aspect of this free-flowing medium.

John Matthew (Twitter, Blog) spoke about his experience of blogging. He said his being an SEO professional certainly helped in content creation. His suggestion to write often, daily if possible seemed to run into trouble as a number of bloggers placed quality over quantity. The next speaker, Tarun Chandel (Twitter, Blog) directly contradicted him when he asked bloggers to not use their blogs as dumping grounds and clutter up the online space. Personally, I’m more inclined to John’s suggestion as I believe that blogging like all else only gets better with practice.

Sonesh Prakash (Blog) talked about a comic strip that he has created featuring two characters called SoBo Chick and Suburban Guy. Sonesh did not have a blog or a twitter account when he walked into BlogCamp (and he set up one in the course of the event!). Sonesh has been working with these two characters for weeks now and sharing their conversations on his Facebook status messages. This doesn’t fit into the ‘traditional’ purview of a URL with a profile page and a set of chronologically ordered posts. But considering that blogging began as a one-to-many sharing of content, his work certainly fits into that description and brings out yet another aspect of this ever-evolving medium.

Srinivas Kulkarni (TwitterBlog) talked about his passion for travel and outlined his plans to travel to the South and live-blog the journey. Aniket Thakkar (Blog) described the Flash Fiction project and the concept of multi-author blogging. Harish Iyer (Twitter, Blog) spoke about being gay, child abuse and how blogging has helped him share his experiences as well as touch other people’s lives. Manoj Kewalramani (Blog, Blog, Blog) touched on political commentary, travelogues and image-blogging.

Interestingly, four people touched on one particular aspect of blogging that I’ve never seen discussed at BlogCamps before. Harpreet, Tarun, Sonesh and Manoj all talked about using the visual instead of/along with the verbal to depict ideas. None of these people are professional artists or work specifically with images in their daily life. But they’ve each picked on a way of sharing a thought using sketches, cartoons and collages. The web tools for these are as yet clunkier than the ones available for text-based blogging. Services like Flickr target the high-end professionals while those like Twitpic simply approach visual blogging as an add-on to the ‘main’ text blogging. It looks like it’s time to recall the adage of a picture speaking louder than a thousand words.

Indeed an event like this would be of tremendous interest to the worlds of media, marketing and knowledge services since it brings out various ways in which people are choosing to create and share information, opinions and other content.

The discussion

We started the day planning for parallel sessions in different rooms. But the turnout didn’t seem big enough to break up the group into smaller groups so the BlogCamp stayed within the confines of the SOM auditorium. The sessions proceeded more or less continuously and people would step out for breaks as and when required. There wasn’t exactly a before- and after- lunch flow. However, after the aforementioned speakers, it seemed like the group was dissipating into smaller factions having mini-discussions within themselves.

Moksh, our resident teacher took charge and turned the event into a group discussion. The mikes flew across the room chasing ideas, questions and opinions as we discussed paid blogging, citizen journalism, advertorial content, buzz creation, social media marketers, blogger voice, media celebrities, sponsored events, influencing opinion and ethics. We officially called it a day at 5 p.m. with a round of feedback on the event itself. It was heartening to see that most participants had stayed on for the entire duration of the event.

The Twitter feed of #blcm was buzzing through the day and I heard (unconfirmed) that the tag was trending in Mumbai for awhile. Here’s a choice selection of the tweets about the event:

thecancerus #blcm “build your blogging muscle by writing daily like a body builder” by @johnwriter

_alps Did you know that you can visit webseo.com to get a certification in SEO. Tip by @johnwriter #blcm

SudhirU less text, more images in @tarunchandel ‘s Walk That Extra Mile presentation, iLike. #blcm

intelshwets Put effort on your posts, half cooked posts taste bad – @tarunchandel #blcm #MoodI

crazymms #blcm @tarunchandel walk that extra mile….good session, quality over quantity on blogging, tats why i dont blog for yrs :D!

ideasmithy #blcm @srinistuff is trying to figure out dependable connectivity for his blogging on the road project.

_alps Check pixton.com (like Toondo) to create and customize your comics. Tip by Sonesh. #blcm

beeayeanoowhy This guy Sonesh made a backpacker trip to Kerala and back in 3500 bucks. Includes a decent room stay w/ bathroom&TV for 150. Awesome. #blcm

manojnayak #blcm someone here with an iPad he is guarding it with all his life

adityahbk Is going to use it… RT @GHarpreet: #blcm use pixton.com to create online comic strips #utility

mohitnanda Talks are on, from Travelblogs to Backpacking to Haiku to… #blcm

manojnayakc #blcm whoever this guy is, He created a new theory called sandwich theory.

manojnayak #blcm ok it’s flashfiction.in he is wearing a Tshirt with tue same!

mohitnanda “You only become normal by becoming as abnormal as other people are.” via @hiyer #blcm

srinistuff Funny… Im sitting behind @ideasmithy And tweeting out 2 her rather than talking to her. 😛 #microblogging #blcm

manojnayak #blcm most interesting talk was by @hiyer on his use of humor/quirkiness to talk abt homosexual/gay perspective, and his poem sasuma

actionink @monishd No, me neither. Had tickets for a theatre performance. but I was following #blcm n some stuff on visual blogging seemed interesting

aditi_jain @iitb_moodindigo yayyy! we did it! #moodi #blcm

The past BlogCamps have struggled to stay on course and often been hijacked by the unrelated domains of business ventures, technology and advertising causes. But as a constant participant of BlogCamp, I feel like this particular event really hit the golden mean by touching on various aspects of blogging, driving multiple conversations and attracting a good mix of long-time and new bloggers. Feedback to the contrary (or in support of) continues to be welcome.

That was the ‘un’official round-up from the unorganizers. Here’s what the participants had to say about Mood I-BlogCamp December 2010. (Do post links that you don’t see on this list and I’ll add them – pictures, blogposts, tweets are all welcome).

Srinivas Kulkarni: Srini’s Stuff>>What a bloggy day!!! #blcm

Pradeep Mohandas: Parallel Spirals>> BlogCamp Mumbai – MoodI 2010

Vishal Gadkari: Facebook Photos

Ramya Pandyan: The Idea-smithy Facebook Page Photos

TechGreek Stuff: Facebook Photos

Harish ‘Aham’ Iyer: The Pregnant Thought>>BlogCamp @IIT Bombay

Manoj Kewalramani: Voter Files>>Blog bang!!

Sampath Iyengar: Facebook Photos

Vishal Gadkari: My Point of View>>BlogCamp Dec 2010

Aditya Trivedi: Facebook Photos

Reverb 10.4: Wonderful Life

This Reverb 10 prompt seems rather similar to the previous one and it makes me wonder whether the exercise will continue to hold interest at all. Still, nothing ventured, so here goes.

December 4 – Wonder.

How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

(Author: Jeffrey Davis)

Having left behind the rigid daily schedule (and more importantly), the utter joy-drain of the corporate world was like opening up the door to wonder. I’ve been moody at times, grumpy and even sad. But I’ve never been without that sense of wonder since I quit.

There are walks on the beach of course, which never fail to remind me of how much bigger then universe is, than my petty troubles, than the little cocoon that we Mumbaikers tend to think of as the world. And then there are visits to the bookshop. More and more I see familiar names pop up in the Indian Writing aisle. That makes my dream seem closer, much more reachable. And in the next lane, my favorite authors or genres jostle for my attention. I’m lost in the beauty of human imagination, in the glory of words and ideas that live on long after the minds and tongues they passed through, are gone. And finally, a sense of overwhelming awe that I am to be a part (however small) of this world. Wonder, indeed.

I’ve lost heart more than once. Last year, at six months from quitting, I expressed my frustration at being rudderless. It was my father who reminded me that the jobs that waited for me then would still be waiting a year later and that I shouldn’t give up so quickly on what I thought was my passion. Another six months later, another man I’ve come to love, reminded me of the same thing. A short three months later, I wrestled with self-doubt in my own head. As if in reply, within the space of a week, my mailbox was popping with opportunities to do what I love – write. One resulted in the BlogAdda column, the second was the JetLite article, then came Yahoo! Real Beauty and other things.

A few days ago, I met a placement agent to discuss a potential job, the kind that I had left behind over a year ago. For the first time in my career life, I said that my top priority was a good work-life balance. She frowned and said that the company would not want to meet someone with ‘such issues’. I tried to explain that I was not afraid of hard work but that I was making a decision to let other areas of my life be as important. She shrugged, already having lost interest and the interview should have ended there. But quite suddenly, she shot out,

“You know, most companies would not expect this from someone at your level. People with 10-12 years of experience can say these things. But someone who is just beginning their career should not have all these restrictions.”

I gaped and then quickly took my leave. For at least two days after that I agonized over what she had said, the old guilt creeping in. After 6 years, 3 companies and managing over 25 people, was I still ‘beginning my career’? Was I losing the strong work ethic I thought I had? Had I ever had it at all? Was I being unrealistically demanding, behaving in essence like the ‘pampered princesses’ I’ve loathed all these years?

But then, I remembered my many late nights at work. I remembered forfeiting weekends and holidays. I remembered struggling with a near-arthritic neck, to stare at the computer screen. I remembered forcing myself to not think about period pains and nausea while standing up to make presentations. I remembered skipping meals for meetings and stepping out of restaurants to take phone calls that just had to be answered. I remembered finishing a report or an important document at 11:30p.m., then getting myself a cup of tea and then sitting down to spend another hour poring over the whole thing all over again to make doubly-trebly-hundred times sure it was perfect. I remembered the harsh words of my seniors picking out my flaws but I also remembered the sense of injustice I felt. And finally I thought of the fact that I had missed the weddings of every single one of my close friends in the past five years because I just hadn’t had the time.

I realised I deserved to ask for what I wanted. With it came the crystallization of the thought that much of corporate ambition and success thrives on belittling people, on keeping people insecure and subservient. It survives by killing the sense of joy and wonder in people. And I’d be a fool to willingly let myself back into that, at least without a fight. Bring on more of the wonders, I’m waiting to be dazzled!

BlogAdda 12: “This happened today…”: Blogging An Event

As we run into the last month of the year, our calendars start to pack up. There are last-minute things on everyone’s agendas to be ticked off before we go off on holiday. There are parties to attend and people getting married. It’s a busy month and (hopefully) a good one for everyone around.

My twelfth BlogAdda post and the last one for this month is up. This week I talk about something every blogger faces at some point of time – covering an event. It could be a personal do like a wedding or a party. Or it could be a professional one like a conference or a seminar. It could even carry semi-journalistic tones if you’re invited to a press conference to write about it. Writing about a one-time event has its own special nuances and that’s what this post is about.

(Click here to real the full post on BlogAdda)

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BlogAdda 11: Reader Devo Bhava!

My post on BlogAdda this week, talks about building a relationship with your reader community. This would seem a little odd to people who knew me 6 years ago, in my early blogging days. Yes, I used to be a touch-me-not blogger who wouldn’t respond to comments or any correspondence from my readers. But much has changed since then, my own attitude the least of them all.

This is the era of connections, of actively seeking them out and building on them. It benefits the people at both ends of the connection. Do read this post and let me know what you think!

Also, since this is a free WordPress domain and I don’t enjoy the benefit of the In Series plug-in anymore, here are the earlier articles for your reference.


Other articles in this column:

  1. Checklist For A Blogger
  2. Building Access: Feeds & Link-sharing
  3. Protecting Your Privacy
  4. Is Your Blog Facebooked?
  5. The Twitter Birdie At Your Blog
  6. Dress Up Your Blog
  7. Dear Reader, Stay Awhile Longer
  8. Group Blogs: Becoming A Part Of The Online Community
  9. The Internet Undesirables
  10. Blogger Profiles: Creating An Identity For Your Blog
  11. Reader Devo Bhava!
  12. “This happened today…”: Blogging An Event

I believe that the audience is an integral part of any artist’s performance. In the case of a writer (or specifically, the blogger), the readers play this role. Any blogger who says that they don’t care about readers, has to be lying. If you didn’t care, you’d write in a private diary, not on a website visible to the whole connected world! So you can see why a blogger needs to establish a tangible connection with his/her readers. A good blogger ensures that his/her content is fresh, top-quality and recent. A great blogger goes the extra mile by thinking about how to make the blog, a real experience for the reader.

(Click here to read the full post on BlogAdda)

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BlogAdda 10: Blogger Profiles – Creating An Identity

This week I post my tenth column in the BlogAdda series and this time I talk about one of the fundamentals. The ‘About Me’ section also known as a bio is a much neglected but very important part of a person’s online presence. It is the first communication about you to your readers and defines your blog. In my column I cover the basics that a bio should have and a few other things that it could include.

When I find myself grappling with a problem, especially a creative one, I go back to my basics, my fundamental assumptions. New ideas usually emerge from there. While thinking about what to talk about in this column for bloggers, I went back to my first post listing the basic 10 essentials for a blog. And in that, I found my answer.

Number 3 on that list is the Blogger Profile. Does that merit a column? Let’s see. How long does it take to describe a person, to define his identity, to etch out her life? How long does one have? A Blogger Profile (or the About section as it is known in certain places) is an introduction, a description and a definition. It can also be a portfolio, a marketing tool, a showcase or a resume. This is the place you go to when you’re facing an identity-crisis of sorts, about your blog.

(Click here to read the entire post on BlogAdda)

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