Today at your Adda we are welcoming a bride. Not just any other bride, but an early blogger – The Blue Bride! She started off her blog ‘It’s a Charade‘ to record the bizarre things of her life, her wedding preparations and her frustrations. The Blue Bride, through her blog, also speaks for very important issues of the society, and her thoughts & vision set her apart. We thoroughly enjoyed reading the humorous account of her early and daily life while preparing her interview. Are you ready to enjoy reading the interview? Precede now!
Q: When and why did you start blogging?
A: I started in 2005. I had written a diary since I was 10 so the blog was an extension of it, except it was public. The ‘self’ constructed in my blog – unconsciously – is different from the ‘I’ in my diary.
Q: What topics do you generally blog about?
A: My blog was initially about the bizarreness of academic life, my frustrations with Hyderabad and my wedding preparations. When I moved to Hong Kong, it was about the life of a young yuppie exploring the city as well as the oddities of life as finance journalist, a field I didn’t completely fit into. If earlier my blog was like Bridget Jones’s Diary, now it’s like the sequel Edge of Reason.
Now, my blog has been more issue-based, particularly feminist issues. I try to curb my argumentative nature in my personal interactions, so my blog is a space to express those views. And then I got pregnant and so I tend to write about being a mom as well.
Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? What do you do then?
A: I rarely get stuck on my blog, because I only write about what I want to. I sometimes take a break and come back to posts about specific issues if I feel like I need to do some more research or reflect more.
Q: Why is the reason to call yourself The Blue Bride? What’s the story behind this pseudonym?
A: I picked ‘The Bride’ as a pseudonym because I really came into my own, blogging about my wedding angst. The moniker was inspired by The Bride in the Kill Bill series – the avenging bride rather than the submissive traditional one. (I must confess I’ve only watched the second part of the series in totality – somehow I have never managed to watch the other parts completely). By the way, I don’t think that The Bride in Kill Bill is the feminist ideal, in the sense that I don’t think feminism advocates women going on a killing spree but I identified with aspects of that character – the vulnerability and the phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes storyline.
Q: The magazine I work for is like an orgasm that never comes. You keep thinking – it’s there, it’s there but it isn’t. This was way back in 2007. You gave your resignation thereafter in 2009. What made you stick to it for 2 years? Did you yearn to do something apart from journalism? If yes, what was it?
A: Actually, I quit the magazine after about a year and moved to a newspaper where I was writing full-length feature stories. I never quite fit into the finance arena. I don’t have enough of a healthy respect for money. I also tend to ask the wrong kind of questions – like how is this deal going to benefit society or the world? Nevertheless, I’m glad I worked there because I stopped being so clueless about the stock market and investment banking though I still suck at managing my own finances. At the newspaper, my next job, I was writing about people doing interesting things with their lives. I loved that but it was incredibly stressful. Which is why I quit. I’m now on the opposite side of the fence – in corporate communications – but primarily still writing and editing. I haven’t completely gotten over being a journalist. But I’m not ready to go back to it; I don’t like the stress.
Q: In a post you mentioned about the ache you experience when you see skeletal babies. What kind of help have you/would like to render to such kids?
A: I wanted to spread the word about the plight of those affected by the famine in Somalia. It was also a reflection on how I have changed since I became a mother. Before when I saw those kind of images, I was sad. Now it’s a physical pain; I cry over those images, they do not leave me easily. I am sorry to say I have not done much except donating. The problem in Somalia or those in India is too large for me to have any sense of the solution.
A: I laughed when I reread that post from 2007. Yeah, I was not ready to have a baby for quite a while. When I did get pregnant with Benji, though, I was ready. My life had slowed down considerably. I was no longer the Girl in the Town. My husband and I had begun to spend a lot of time at home, vegging out and sleeping early. I had a much more peaceful job. Most crucially, I had started looking at babies and going ‘aww’.I don’t think anyone is actually ready for labour and new motherhood though. It is really tough in ways that are hard to describe, especially the first three months. And yet, it is the best thing you could ever do. I am a different person now that I’m a mother.
Q: What would The Blue Bride be seen doing when going out with girl friends (without the guilt of leaving Benji and V)? How would she let her hair down?
A: I’m a pretty boring person now. I’d either do a good play or concert followed by dinner and a couple of drinks and good conversation. Or a spa day. Ok I’m picking the spa day.
Q: In a post of 2009, you listed the reasons that you wanted to live for. How many have been fulfilled? Would you like to add or alter some of them now? If yes, share with us what would they be & why?
A: I hope I haven’t fulfilled them, otherwise I wouldn’t have any more reason to live would I? I do read more widely now, but haven’t done a big classic after Ulysses. I’m planning to read the Mahabharata next and do a series of posts. I listen to much more Western classical music but I’d like to go to more concerts and also get acquainted with Indian classical music. I knitted (with amusing results) before Benji was born but then I got into scrapbooking. Languages, Tai Chi, and travel will have to wait till my babies are older and being stylish till when I don’t look like whale. The novel – which is really my big life goal – I have written a draft of, which I’m pretty pleased with myself about.Actually, all this fades into the background because my biggest reason to live is Benji and Schmoonbee. What a cliché, but it’s true. I can’t even contemplate dying now, till my babies are grown up.
Q: You work in the communications and media industry. What differences do you notice in the ways that Indian media operates than the Hong Kong media? Which news source in print and electronic media do you follow and why?
A: Having worked in India, the skill set I developed held me in pretty good stead in Hong Kong. However, my sense is that the older values and rigour of journalism are practiced more strongly in Hong Kong. The quality of editing is higher. The workforce is more international and so you get best practices from different countries. I am dismayed by the trend of paid news in the Indian press, the sensationalism and lack of thought in TV news reporting, and the tendency to sing India’s praises while ignoring the vast majority living outside urban areas.I have yet to find a mainstream Indian newspaper that does not make me cringe while reading it. The irony is that if I return to India I’ll probably end up working for one of them. I like Mint and Tehelka. I end up getting most of my news on India from personal blogs or Facebook where people are discussing something and then I look it up. In Hong Kong, I read the two English newspapers and watch the local evening news. I watch BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera a lot.
Q: In your earlier blog you mentioned that you hate writers. Has this thought changed now? Which writers would find a good ranking in your books?
A: Oh that’s a reflection of the typical sub-editor/reporter divide that exists in news publications. I am more sympathetic to writers than the average sub because I had a stint as a reporter in India. So I know their problems. But it’s frustrating to work with reporters who cling to their wordy writing style, don’t provide the facts clearly or can’t meet deadlines. Writers have their own problems with subs (how we change their stuff, for example). I later became a writer myself – but I hope I wasn’t as annoying to the subs. There are lots of reporters whose work I enjoy reading. In India, I like Nisha Susan’s work in Tehelka, and Sonia Faleiro’s work (though she’s not based in India anymore).
Q: The definition of feminism and feminists is conveniently changed by many people and it seems to be blurring recently. You have written a lot of your views on this. Briefly state the role and meaning of a feminist, and your experience in expressing your views over it.
A: There is no definition of feminism which is fixed for all time and that’s what I like about it. Unlike other isms, there is no Feminist High Command dictating terms. Everything is constantly under debate. Broadly, feminism is concerned with empowering women so that the power imbalance between the genders that traditionally existed is redressed and we have a fairer society. My awareness of issues relating to men and masculinity increased by reading feminist writing because feminists are generally interested in broader issues of fairness.
A broad definition by Kamala Bhasin and Nighat Said Khan, (accepted by women from the sub-continent at a workshop) is: “An awareness of women’s oppression and exploitation in society, at work and within the family, and conscious action by women and men to change this situation.” (I would replace ‘women and men’ from this definition with ‘people’).
Most people like to think of themselves as liberal-minded but don’t question their prejudices enough. I like to make people think a little and I also can’t keep my mouth shut if I perceive blatant injustice. While we are quite conscious of race discrimination, the way women are discriminated against is often very quietly accepted, by women too.
The clichés I often encounter are: “I have nothing against women; I love women”, “feminists are man-haters” and “I’m not a feminist because I believe in equality for everyone.” To the two former, I can only roll my eyes. To the last statement, which irritates me the most, I say this: Feminism is a subset of the larger quest for an equal society. Somehow people don’t have the same discomfort with other labels like Dalit rights activist, gay rights activist or conservationist. It’s weird. These issues are not mutually exclusive; you don’t have to pick one. Maybe transgressing gender norms makes them more uncomfortable than they want to think.
Q: Imagine yourself as the chief of a compact department for women, marriage and sex was to be formed, and you were in charge of it, what changes in society would you execute?
A: I am the chief of a compact department for women, marriage and sex – it’s called my own family and I co-chair it with my husband. I won’t say we have the perfect marriage but we do have a pretty equal partnership. Our gender roles are fluid – we each do what we’re good at, not what we’re expected to do. So my husband is the cook, I was the cleaner, until we got a helper. We are both very hands on with our baby. At some point, my husband would like to quit his job and I might be the full-time earner. We spend equal time with each side of the family.Patriarchy creeps in mostly in the form of pressure from outside, which I resist. I’d like to see more marriages that are partnerships because then the next generation will pick up these values.
I see marriage as a contract with certain benefits. I wish it wasn’t restricted to heterosexuals. I wish divorce was easier in India where it seems to be an onerous process. In terms of sex, well, whatever works for you is my motto, as long as you’re not hurting anyone.
In India, we’re still battling the basics. The pressing need is to make women financially-independent (through education, through legal rights etc.). But even once women are financially-independent, the social norms keep them down. Then we need to empower women to stand up for themselves – because really no one else is going to. Let’s start with teaching girls not to be so nice.
Q: Hong Kong, Hyderabad and Mumbai are the places where you have spent considerable time. Which place do you prefer more and why?
A: I’m the kind of person who needs to have a soul-city. When I moved to Hong Kong, I was torn between Hong Kong and Mumbai. They are very similar in terms of spirit; both have that big-city buzz that I thrive on. I still love Mumbai but after five years, Hong Kong has won for me because:
- Things work here. The public transport is super efficient, there is an excellent public healthcare system, the government is efficient.
- Safety: Mumbai is very smug about being safe. You need to live in a place like Hong Kong where a woman can walk down the street at any hour dressed any way she pleases without a thought to know what safety is. That’s not to say crimes don’t happen. But they are relatively rare and the police can be largely counted on to act and not to berate you for being in the wrong place at the wrong time like the Delhi Police Commissioner felt the need to do.
- Hong Kong is more international; this adds a certain dynamism to the city and working life. There’s also more diversity of things to do.
My problem with Hong Kong is that it’s not possible to completely belong if you don’t speak Cantonese. Ironically, I don’t speak any Indian language well but in India, at least I’m racially Indian and have family there so I’ll always belong.Hyderabad has many wonderful qualities but I could not live there. It’s too small town still. But I admire the beauty of the city. I admire the infrastructure that actually works compared to Mumbai. I love the food.
Q: You also seem to have interest in fashion and styling. What does The Blue Bride do or wants to do, when she has all the time in the world for herself?
A: My interest in fashion is tied to my quest for beauty. It’s a more accessible form of art. But like finance, I couldn’t work in fashion because I don’t take it too seriously. If I had all the time in the world, I’d do more of those life goals I mentioned earlier.
Q: Being from a Goan family, staying in Mumbai and Hyderabad, marrying a person from another culture, staying in Hong Kong, Benji and now Schmoonbee. Life has been full of adventures for you, with a few bumpy roads in between. Share with us few good memories of this journey.
A: My blog is basically a memory album, so it’s really hard to pick.
Q: Do you promote your blog? What promotional techniques work best for you and why?
A: I don’t promote my blog because I don’t expect to make money from it though I like having an audience. I have noticed that posting regularly keeps readers coming and commenting on other blogs brings in new readers.
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 respond to all comments because part of the charm of blogging is the interaction. But I get a manageable number of comments. There are very famous blogs where comments are not responded to and that seems to work fine also.
Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?
A: Blogging gives me an audience. And now there’s a sense of community – through both my pregnancies and my job angst, my blog buddies (even though I don’t know them in person) have been incredibly supportive.
Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.
A: I don’t read Indian blogs broadly enough to make a general comment. I mostly enjoy personal blogs, the most maligned genre. I’m sure quality varies but the ones I read I think are well-written. Sadly, many of those I used to enjoy update very infrequently now. Of the ones that do update often:
- The Life and Times of Indian Homemaker: Raises feminist issues in a practical and down-to-earth way. The comments are as interesting as the posts.
- The Mad Momma: Enjoy her feisty posts on different issues more than her baby posts. Sadly, she’s blogging less frequently
- R’s Mom: A good mix of crazy mom stories and other issues. Love that there’s a post every day.
- Gounder Brownie’s blog: Doesn’t post often but when she does the posts are always a great mix of wit and good sense.
- Finely Chopped: A food blog that I read for the nostalgia as much as the food.
Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog?
A: Do it if you think you’d enjoy it. After all it’s free. If you want to make money out of it, that’s another story.
Q: Do you earn revenue through your blog? How does one go about it?
A: Don’t and not really interested in that right now. The first thing I’d do if I wanted to make money off the blog was streamline the content. Pick a niche area and stick to it. Then work on design.
Q: According to you, what is the future of Blogging?
A: A few years ago I interviewed a teenager in Hong Kong who told me blogs were already passé and video-blogging was the in thing. I think a lot of blogs started by people who wanted to be cool will drop off. Those of us who are doing it as a hobby will stay as long as it remains a free platform. Those making money I think will be around for a while.
Q: Let’s conclude off with a few favorites.
Color: Keeps changing. Right now gray.
TV Show: Modern Family
Time of Day: Bedtime
Your Zodiac Sign: Libra
Mumbai misses you too. It was a pleasure interviewing you. Friends, are you also among the ones who miss your beloved city? Do you share the wedding angst? Do you share a lot with ‘The Blue Bride’? Do let us know.