1999, the year of rabbit, the year of Matrix was also the year when someone started blogging. India is the world’s largest, oldest, continuous civilization but many Indians think about India in a framework given by the West. He wanted to change this perception in his own way and started a blog called ‘The Rediscovery of India‘. We are pleased to welcome Sandeep at your Adda, where for the first time you are going to see the face behind the name. Are you ready? Read on.
Q: When and why did you start blogging?
A: Sometime in late 1999. I was on a free service called weblogs.com. It’s hard to answer the “why” part of your question without sounding cliched but let me try. Honestly, blogging was a new thing back then and I thought I’d give it a try.
Q: What topics do you generally blog about?
A: Most topics releated to India including ancient Indian history, Contemporary Politics, a bit of Hindu philosophy, Art, and Culture.
Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? What do you do then?
A: Do you mean if I get stuck in the middle of writing a blog entry or are you talking about what’s called the writer’s block? I’ll assume it’s the former. Once I’ve begun writing a post, I rarely get stuck. My approach is to write everything in one go and revisit it multiple times to fine tune it until I’m satisfied. If I do get stuck, I simply stare at the screen or close my eyes or drink water or do other stuff to distract me. When I return, I usually find that my groove has returned, so to say.
Q: The Rediscovery of India is your blog’s title. A very interesting name. Why did you opt for this name? What was the purpose behind ‘rediscovering India’?
A: The answer to this question is in this post. In a line, I’ve named it so because majority of urban Indians think about India in a framework given by the West, which is erroneous to say the least. I’ve explained this in detail in the article that I’ve above.
Q: Tell us something more about you and your profession. Is your education background related to journalism/media?
A: I have a background in Accounting and now work as a technology profession. And no, I haven’t gone to any media/journalism school.
Q: The list of the Most Loathsome People of India in 2007 and again in 2010, was a very nice compilation. Who makes it to the list of 2011?
A: Thank you. It’s not my original idea. I acknowledge my gratitude to Buffalo Beast who compile a similar list year after year. Here’s their list for 2010. Who makes it to the list in 2011 is something you have to wait until November-December.
Q: When and how did your interest in News & Media develop? What is the future of Indian media, according to you? What things would you suggest to Indian media, so that they can gain more trust and credibility of their viewers and readers?
A: Around the 2001-2002 timeframe. I honestly can’t predict the future of the entire Indian media but in the foreseeable future, it’s going to take repeated beatings in terms of trust and credibility. To be really blunt, the Indian media behaviour doesn’t hold itself to the standards that it expects others to adhere to, and behaves arrogantly even when genuine questions are posed to it. It is way too partisan towards one particular political party and over the last 5 or so years, it has displayed this partisanship pretty blatantly. It’s been late in catching up with technology and in large pockets of the media, a jaded mindset continues to prevail. Like the saying goes, it takes only one act to lose trust and credibility forever. No matter what amends it makes, readers will always have that pinprick of mistrust based on past experience. I’m sorry if I sound deeply cynical but my cynicism is well-grounded.
The way the media can regain trust and credibility, is to firmly adhere to the dictum of ‘honesty is the best editorial policy’. Instead of not publishing dissenting views on its pages, it needs to provide space for every view whether it conforms to the edit policy or no. Instead of out-shouting and sending legal notices to people who disagree and criticize it, it must take a balanced, reasoned and open-minded approach to criticism. Lastly, it must stop taking its readers’ intelligence for granted. Talking WITH the reader, not talking down TO the reader is a healthy approach.
Q: Which media houses, in print and electronic, do you follow, that deliver apt news? Who are your favorite news & media writers/journalists and why?
A: If it’s the English media you’re talking about, I trust the Daily Pioneer. The print version isn’t available where I live so I depend on the electronic format. Recently, I’ve come to trust DNA, and FirstPost. I don’t have favourites but in no particular order, I enjoy reading Christopher Hitchens, John Dolan, Matt Taibbi, Kanchan Gupta, Swapan Dasgupta, Arun Shourie (when he writes, which is sparse of late), M J Akbar, Rajeev Srinivasan, Claude Arpi, Francois Gautier, Sandhya Jain, and to an extent, R Jagannathan. There’s no one reason why I like these writers. Some I like because of their analysis, others for the sheer pleasure of reading finely-crafted prose, and still others for how they follow up and present a story.
Q: You listed the things to hate about The Nehruvian India, in one of your posts. What are the things one can love about this country? Which are the political/media characters you love to comment on and why?
A: There are plenty of things to love about this country and I can’t obviously list them all in this space. The foremost thing that one can and I dare say, one must love about India is its cultural unity, which is unparalleled anywhere in the world. From this cultural unity flows everything else. It is this cultural unity that prompted the first stirrings for the freedom struggle. It is what prompted a freedom fighter to tell a British official that he was not afraid to die because he had read the Bhagavad Gita. As for political and media characters that I love to comment on, the list is far too long. You can read a few of my posts to get a general idea.
Q: India has entered its 64th year of Independence. What are the noteworthy things that are etched in your memory about India after its independence?
A: It depends on whether you mean “noteworthy” in the positive or negative sense because there are few positive things that have happened since 1947. Among the good things, we’ve had the green revolution (which has sadly been undone), the milk revolution, the nuclear tests, a reasonably good defence force, the economic liberalization, and the rise of an alternative political formation to the Congress party.
Q: My incessant hollering have begun to sound pointless to me. I even contemplate shutting this blog down – This was penned by you in one of your posts of 2007. You also stated the reasons on why you feel so. In the retrospective, do you think things have improved now? Do you still harbour such thoughts?
A: Ha ha ha. Yes. Sometimes. I believe that no lasting change can come overnight and I don’t believe that a revolution can dramatically alter things for the better. It could simply be a case of substituting one tyrant for the other. Improvement takes time and may take a few generations to fully bear fruit. But yes, there are times when I have these thoughts.
Q: Reservations and Anna Hazare are among the topics that are hogging the headlines now. Both the issues have two sides to it, and most people often miss to know the other side of the story. What is your stance on these subjects?
A: Reservations is a subject that needs to be dealt at in detail and not in the space of an interview like this. But in general, a claim to any sort of privilege owing out of victimhood should not become a right. Which is what reservations have become over the past 60+ years. As for Anna Hazare, here’s a post explaining my perspective. I believe Anna himself is a good man but he’s being used by people who want to further their self interests. His movement is ill-advised because an extra-constitutional body to ‘oversee’ and/or ‘check’ corruption doesn’t bode well for a democracy.
Q: There are very few scenarios where one can see the youth of India joining politics. What are the reasons for which they are not willing to enter it? How do you think their mindsets can change? What changes in reforms can we expect, if they do take things in their hands?
A: Youth don’t enter politics? What about the thousands of low-level ‘dynamic party workers’ who display huge cutouts at traffic junctions, etc? Kidding. Seriously, this is like a chicken and egg question. Good people don’t want to enter politics because it’s dirty and it continues to remain dirty because good people don’t enter it. But somebody has to get their hands dirty and clean the mess, right? The reason is simple: perpetuation of dynastic rule, which pushed people who didn’t agree with the dynasty, out of the party. Somebody had to fill that vacuum. That’s how the descent into disorder and corruption began. It takes slow but sustained determination to change mindsets. And it’s happening. Young enterpreneurs, professionals, writers, doctors-people from diverse fields are increasingly getting into active politics so not all is lost yet. However, that in itself won’t change things magically. But, nothing substitutes character. No matter what your background or achievements are, reforms and cleanliness in public life comes when you lead by example. Laws and reforms don’t ensure freedom from or reduction in corruption.
Q: In your blog you write your honest opinions against the extracts of some articles. Also, these posts are very detailed ones. How do you manage your time to write such detailed blog posts? Has any of your post invited any controversy?
A: Yeah, my posts are lengthy because I believe in presenting a comprehensive view of things, to cover all possible angles. That increases the word count. I minimize the tasks that I take on at work. The actual writing takes less than 2 hours: 3 hours at the most. The rest is spent on research, which takes a few days or a week depending on what I’m writing about. Yeah, pretty much every post of mine invites controversy primarily because of the strong language I use, which I understand puts off people.
Q: Apart from Indian politics and media persons, what else does interest you? Political leaders and other controversies might invariably vex you, but who are the people in your life who bring a smile to your face, when you are not blogging?
A: Lots of things interest me. See my response to your next question. Family and friends bring a smile to my face and generally help me maintain sanity and balance.
Q: What does Sandeep do to spend his leisure time? If you were to write a book, what would be its plot?
A: I listen to classical music and read and do a bit of photography in my leisure. My imaginary book will be titled “Pappu can’t become Prime Minister.”
Q: Do you promote your blog? What promotional techniques work best for you and why?
A: I don’t believe in promoting my blog simply because I write for myself. I pay for the hosting and domain out of my own pocket. To me, my blog is an education of sorts. Very briefly, I put up Amazon affiliate thing and pulled it down because it didn’t suit my temperament.
Q: How important is it for the blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?
A: I think it’s pretty important to interact with readers because that’s how you expand your learning. That said, I’ve stopped responding to each and every comment I receive unless they’re directly addressed to me for several reasons but the biggest reason is because I simply don’t have time as I’m engaged in several other activities over the past 2 years. Most of my entries receive at least 50-60 comments at the minimum.
Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?
A: The enormous amount of unconditional goodwill that I’ve been shown by absolute strangers whom I’ve never met and/or will ever meet. Nothing beats this feeling, not even the fact that blogging has helped me learn quite a bit.
Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.
A: Honest answer: banal. Most Indian blogs are in the nature of personal anecdotes/personal history (I woke up at 8 and found that I was running late to work, I can’t decide what to wear, etc). My five favourite blogs? Hmmm… In no particular order, here goes:
Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog?
A: Don’t start a blog for its own sake. Start if you can sustain it. Be honest. Do your research. Admit your mistakes.
Q: Do you earn revenue through your blog? How does one go about it?
A: I believe I’ve answered this question earlier.
Q: According to you, what is the future of Blogging?
A: I really don’t know. Never thought about it.
Q: Let’s conclude off with a few favorites:
Movie: None in particular.
TV Show: I don’t watch TV.
Book: Several. Almost all of S L Bhyrappa‘s books. Ramayana and Mahabharata. Shakespeare’s tragedies. Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, Lord of the Flies, and In Cold Blood are just a few that I can think of now.
Time of Day: Night and early morning.
Your Zodiac Sign: Taurus.
Thank you Sandeep for this wonderful interview. It was a pleasure having you at the Adda. Friends, trust all of you would have enjoyed reading the interview. Do send us your feedback and what you would look forward in the future interviews.