Why great blogging is like good exercising

I posted a lot on this blog all across 2008 & 2009 and for various reasons slowed it down to a trickle in 2010. And in so doing committed a cardinal sin of blogging. Inconsistency. A number of regular readers made a few quiet comments on the falling rate of posts. And when nothing changed, left.

Blogging, like exercising should be a sustainable activity. The simplest way to assess whether you are doing too much or too little exercise is to ask yourself the simple question : ‘how much exercise can I expect to reasonably do when I am 65 years old?”. Whatever the answer is, is  how much you should do today. And so with blogging.

I think my sustainable limit is 1 to 3  posts a week. I shall try to adhere to it.


Hooptedoodle 3 : Cosmo sounds

in which I promised to tuck away all things not tourism, not travel, not food & likely not of interest…

A couple of months ago I achieved the dubious distinction of becoming the last person in urban India to subscribe to Worldspace.

For those of you who have been training for a Mars mission for the last 3 years and missed out on earthbound news, Worldspace is a worldwide satellite radio that has got a huge number of subscribers in India.

I have a pretty catholic taste in music. And Worldspace indulges me no end, which I love. I close the day on either the Hindustani Classical or the Urdu channel – amazing soporifics, incidentally. And the first light of dawn (8 am or thereabouts to be more exact) brings up Shruti, the Carnatic channel. As the day progress, I then move from Country to International Amore to Classical Rock and on to Hindi flim music till I complete the circle, back in the capable hands of kishori amonkar or ghulam ali.

Religion, Spirituality and Science meet in a unique consensus on the primacy of sound in Creation – whether it is the Aum of Hinduism or the Big Bang of Physics.  And the thing that we call Music is simply the arrangement of sounds that connect us to those mysterious forces that gave us our Life.

Preservation & Conservation

I come across calls for preserving the past or conserving nature or suchlike almost everyday. And I ponder..

A few years ago I read an interesting article about the Irish diaspora. It seems the infamous potato famine in Ireland forced many an Irishman to cross the Atlantic & seek refuge in the new world of America. A couple of centuries later, their descendants, now successful plutocrats in America decided they wanted to discover their roots in Ireland. So they set out to go to Ireland of their parents & grand-parents. Unfortunately, when they got there, that Ireland of their past had gone away. The Irish had given up the old ways for what they saw as the ‘success’ of the American Irish. And much as the Americans tried, they could not convince the Irish that the old way was the better way.

For those of us who live in big cities, the countryside seems idyllic and calm and we rush to its embrace every weekend. But for those who live in the country, the bright lights of the city beckon. I know many a gentleman-farmer who pines for the City all week and runs away from the ‘dead & boring’ countryside to the City every weekend. And their happiest moment is when Café Coffee Day opens a raucous & glitzy outlet in their backyard.

So, preservation & conservation is often a matter of perspective.

Kanji to Congee

One of the enduring memories of my childhood is of having to slurp down thin rice gruel whenever I fell ill. Kanji, as rice gruel is called in Malayalam was pretty much the staple food of Kerala for a very long time. But, by the late sixties & early seventies, it had reduced to being the staple food of the less-well-off or the food one had while ill. Of course, it has now been fully supplanted in Kerala by Porotta & Chilly Beef but that is another story.

Cut to another time & another land – seated at the breakfast table. A chinese waiter points to a menu & asks whether I would like to have Congee for breakfast. I decide to try it. Turns out to be the same rice gruel, except it has bits of various meats floating around.

It became clear that the Kanji of my childhood and the Congee of my travels were basically the same thing. So I decided to do some historical research to figure out where it all started. The question was : did Kanji start in kerala and move to china or vice-versa?

The answer turned out to be a surprising one – neither. It seems, Kanji was an ancient dish of the Tamil people. During the colonial conquests of the Tamils, Kanji was shipped out to South East Asia. It struck firm roots in the Malay lands, where it was picked up by Chinese settlers. It is these Malay chinese who took the Tamil kanji to their homeland and made it Congee.

Tamil culture is one of the most ancient in the world. With their strong history of colonising adventures across Asia, the Tamils have spread Indian cultural idioms across the East Asian region. Kanji is just one of those. So, if you have’nt had Kanji yet, do try it. It is vintage India.

Tilting at windmills

This is the longest I have seen you enjoy tilting at a windmill“. A few days ago, an old friend made this casual comment that made me introspect a bit. Let me explain.

This aforementioned friend has maintained that I am forever chasing difficult to impossible (to even possibly foolish) ventures. When I look back, there seems to be something in this. You see, my jobs whether they were in start-ups or in big companies always involved conceptualising something new and setting it up. Not that it has been a conscious process; but it has inevitably been the outcome. Must be that I like the ‘moulding clay’ nature of ambiguity that surrounds a venture or an initiative. Or maybe it allows me the freedom to express my two dominant character flaws – the need to be creative & the desire to triumph as an underdog. Unfortunately, it has a flip side. Like falling in love, once the rush of ambiguity is over and the venture is up & running smoothly, usually in less than three years from the start, I lose all interest in it.

So when I decided to set up a project to help our countrymen find good information on their path to becoming some of the world’s most avid travellers, sceptically raised eyebrows were par on course. But, I have been resolutely at it for three years now and I am still enjoying it throughly – ready to go on. Seems to me there are many more hills to climb on this one. That does surprise me somewhat.

John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley is the best travelogue – probably even the best book – I have ever read. In that, the camper van he travels in is called Rocinante, which was Don Quixote’s mount while he went tilting at windmills. If that isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is..

Hooptedoodle 0

John Steinbeck introduced, what I consider to be one of the niftiest ideas for authors – the Hooptedoodle chapter. All writers occasionally want to break out of the main plot of whatever they are writing and wander about a bit. Obviously, that can be a bit of a strain on a reader who wants to quickly know whether x killed y or A ran off with D. So Steinbeck introduced the Hooptedoodle chapter.

Here is how Mack explains this in a prologue to Sweet Thursday (among the best 5 books I have read – ever).

“Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. The guy’s writing it, give him a chance to do a little hooptedoodle. Spin up some pretty words maybe, or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up in the story. So if the guy that’s writing it wants hooptedoodle, he ought to put it right at first. Then I can skip if I want, or maybe go back to it after I know how the story came out.”

So that is what I am going to do – all those things I need to broadcast, but I think you might not want to know, will henceforth be introduced in my Hooptedoodle posts. A bit narcissistic perhaps; but what the heck – if JS can do it, so can I.

ok – here is my first Hooptedoodle post

The world has two views

Just finished reading a recent post from a Kuwaiti blogger. The lady is evidently western-educated, most-likely western-reared and the post was about watching Indian movies. She does not like Indian movies and is forced to occasionally watch them, because all her friends in Kuwait do. Here is a classic case of the western sensibility at odds with the new, increasingly confident, Asian ‘feel’. As many of us have heard by now, Rajnikant, the Tamil movie superstar has a loyal following in Japan – another instance of an Asian-Asian cultural nexus that bye-passes the west.

I have noticed a similar dichotomy in user opinion on travel. On HolidayIQ, a lot of traveler comments are from Indians. I now find it really interesting to compare these comments with stuff on predominantly ‘western’ sites such as Tripadvisor & Igougo. The difference is palpable. For the same destination and often for the same hotel, reviews on HolidayIQ are quite different from the traveler views in these other sites. The sensibilities are different & therefore, so are the opinions.

More than anything else, this brings home to me the reality that the world is no more west-centric; the multi-polar globe has arrived. The old certainities built on a hierarchy that puts everything ‘western’ on top is clearly under threat. Young, confident & well-off people across vast swathes of Asia & (eventually) Africa will increasingly determine a new set of realities.

It is in this world that Indian films and Indian tourism stand to gain. After all, the sensibilities of the billion (largely young) people of India seem to find a resonance in many parts of the globe. All we need to do is to conscientiously service this demand.

For HolidayIQ, I think the opportunity to create a pan-Asian viewpoint on travel is, I believe, very real.