Friday, 17 October 2014

Beyond the Maharashtrian Boundaries...

Earlier this week, I was asked to collaborate with a blogger from a different region and discover interesting things about each other's cultures. I thought really hard about all the blogger-friends I had and then I remembered my friend, Purujeet Parida from Odisha. I have been a Mumbaikar ever since I was a toddler and have never been to his part of the world. I knew instantly that THIS was my golden opportunity to ask him about his sphere and get to know more about life in Odisha. Before I continue, I want you to meet Purujeet -

Purujeet traveling with his rucksack

Purujeet (who blogs at hails from Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha. (It's funny how I was born in the adjacent state of West Bengal, but never had the chance to visit Odisha.) His life wasn't the typical city-life you'd expect from a capital city. I bombarded him with a million questions on his culture and school-life, and learnt how different his life was from mine. (I have spent most of my years in Mumbai and haven't experienced half the things he has.) There are many fascinating things about this guy, but I want to share with you two important questions I asked him (and his answers to those). These were important to me to understand the specific differences between Odisha and Maharashtra.

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My first question: 

How and why do you blog?

Purujeet's answer: 

I write for many reasons- to relax, to introspect, to vent. Most of it never sees a page on my blog, but it all contributes to the worldview and purpose behind every actual post I make.

I blog about things that move me. It is easy to find expression for emotion that is already churning within, for questions, issues and ironies all around me. I try my hand at poetry if I feel rational arguments may not be the best way to tackle my idea, my emotion. Whether the poems are any good, I cannot say, but it moved me to write them and feel my raging thoughts lay purring upon the page. I can only hope it ignites a remotest spark of similar passion in my reader.

But my blog is also my way to practice writing because I am always working on side projects which are usually fiction and mostly sci-fi. Writing a real-life blog keeps my compass pointed earthwards. There is some fiction on the blog as well, but very less hard Science Fiction.

My second question:

What is the perception of blogging in Odisha?

Purujeet's answer:

The perception of blogging in Odisha is nascent at its best. It is not surprising considering the superficial penetration of internet in the society. While the empowered masses are vocal and alive online, there is a vast majority of people ignorant of this wondrous new mass-media who tip the scale unfavourably against blogging. The average Odia person would not read blogs for reviews on products, travel packages, etc. before buying them. The average Odia person would rely on any blog a little less than they would on the punctuality of the Indian railways.

This is slowly but surely changing. More and more Odia bloggers and vloggers are getting viewers and recognition online. There are many cooking and singing channels on Youtube run by Odia bloggers. The hoary perception about the nature and purpose of blogging though, is persistent.

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Purujeet's amusing answers made me introspect. So, I decided to answer my own questions. 

How and why do I blog?

I blog because I love to write. I feel that writing gives me wings. I express myself best in the written word. Writing gives me the time and space to expand my thoughts and articulate what otherwise would remain the real-world equivalent of a tweet (no offence to Twitter... I completely love tweeting in the virtual world). This is the basic reason why I tap away at my keyboard and polish my pieces till they make me smile. 

Another reason is that I aspire to become a full-time travel-writer. I aim to write extensively about travel and my experiences with different cultures, cuisines and creatures. I mostly use this blog as personal space to write about anything and everything under the sun - short-stories, reviews of books and products, random thoughts and experiences and whatever else you can think of. But I also have another blog - Oindrila Goes Footloose, my travel blog, which I only use for travel-related posts. (Most people who know me also know that I'm a travel-addict!)

What is the perception of blogging in Maharashtra?

Maharashtra, and specifically Mumbai, is probably the best place to be as an Indian blogger. Mumbai is a blogger and vlogger's paradise. There are numerous bloggers in this city. You will run into at least one blogger if you walk into any cafe with free wifi! My own office has a handful of bloggers. Whether or not people blog regularly, they have their own blog (and most have their own domain).

This is also where most of the blogging contests and meets happen! It really helps to live in a metro as you have easy and frequent access to exclusive blogging conferences and events. Quite a few Maharashtrians make a living solely by blogging and promoting their pieces! Blogging is seen as a serious career option by many progressive-minded youngsters (and even people in their golden years). This region blogs about everything - food, travel, books, movies and experiences! Also, blogging here comes in many flavours with people taking to video blogging (on Youtube), photo-blogging (on Instagram), microblogging (on Twitter), location-blogging (via Fourquare/Swarm and Facebook), fitness-blogging (via Nike Plus Running or Endomondo) and of course, plain-vanilla old-school blogging (which is what yours truly is doing right now ;-) ).

There are those people who still scoff at the concept of blogging and dismiss it as some kind of hobby or means to while time away, but perceptions about blogging are evolving rapidly, and the blogger-tribe is gaining more respect. As most brands launch their own blogs and look for good writers, our ilk is set to soar to newer heights! What is highly encouraging is the fact that the people here love to keep themselves informed and well prepared about everything. They never book movie-tickets without reading at least 5 reviews. They scrounge through travel-posts before selecting their next vacation-destination. They check restaurant-reviews even if they're stuck in the middle of nowhere with only one eatery to cater to them! (OK, that was an exaggeration. But you get the drift!)

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Having this conversation with Purujeet and myself opened my eyes to the differences in the choices and reasoning of people from two different parts of India. This beautiful diversity is why my country has the opportunity for every kind of product or experience - there's always somebody who'll love what you have to offer!

This post is part of "Beyond Boundaries" at in association with INK 2014.

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