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Ruminations on blogging, looking out to 2016!

Why do we blog? Because we have something to say, perhaps. Or a lot to say. Or something we think only we can say. Or because we want to find words to express what we think and observe.

Why do I blog? My blog has been as much a journey into myself as a documentation of what I see and do. It’s been an exercise in self-discipline or a mechanism to unravel and see patterns in the complex and intertwined conversations I have with myself.

I’ve also used my blog to set goals for myself and monitor them. Fitness, self-discipline, my journey in dance, travel targets and even career goals have found mention on this blog. New year resolutions too (2012-1, 2012-2, 2013) have been made and then assessed here. The blogosphere has been my confidante, my sounding board and my shoulder to cry on board, but it has also been my gauge!

Despite my blog’s pre-eminent place in my life, I haven’t written a lot on it this past year. A little over a year ago, I realized my posts were crossing several distinct themes. So I re-arranged my blog thematically, hoping to make it easier not just for visitors, but for me, to understand my own blogging behaviour. It’s been interesting to see that posts with a personal take are most visited, followed by those linked with my work in urban planning and policy.

Today, I’m at a crossroads and wondering where to take ramblinginthecity. Should it continue to be a personal exploration or take on a more knowledge-based position? Should I open it out to more voices or hone my own voice to be more powerful and much sharper? Should more academic content be on it at all, or find a new space elsewhere? Lots of questions!

As the first month of the year draws to an end, I can see 2016 is going to be the busiest and most exciting year I’ve ever had work-wise. I do hope I’ll be able to take my blog along with me on my new adventures. I fear it will be hard. I fear it will drop off on the wayside. But if it’s really come to occupy that space of the voice-in-my-head, I’m confident it will find new and interesting connections with my life! To another year of blogging……..

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!

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Our feet ached wonderfully everyday…Mulling about how to write my Summer 2014 travelogue

We walked and walked till our feet ached everyday…

This sort of sums up our summer Europe travels to The Netherlands and Germany. It is also a commentary on the wonderful ease of walking in European cities, something that never ceased to amaze Udai, who celebrated his tenth birthday during the vacation. Aadyaa’s boundless energy continued to delight us. We were right in assuming she is now old enough to be a proper type tourist, we told ourselves in congratulatory tones!

Perhaps it was the ideal temperature or the infectious happiness of being on holiday, but each evening we still had the energy to turn on the TV to cheer our favourite players and teams at Roland Garros and FIFA 2014. Of course, Team Oranje’s (Dutch) two fantastic wins against Spain and Australia as well as Germany’s good fortunes in those first few matches would not have been possible without Udai and Rahul’s lusty yells and Aadyaa’s somersaults!

And thus start my posts about our travels. In the season when travelogues inundate blogosphere (and FB is flooded with happy family pics that have the power to make you laugh or howl, depending on your state of mind while viewing), I’m hoping my accounts of our Europe trip will both entertain and inform. In 2011, when I returned from Barcelona after our first long summer vacation with both children (then 7 and 3), I was new to blogging and had compressed my experiences into one single, long post addressing one single theme. By our 2012 Istanbul couple trip, I had learnt to break the experience up into smaller easier-to-digest posts that carried more pictures. Earlier this year, I recorded my girly road trip with my two besties in a chronological-cum-thematic way. This time round, I’ve chosen to not blog real-time and am mulling the best way to write my travelogue, wanting to give it a fresh twist that I’m yet to find. Wish me luck and keep your eyes peeled for the many posts that are bound to follow!

The Voice inside my head

“You can’t keep reblogging other people’s posts, no matter how interesting or relevant they may be! Where’s all the original writing?”, hissed the Voice inside my head today. I didn’t listen. Gave it the Royal Ignore. I’m usually good at that.

But it was terribly persistent, that Voice. Call it The Conscience, that entity whose existence Udai completely denies on a conceptual level!

So why am I not blogging enough? God knows a zillion thoughts mill around my head. My comrade in arms, my iphone 4S, poor baby, is aging and no longer able to keep up with my demands for clicking photos of interesting sights from a moving car! But that’s a poor excuse. I’m just worded out nowadays. Writing for a living does that to you. It takes away all my verve and when I sit down to write on my blog, that wonderful non-judgemental space I am most comfortable in, my second skin, no words come to me.

When I was writing everyday, I would open the ‘New Post’ tab and sit in front of the blank screen till the words flowed. But now, the other voices in my head, the demons, start reading out a long list of deadlines and commitments. Too much clutter! I need to emerge from it, I know.

And so I thanked the Voice and began to type. It’s not that hard. It may not make sense, but I can fill the page regardless 🙂

Introducing Udai’s blog!

It may look like an obscure name, but it’s not. UD is what many of his peers call him and that’s why Udai’s blog is called theamazingUD. Check out his first attempt at blogging at http://theamazingud.wordpress.com

Clearly, mommy is the instigator. Now let’s see how long this lasts and what comes out of it!

Blogging with a vengeance in 2014. Watch out! #creativity #strategy

Every New Year, I blog about my achievements from the last year and expectations from the one ahead. This year, I have spent two days reading multiple posts from my blogger friends across the world that speak to this theme. It’s infectious, the New Year spirit. But this time, I’m going to spend some more time thinking and writing about each thought separately starting with my special love, blogging!

I blogged everyday in 2012 and less, but perhaps more meaningfully in 2013. I saw my blog as a release in 2012, but as a forum for  introspective communication in 2013. I saw readers grow in 2012, but traffic boom in 2013. It’s been an incredible journey of reaching out to people of all types, in many locations.

Many a time through the last year, I have ruminated on whether I need to section out my blog into two or three parts dedicated to work, self-reflection and anecdotal/journalistic writing. But I find that very hard to do because most of my posts are a little bit of everything. That’s how my life is too- people, ideas and thoughts run into each other, weave in and out of each other. On some days, it’s really hard to synthesize out of all the intertwined grey matter in my head thoughts that are sharp, relevant and intelligible! And so, my blog remains the way it is for another year. A significant part of my work-related writing will move to other forums this year and only shared/reblogged here, so that will be a change anyway.

What do I want to change about my writing though? Certainly, I want to write more frequently. I want to ramble less and introduce brevity to my posts. A tad less perhaps because there is value to rambling I know! I also want to write fiction, something that has been playing on my mind for a long time, though that may need that separate section or a separate blog entirely perhaps. I also want to vary my media when I blog- embed videos, use photographs more creatively- and see how that works. It’s time to get more creative and strategic with my blog and that sort of is my overall theme for everything I do in 2014. Excited!

Excited to be off to Dhanachuli. Kumaon, here I come!

It’s a few hours before I take a train into the hills. Particularly, I love Kumaon, having visited the area a few times as a child and recently as well. I am already imagining stepping off the train and getting borne into the breezy, green mountainsides of Mukteshwar and beyond to Dhanachuli.

I am taking my first trip after the massive floods the Himalayan regions experiences earlier this year.  Part of the motivation of the Blogger’s Meet being organized by Te Aroha is, as I understand it, to imbibe to aftermath of this traumatic event and try and understand what it has meant for people who live here and work here. Life is hard in the hills and hill people exhibit the patience and solidity of a civilization that has nurtured the attributes of patience and perseverance. A natural disaster tests their limits and I am curious to see how these lovely people have coped. Kumaon, particularly, is perceived to have not received adequate media attention or relief efforts despite being as affected and vulnerable.

I am also excited to experience Te Aroha, which I have heard and read so much about. I hear it’s more like a work of love than a resort and that is such a tantalizing description anyway.

My bags are packed and I’m ready to go…. do watch my blog for thoughts and observations, and pictures of course from Dhanachuli!

Meanwhile, here are two of my older posts from my trip to this region in January this year…

Portraits from Ramgarh and Nainital

Skygazing at Ramgarh and surrounds

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.

Let’s be honest, blogging is about getting the pats on the back! Reflections after talking at a Techmoms event- Sep 26, 2012

When I started writing my blog, a part of me craved recognition through it. After all, I was in the middle of changing careers and achievements seemed far away within the folds of my career path. Also, I was heartily sick of donning the journo hat, covering events, writing about what other people (many of whom I thought were complete idiots, even though they headed companies their fathers and grandfathers had started!) said or thought and even ghost writing articles for others. I wanted to be written about, talked about, discussed, admired, looked up to.

Of course, once I started blogging regularly, I put all of that ambition on the back burner and got into the business of making the blog work. For me first and then for my readers. Its taken a lot of sincerity and discipline to blog daily and certainly, it’s helped me grow as a writer and as a person. Simultaneously, my return to urban planning as a career worked out beautifully and I get immense satisfaction from what I do at mHS as well. I must appreciate the enabling and flexible environment mHS has provided to me to be able to work and write and do a million other things at the same time and the trust vested in me to go ahead and tackle projects, presentations and situations for mHS on my own.

But to get back to the issue of recognition… It felt really good to be on a public forum talking about my journey as a blogger today. Thanks to Fleximoms and Intel, who sponsored the Techmoms seminar today in Delhi.

It’s the passion that makes a blog(ger) tick!

It struck me that bloggers come from diverse backgrounds and come to blogging from very different places. Yet, there seem a few things in common. Honesty, a true desire to explore one’s own feelings and experience, a need to share. Blogging induces in a person a certain quality of self-reflection that we otherwise tend to miss in our daily lives. In that sense, it is like writing a diary. Even though it might be about a specific subject, a blog is usually about something the blogger is passionate about and so it works as a medium to express a suppressed or alternate or emerging personality. It was fascinating to hear from other women, and men too, how career choices change depending on the stage of life you are in. Because you want different things at different points.

Dealing with an overly connected world

And yes, it is indeed magical that technology and a changing world that offers multiple possibilities, allows us to make those changes in our careers. Reinvent ourselves. Grow.

Growing up, I watched my mother struggle to balance her numerous interests and passions with work. I couldn’t help admire her for being able to pursue so many of her hobbies, even if one at a time, with a demanding career (she’s a doc) and family demands. For our parents’ generation, a professional education was a highly respected thing and it demanded that you respect its boundaries as well. Security of employment was paramount and work and hobby were two distinct zones in your life.

For me, everything is intertwined and inter-related. It’s a world of busy chaos, where I sift through the rubble of my mind, picking up one piece of stone on one day and another relic on the other hand. At times, it all comes together in a clear, orchestrated set of activities that make connections with each other. At other times, things fly in opposing directions and I watch amused and exasperated, or frustrated and angry!

But that’s life! Through the activity of blogging and the clarity I need in my head to write about what I experience and feel everyday, I now see that the ups and downs have to be lived through. Knowing does not make it easier when you are low, but the blog gives me that small thing to look forward to, that tiny push that I need to haul myself out and put the smile back on my face again.

The hardest bit is being true to oneself, always

Another thing I heard at the event was that the world of social networking is an intrusive one. Definitions of privacy are changing and it’s hard to understand and manage our online lives. Often our personal experiences and actions are questioned unnecessarily and we are expected to be politically correct all the time. That can be tiring and plain unreal. Blogging allows us to be what we are and it’s something bloggers should never ever compromise on.

Ultimately its about what you want from your blog…

I don’t really know where I am going with my blog. I do know that once 2012 is over, I will have to reduce my frequency of blogging and go into a more reflective mode. I cannot sustain this intensity. But I also know that clear themes are emerging on this blog that can be explored separately or one by one. On the blog or off of it. It depends on how much of my life I want to devote to writing I suppose.

Other bloggers on the forum were heading for being published, writing books and other forms of recognition through their writing and knowledge. For me, I’m not yet sure what the next steps are.

But I do know that as long as I enjoy writing, I will do so. I cannot thank enough the people who read my blog and even though I didn’t believe in this sort of stuff before, I do sense the energies flowing in from the good wishes and critical appreciation of my readers. Every now and then, someone unexpected from my extended world of acquaintances pops up with a reference to my blog and it makes it that much more exciting to be a blogger! In the end I guess, despite the high brow fundas about self-improvement and personal journeys, it’s all about the pats on the back 🙂 At least for me, let me be honest, it always has been…

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