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Ramblings of the year gone by: Recap 2014

This blog flies high. This blog keeps me grounded. The more I feed it, the more it becomes food for my soul. Yes, I am definitely in a relationship with my blog.

Looking back at the posts of 2014 though, I’m a tad disappointed. I don’t think I broke any rules, nor did I write anything spectacular. There’s a lot of spunk inside me that this blog deserves! What I did notice though, is that my posts map the trajectory of my career. 2014 has been the year in which I have attempted to focus on research, on a few specific areas of exploration.

Broadly and inadequately classified as ‘work’

And so, my posts on urban issues have looked closely at housing, slums, planning, with an overlay of two themes- migration and citizenship. Reblogs and comments on research (visual methods, politics and urban geography) and practice (global capital, smart cities and beautification) from across the world tell me that my world view is slowly expanding, and the hunger to learn more is very much growing too! My first experience of presenting research (small cities, youth aspiration and migration) in an international conference was both rewarding and helped me evaluate my career goals in a more focused way. The decision to work in the field of labour migration research (the SHRAMIC project I work on at the Centre for Policy Research looks at this) emerged from an exploration of all of these themes and my observations as a practitioner in the area of informal housing.

My concerns about citizenship and democracy were also at the fore during this year’s election. My pre-election fears about the impact Modi would have on the social fabric of India seem to be coming true in the manner of a horror story, with #GharWapsi and #SecularConversions trending on Twitter and providing the strokes to entertain and titillate the masses in the country.

Visual and experiental posts

2014 has also been a year of pleasurable travel. So much of it!

Self-reflection and family

I had fewer self-reflective posts this year, and some of that thinking actually came out in the form of book and movie reviews (The Road and Queen, for instance)

I didn’t write a much about #family and #parenting as I have in previous years, but 2014 will always be remembered as the year my son Udai started his own blogging journey. Despite the rough road parenting is, friends and family have always seen me through and hopefully we will fly higher in 2015 than these soaring kites took us in the year gone by!

No, can't wipe the smile off!

No, can’t wipe the smile off!

The effect of the glass dome on the kids was interesting. They were enchanted and engrossed in the audio guide, which was simple and easy to follow, with interesting tidbits but not too much chatter!

At the Bundestag in Berlin this summer! My kids inspire me to never let curiosity and energy go!


Bizarre search terms that get people to my blog!

So checking the stats page of my blog is a routine activity, even on the days I haven’t posted. But today’s routine check had a little surprise. Someone has typed in the search term “can i cut my public hair in salon gurgaon” not once, but twice and got to my blog! Usually, the search terms are all about people looking for my blog directly, or those interested in urban planning issues, housing, travel and the like. This one really tickled me, though. Of course, by spelling one critical word wrong, he (or she) got to my blog and I really wonder what the reaction was to my ramblings.

At my end, with my rather graphic imagination, I am wondering what kind of person wants a salon employee to cut hair from that part of his/her anatomy? Still tickled and intrigued….and also wondering what kind of blog or website answers that question!

It reminds me of a conversation with the lady at the salon who usually attends to me meager salon needs- threading, waxing and the like. I was asking her what she thought of the huge numbers of spas that are opening in malls and shopping centres in Gurgaon. She said, very matter of factly, “Ladies ka haath lagna chahiye na, isliye aate hain bahut saare aadmi log!” Translation: Many men come to get touched by women.

Clearly, I live in a very interesting city!

Last post of 2012: Welcome 2013, I am ready for you!

Well, so much for writing a blog every day..I have decided to take a break from everything, even blogging for the last few days of the year. I am literally escaping into the Himalayas for some contemplation and quality time with the kids and the mums.

But before I do that, here are some initial thoughts on what I’m expecting from the year ahead (these aren’t resolutions yet though!)

Turbo mode: It’s been a charged 2012, but much time and energy was wasted in self-doubt. In 2013, I ain’t looking back. There is a mile long list of stuff I want to do and it’s high time I did it.

Book of illustrated stories for children: Among other things, I am planning to write a bunch of short stories for children. I already have one written down. I plan to team up with an illustrator and self-publish these.

Diving certification: I must get my scuba diving certification this year. Have planned to do this forever. No good comes out of delaying what you really want. No such thing as delayed gratification (wink wink!).

Weight and fitness: Those ten-odd kilos have got to go in 2013. It’s my absolutely unbreakable promise to myself! I got to keep my date with the trainer starting second week of January!

There is also a set of career-related ambitions that are very important to me and 2013 will be a critical year to ensure certain milestones are achieved. It’s too early to divulge them yet, but am keeping my fingers crossed!

Before I sign off though, I want to thank (cheesy I know, but very very sincere!) Rahul, mum, Nupur, Rachna, my kiddies, all my dear friends at Vipul Greens and encouraging readers like Bharat, Sheetal, Nippo, Ananth, Swatantra, plus those many others who read all that I write on my blog. It is through the unconditional support as well as the constructive criticism that I have seen my writing evolve. I will not be writing a daily blog in 2013, but then I might! Frankly, it’s become an addiction…..

Happy New Year everyone!

Blogging helped me understand my motivation patterns- Oct 28, 2012

After nine months of being super sincere about blogging daily, in October I seem to have lost the discipline and enthusiasm to to do it every single day. Strangely, I am not even remotely guilty about it. I make no excuses and I think it’s human to experience fatigue and loss of interest in stuff even if you are passionate about it.
No one has chided me but several friends and my mum have noticed when posts go missing. And I do feel that little twinge of regret for ruining a well established routine.
When I think over the past few weeks, I feel like time passed really fast. I felt too exhausted to write some days and I was simply not making sense on others even when I tried. My thoughts are muddled, I am trying to do too many things.
But I have been intensely happy. After many months of questioning and analysing everything in my life, I feel at peace. I know this peace is tenuous, temporary. I am too restless, too critical, too hard on myself to let it linger. But I am determined to enjoy it while it lasts.
That makes me contemplate the link between dissatisfaction and art. I seem to be at my creative best when my mind is in a questioning, curious, doubting, disturbed mode. With clarity, I lose the motivation to express myself. I need to work on that. If I can stretch my energies to push in even after the period of peace and clarity set in, I will be able to deliver quality in my work, my music, my dance, my research and writing.
I know I fall short by just that little bit, in my own estimation. And through the exercise if blogging daily, I have been able to map the patterns of motivation better than before. It’s now no longer an ill defined problem, but more a specific goal that looks far more achievable.

Blogging can be truly inane! July 20, 2012

I come to blogging with a heavy baggage of having worked as a content writer for many years. For me, every blog is an article. It is something you plot, construct, fill with detail, refine. It is something you craft, something that makes a point, reflects who you are, etc. Sometimes, I confess, I have written off the top of my head and have slept with the guilt of compromise or worse, the regret of the failure of my imagination. But most times, I enjoy what I write and I think I’ve written something worthy of another’s time.

I am beginning to discover that blogosphere is deliciously and irreverently inane. I am sure others, who like me made the transition from living in the real world to being a partial inhabitant of the virtual world, have felt the same. In the virtual world, things do not need to make sense. Creatures who trawl the net aimlessly enjoy a wide variety of information and writings; intellectual content is not a preference, novelty, freshness, easily digestible, exciting content is the order of the day.

Hence, travel and food blogs, with all the yummy photographs in there, attract a lot of attention. Interestingly, the other category is this one that is random musings about life, the self, what someone did that day….little things that simply have no big picture. Note, I am not looking down on this stuff. It amazes me and impresses me that people can make the stuff in their lives inviting and exciting for other people. I often enjoy the humor and wit on such blogs.

Many of these can be utter nonsense though. I find it hard to appreciate poor language. There are sentences that trail off in dots without making any real beginning, so you cannot possibly conjure an conclusion. I hate those. There is that terribly familiar tone I dislike as well, as if everyone out there is you best pal. I’m not always sure that works. However, it is these blogs that I often cannot comprehend, that get a zillion likes!

Today, I went to the ‘freshly pressed’ pages on wordpress and saw that they had featured a rather nonsensical life-blah sort of blog that had only one entry! One single entry….and it had over 200 responses- comments, likes, whatever. Plus the pat on the back from wordpress. And I thought, ‘Oh!’.

I rest my case. Blogging can be truly inane. I guess inanity is not my talent!


Keeping motivated to blog daily: My journey thus far- May 11, 2012

Several people have reacted with incredulity to my blogging everyday. Reactions range from admiration to disbelief to some people thinking I’m not quite ok in the head.
Interestingly for me, the experience is still unfolding and I find new twists and turns on the way. In the past four months, blogging has become a habit nearly as ingrained as brushing my teeth before bed. However, proud as I am of not missing a day yet, I no longer panic about what would happen if I had no Internet or found myself in an emergency situation and skipped writing one day. In that sense, my confidence has grown. What started as a random challenge to myself, a bid to arm twist myself into achieving concrete goals, is now on its way to becoming a meaningful form of self expression that also engages others. It’s no longer about reaching the finishing line, but about finding the pulse, the subjects, the ideas within myself that drive me to write and my readers to react to my blog.
At the end of the first month of blogging, I promised myself to not get obsessed with site stats. At that point, I was worried my writing would get influenced by an analysis of readers preferences and ruin spontaneity. However, I find myself hugely motivated by site stats. Not in a negative way, though three or four consecutive days of poor numbers can worry me! I am fascinated to understand what people like to read about. Images attract people, local issues like governance and safety do too, but readers are totally turned on by unique experiences. My post on Parsi bakeries in Pune and a much older post about my relationship with Goa, my home state, have got the most reads and feedback on my blog so far!
I am heartened to find that places and geographies find such resonance and emotional connect with people across the world. I am reassured that professionals like me who work to better our cities, and specifically care about the relationship between the built environment and social fabric, are performing a vital service to humankind.
My blog has played a key role in achieving this reassurance. Blogging has therefore changed from purely a personal journey to a tool to improving my sensitivity as an urban professional and writer. I now dream of taking the next steps to involving concerned citizens and professionals together in meaningful debates on urbanism and identity, quality of life and the shared future of our cities through my blog and other media.

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