Back in the day writers would sit in coffee shops, discussing new styles, themes and subject matter – this was an old school phenomenon that enhanced modern literary movements as monumental as the Beat Generation… Today we facebook, we tweet, we g-talk, we blog, and while this maybe fast track communication, one can’t help but ask, where has the intimacy disappeared?
When I came across Mind Blogs 1.0, I thought hmmm and had a few doubts… it seemed to me that perhaps the concept was corrupting the print form with content that’s meant to be read on the internet. Yet, after reading the book and doing a little research on the background – I was pleasantly surprised. For starters, thought it was incredibly evocative how the book was conceptualized. The image of a trio of writers, sitting in Bangalore’s oldest and most celebrated coffee house discussing writing and publishing was an image I found to be classic. Gone are the days where we discuss literature over a hot cup of coffee, but with Mind Blogs, the back-story was truly reminiscent of a bygone era.
Mind Blogs 1.0 is made up of a collection of blog posts (surprise!), with a variety of topics that comment on professional and life experiences, the good, bad and ugly of society, anecdotes on the power of media, as well as reliving and recollecting childhood memories. The three authors, Christina, Nirmala and Zahid definitely have something special going for them. Special because they utilize all the strengths of post-modern writing and at the same time maintain a retro vibe in their approach, and this gives the book a refreshing balance.
Each segment is short and sweet just as blog posts are meant to be. Sometimes the subject matter is biting, sometimes with bursts of humour, sometimes purely nostalgic. There are twists and turns and didactic conclusions, essentially there’s a bit of everything in the Mind Blogs collection. What makes the book distinct, we have three unique voices ranting, raving, reminiscing – it’s very personal and equally charming. The stories are Bangalore-centric, yet at the same time, what is discussed and the messages delivered are universal. Being Indian, you can’t help but relate to the various tales.
You will bashfully connect with Zahid when he talks about chasing skirt through traffic, you will empathize with Christina when she discusses job interviews from hell and you won’t know whether to laugh or cry when you read Nirmala’s take on fairness creams… Dubbed as a ‘pioneering new art form – from blog to book’, Mind Blogs 1.0 is intimate and entertaining. It hits the nail on the head in convincing us that there are blogs which deserve to see print, and it seems clear that a new movement in publication has been formed…
In an exclusive interview with Flipkart, Christina Daniels, Nirmala Govindarajan and Zahid Javali talk about their book Mind Blogs 1.0, how they differ as writers, their love for Bangalore city and more…
How did the three of you get together and how was the Mind Blogs concept developed?
Nirmala: So, I was sitting in Koshy’s one evening, and talking of how, I must bring out a book of these random writings that I’d like Gen Now to read. So I asked Christina, and then Zahid whether they’d like to be part of the mission – and they got hooked on!
Can you tell us about your writing backgrounds?
Zahid: I am a reporter-turned-editor-cum-writer, and in the business of bringing out tabloids, magazines and newspapers since 1996. My last post was as City Editor of MiD DAY in Bangalore. Today, I am consulting editor/writer for publications in US, Singapore and India, besides running my own custom publishing firm, Write Wing Media that also brought out this book.
Christina: I would describe myself as a Communications professional. As a writer, I have worked over the last 10 years in different fields like Corporate Communication, Training, New Media, E-learning, Print Journalism, Developmental Communication and Research. I currently work on Marketing Communications for a US-based multinational corporation. My first novel Ginger Soda Lemon Pop was published in 2007 by Dronequill Publications.
Nirmala: Both Zahid and Christina are bloggers, while I’m hardly online! Most of my writings in the book have been passed around as emails to friends, and published as first personal articles and middles. Poetry comes easiest to me… and in whatever, I write, like with all the other things I do, I’d like to reach out to people and the society.
As writers and the views presented in this book, how do you differ and how are you similar?
Zahid: I differ in the sense that I am the only male voice in the book who brings his no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase kind of approach, which readers find to be almost thriller-like. Essentially, I love to tell a good story. Since much of the story happens to be true, the story becomes more relatable.
Christina: We are similar in that we all writers and Bangaloreans. I differ from the other two writers as the only non-journalistic voice in the book. My concerns are that of the average ‘thirty-something’ professional who lives and works in IT City Bangalore or possibly any of India’s big cities.
Nirmala: Christina is a very introspective writer and Zahid is on-the-go — a journo in every sense of the word. I’m a journo, but more a writer – a creature of the societal web, the cross-sections don’t matter.
With three authors – what exactly is the format of this book?
Nirmala: It’s a coming together of three minds, with diverse experience, but a common goal to ask Gen Now to stand up at look at all those small things that make life so beautiful!
Christina: The book is a series of contemporary conversations that takes the format of a blog.
Zahid: The book is a series of essays and anecdotes about things happening around us and within ourselves. The book speaks to Gen Now as much as it does to those who are way past their salad days.
What is it about Bangalore city that makes it unique and special compared to the other metros in India and why the focus in your book?
Zahid: The book might be about people living in Bangalore. That we are all Bangalore writers is incidental. The real thrust is that the stories are universal in their appeal. I talk about how I was made a bakra (fool) on MTV. Now that could happen to anybody anywhere in the world. Similarly, Nirmala talks about her home deity. Now many cultures have such a system in the world. In much the same vein, Christina talks about the different kinds of species she meets during job interviews. So what’s special about the book is that it talks about human experiences.
Nirmala: It’s versatile. The people make it so. It’s large, yet a cozy nook in the midst of south India. It’s an island in an ocean… where every traveller would like to stop by and make it his/her home some day.
What are some of the topics that are addressed in Mind Blogs 1.0?
Zahid: Oh, just about anything under the sun… from chasing skirts and earlobes to seeking eyeballs, child labour, saffronisation of Indian television, school life, racial discrimination, impressionism, regional angst, communal riots, Bollywood, professional assassins, love, loneliness, job interviews, god, and Valentine’s Day, among others. So you see that the subjects are diverse, but each story carries a certain resonance that will remain with the readers long after they’ve read the book.
Nirmala: It talks of child labour, scooters, kula devathas, respect for elders, school teachers, building bridges – to last, watching out for the girl in red, experimenting with earlobes and exploring love.
Blogging over the past decade has exploded into a phenomenon in which everybody can take up ‘the mighty pen’ – what has blogging come to represent for the three of you?
Zahid: I have been blogging for the last five years on Bollywood, technology, people, places, things… So blogging is all about free expression and limitless transmission. Anybody can read it anywhere in the world and react to what I say about a certain event, person, place or thing. It’s the most democratic form of literary expression you could ever ask for.
Christina: Blogging for me is a fun activity and a great stress buster. Over the last five years, my blog functions as an online journal that I use to collaborate with other fellow writers.
Nirmala: Does not apply to me because I am not an avid blogger like the other two.
Mind Blogs 1.0 is described as ‘pioneering new art form – from blog to book’ – you have started a new trend, at the same time, shouldn’t blog content essentially be a free source of content?
Zahid: Agreed, but blogs do generate revenue through paid posts and online advertising. We can’t replicate that model to print. So we are only asking our readers to pay for the costs involved and nothing more, so we can keep it non-commercial.
Nirmala: What we have here are Mind Blogs… they may or may not have been online earlier! Paying for thoughts that’ll make you think is like bride price – you learn to value the bride!
One of the most important aspects of blogging is the ability to directly interact with your readers, obviously with a book it works a little different. How have you guys innovated the marketing and accessibility of the book so that you are directly in touch with your readers?
Zahid: Good question. We have a page in the book that asks our readers to post their blogs to us, so we can put it up on our book blog. If we like them a lot, they could even go into the sequel of the book as guest bloggers. The blog tells the reader everything there is to know about the book, about the authors and how they can buy the book and be part of the next. To have the book delivered to their door, you can buy the book online through Flipkart.com. If you prefer an Ebook, you could download it off Pothi.com in India or Amazon.com if it’s on your Kindle.
Christina: In addition to the blog that we are running along with the book, we also have a Facebook group where readers could communicate with other readers and the authors of the book.
Nirmala: We’d like to take it to as many colleges as possible to interact with Gen Now.
The book has been published through your own publishing house – Write Wing Media; the pros and cons of being your own publisher?
Zahid: That’s just me. I am the publisher. It’s just that I have co-authored with Christina and Nirmala who have no stake in the company. I am merely bringing out a book for them as part of my custom publishing firm. I will bring out books of anyone who I feel is good enough to get published.
What kind of other work and writers can we expect from Write Wing Media – (great name by the way!)?
Zahid: Thank you. You will see many more books coming out of my stable. It could be reprints of popular books and newcomers. It could be more books from the three of us.
Nirmala: Short stories, novels perhaps, an encyclopaedia of nonsense rhymes to start a bright day… perhaps!
Preparing for Mind Blogs 2.0 – you guys are looking for guest bloggers to feature in the sequel, can you tell us more about this initiative?
Nirmala: The forum is open, people can write in… and before we decide to publish 2.0, we’ll select the best three.
Three books that have changed your life and why?
Zahid: Practicing The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle – it gives you the blueprint to live life, king size without the frills associated with kingship. Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4th by Sue Townsend – love the grown-up humour emanating from a child; it’s insightful, at times laugh-out-loud funny and memorable. Mind Magic by Betty Shine – it exposed me to a whole new world – the human mind – and how each of us can heal our life if we want to.
Christina: As a teenager, Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl was a book that impacted me with its desire to make the world a better place. As a young adult, Hugh Prather’s ‘Notes to Myself’ was a book that changed my approach to life. In more recent times, Herman Hesse’s ‘Narcissus and Goldmund’ caused me to question many of the assumptions that I had lived with for the last 30 years.
Nirmala: Alice in Wonderland – life is so much larger than me! PG Wodehouse – laugh it off, it’s all that matters! Shakespeare – what’s life without words? Ruskin Bond’s writings – it’s all in the small things. Peter Colaco’s ‘Bangalore’ – a Bangalore dimension to Ruskin.
What are some of the blogs that you regularly check out for its quality content?
Zahid: Digital-photography-school.com – it gives a layman’s guide to photography and also a great way to know other photographers. Quickonlinetips.com – it gives you handy tips on blogging, computers and how-to tips on technology. Alootechie.com – it keeps me updated on everything happening online.
Christina: I find the blogs of fellow writers to be most inspiring. Two blogs that I have followed with some dedication over time have been The Twins & I and I Think… Therefore I am.
What books are you currently reading?
Zahid: Mind Maps by Tony Buzan, Byline by MJ Akbar, The Arabian Nights by Andrew Lang, Complete Original Short Stories by Guy de Maupassant and The Sherlock Holmes Collection.
Christina: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
Nirmala: Footsteps by Katherine McMohan, Politically Correct Holiday Stories by James Finn Garner and No Full Stops in India by Mark Tully.