Inspiration is all around us – from my flower lady who has advice, to my watchman, who has a story to tell, to my neighbor’s kids who share their stuff, to the grocery, store guy to the school children’s conversations I overhear every day, says the inspirational blogger whom we have interviewed today. This interview is special as she makes us believe ‘We are as young as we’re ever gonna be, these may be the best days of our lives‘. She says she is not a cat who has nine lives, but after reading this interview you will know what she is doing in one life, that many otherwise do in 9 lives. Presenting to you an interview with one of the youngest bloggers around, Vidya Sury. Just read.
Q: When and why did you start blogging?
I started blogging in July 2003 when Google acquired Blogger (that sounds like a different life, doesn’t it?!). Why? “Web logging” sounded like a very novel idea. I grew up maintaining a diary, so the idea appealed to me! The fact that I could write whenever the mood took me was fascinating. I enjoy sharing good stuff and this seemed like the ideal way (still is!). It was all pretty basic then and it was also fun to tinker with templates and visit other peoples’ blogs. We’ve come a lo-ong way.
Q: What topics do you generally blog about?
Just about anything: Life. Fun. Humor. Love. Trials. Errors. Relationships. Health. Tips. Resources. Technology. Experiences. Stories. Inspiration. Self development. Life lessons. Book reviews. Photography – Because variety is the spice of life. And because I enjoy writing about everything.
Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? What do you do then?
I usually don’t get stuck. But the rare times that I do, I stop and take a fresh look at it the next day. I have a tendency to plan in my head before I start writing and I don’t stop until I finish it. I also maintain an ‘ideas notebook’.
Q: Whenever I feel a little low, I read something inspirational – You said this in 2009. When you started blogging in 2003, you posted more about inspirational stories and quotes. What are the things, books, people, etc., that inspire you in your daily life? Share one incident with us where this inspiration helped you. Does music inspire you? Is there any daily source of information that you follow, which you can share with our readers?
Inspiration is all around us – from my flower lady who has advice, to my watchman who has a story to tell, to my neighbor’s kids who share their stuff, to the grocery store guy, to the school children’s conversations I overhear every day. I believe small things add up to make us happy. I can find inspiration in my coffee cup (Oy, that’s a good title!). So I’ll generalize by saying that I can find inspiration in everything/ person I come in contact with. I am inspired by my routine – because I feel lucky to have one.
An incident that brought inspiration? There’s this elderly lady who lives in the same building as we do. We see her every morning when we leave for school – usually while shutting our garage door. And she says (every single day) “Hi! Vidur! How are you?” and he says “Fine, Aunty. What about you?” She says “First class!” And we all smile at each other. Then she says, “I think you’re going to have a wonderful day!” And we wish her the same and ride off. What’s inspiring about this? We’ve experienced this for years now and love the fact that we begin the day outside with a positive remark. We’ve watched this lady being active no matter what – when she broke her knees, when she sprained her hip, when she had other problems – she continued to be cheerful and show first class attitude. I find that very inspiring with a valuable lesson. So long as we appreciate everything, life is good.
I enjoy reading – I have a huge library at home. My taste in books and music is eclectic. I am crazy about Wodehouse, medical/ law/ crime fiction and psychological thrillers. I subscribe to many blogs and I enjoy reading their updates. I love music – and have several play lists with 80’s rock and pop, old Hindi film songs and classical music in all languages. I learned Carnatic (vocal) music for several years until high school. We also listen to the radio a lot (Vividh Bharati).
A daily source of information? I recommend ten minutes of meditation every morning (or evening). It is a great way to relieve stress and re-group your energy. I begin my day by lighting the lamp and a 10 minute prayer – an old childhood habit that gets my day off to a great start. And, laugh – a lot.
Q: From what we read about your Mother, one can surely understand the strength she had as a single parent. What are the qualities for which you look upto her and those that are deeply void after 2010?
My Mother was a very strong person. Despite a tough life, she always smiled and had a kind word for everyone. She was just seventeen and a half years older than I am – and we practically grew up together. I loved her positive attitude and her tendency to always be nice, no matter what. She was always generous and affectionate. She was an educationist and a fantastic teacher – confident, strong and purposeful about all that she did. A few years ago, when one of Sury’s colleagues visited us and met my Mom, he realized that she was his teacher in school and that was such a wonderful feeling.
I miss my Mom very much, in everything I do. We were like best friends and always had something to talk about. We had our first coffee of the day together. She was such a source of encouragement and motivation in everything I did. I miss that very much. Most of all, I miss her humor and laughter and lively nature. I miss my best friend because there will be no other, like her. She was generous in life, and generous in death – according to her wishes, we donated her body to the St. Johns Medical College. I am grateful Vidur had the chance to know her.
Q: In 2008 you narrated how your childhood house was, and how you used to spend your time. How do you find children today spending their play time, in comparison with your childhood period? What suggestions would you like to give to parents, on how to incorporate outdoor games and board games in their child’s playing routine?
Times change. Today’s children live in a very different world. They’re smart, knowledgeable and innovative, thanks to easy access to technology. I find that while many children still enjoy the outdoors, going by the number of children I see at the playground, there are some that are tied to their computers. I think parents should encourage children to go out and play, and mix with other children. There’s nothing compared to the joy of yelling and laughing with one’s peers. It is also good for health and keeps off obesity, a very serious problem in today’s children, at bay. I highly recommend that parents should join their children at least during the weekend to enjoy board games, and other outdoor activities they enjoy together. Fun way to bond and keep fit mentally and physically.
Q: Earning my calories as a freelance writer and blogger – this is how you describe your work. So how do you shed those calories? As a freelance writer, do you miss doing a full time job, like you did earlier? What are the perks that you receive in your personal life as a freelancer?
Let’s not talk about “shedding” calories, okay? :- ) – just kidding. I love to walk. We have a lovely lake near where we live, around which we can walk. On the days we can’t make it there, we walk on our huge terrace, enjoying the sunset and the birds and the monkeys. I also handle my housework on my own, with loud music blasting away while I tackle stuff. Cleaning is therapy with benefits for me – it keeps me fit.
Although my writing work is a full time job, except that I control my time, I do miss the full time job. But then, my priorities have changed – which is why I started working from home. There’s a tradeoff for everything in life. I love the fact that I am a full-time Mom to my son – and that I was able to look after my Mother on my own without hiring a nurse. That’s an experience I would not exchange for anything. Other perks of being my own boss? My time is flexible and I can manage my time better. I can adjust personal activities with my work schedule conveniently – working at night when I feel like. I can play hooky and go meet a friend when I like. I get to spend plenty of time with my folks. I can rush to Vidur’s school in an emergency. Oh, life is great!
Q: At what age did your son Vidur take up blogging? Was he inspired by you to start a blog? In one of your posts you informed us how Vidur obeys what you say, if it’s in a polite manner and not in a punishing method (like many parents adopt). Do you find many parents, nowadays, still adopting the latter method? What are your views?
Vidur started blogging when he was around ten years old – in 2008. His love for music, temples and mythology inspired him, I think. Why not ask him?! He is an active guest blogger on a few music sites. He’s one dedicated guy when it comes to his interests. Vidur is a gentle and very affectionate person and I consider myself blessed to have a great relationship with him. Like any kid, he enjoys being appreciated and treated lovingly. I think all parents basically care for the well-being of their children. The yelling and screaming usually happens when they’re stressed out – and the best thing is, children understand that. Children are smart and have always been the best communicators. As long as it is not “do this, or else” they will generally listen. When they understand why they must do something, they listen. Parents must be friendly with their children. I meet a lot of parents at Vidur’s school and most of them are wonderful with their kids. I personally think anger, irritation, etc. are a waste of energy. Arguments are good – so long as they end amicably. Love binds a family together and literally conquers all with children (and adults).
Q: We loved reading the poems that are on your blog. You have done a wonderful job after opting for the Haiku Challenge. What do you enjoy most about writing these poetries?
To me, poetry is rhyme with reason. Of course, my favorite form is the limerick. But the Haiku Challenge turned out to be such fun. I enjoyed having a prompt to respond to every day – and most of all, the discipline of posting daily was fun. I think Feb 2012 is the only month that has more than thirty posts on my blog, thanks to the challenge. What I loved most was meeting so many fabulous poets – what a joy to read their verse!
My Mom loved poetry and also wrote a lot. She could quote most of Shakespeare’s verses. One of her favorite books was Palgrave’s Golden Treasury – an anthology of English poetry, which she could recite, too. In fact, she had a verse for every situation. Vidur also writes a lot of poetry in Hindi as well as English.
Q: You run a medical blog, where you write on medical awareness, and have also written guest articles on many health related issues. What triggered you to spread medical awareness? Are you associated with any medical institution/ camps/ programmes? Tell us something about CLINICOM and your role as a member in it.
I have always been passionate about writing about health-related issues. My inspiration for ‘Your Medical Guide’ was basically from the experiences we had with doctors, hospitals and my Mom’s medical conditions. Although the doctors are good, getting an appointment and meeting them is not easy. The doctor relies on the patient’s ability to communicate. Clinical examinations are no longer popular, thanks to overflowing clinics. Let’s not even talk about the fortune we pay in consultation fees. I’ve lost track of the times we went to a doctor, waited hours for our turn and by the time we did come face to face, realized our minds were blank. I firmly believe half our sicknesses were because of waiting. No matter how great the specialist, sadly, we don’t have a strong system of patient information. In fact, when they recommend a series of diagnostic tests, the patient is afraid to ask why and has no idea how to prepare himself before going for a test. Even the doctors have no idea and ask us to check with the lab.
When my Mom was diagnosed with pulmonary TB, we had absolutely no instructions or advice from the doc, besides the prescription. Thanks to Dr. Google, we educated ourselves and got an information overload, which, because we’re not medicos, was confusing to us. But I found that the research helped us ask better questions.
So – long story short – I thought I’d write a health blog, because there must be millions like me desperate for information that doctors don’t care to give. ‘Your Medical Guide’ is growing resource for better mental, physical and emotional health and fitness. I share health news, health tips and information about diseases, symptoms, treatments, drugs and medicine.
From 2000 to 2004, I worked with a group of pharmaceutical import company based in the US, as their India Liaison Officer for a few years, and had the opportunity to know more about various drugs and health related things. Eventually, in 2005, we established Clinicom, an independent ethics committee that evaluates studies/ protocols for human clinical trials. Before a new drug or formulation or a drug similar to an existing drug is introduced in the market, it must go through human clinical trials to be tested for efficacy and approved by the USFDA.
The manufacturer of the drug, who is the sponsor of the clinical trial for the drug, appoints a clinical research organization to conduct the clinical trial. The CRO recruits volunteers for the study. The role of the ethics committee is to safeguard the volunteers’ rights. The composition of the independent ethics committee is, as specified in the “Schedule Y” to the Drugs & Cosmetics Rules, with people from specific professions and backgrounds.
As one of the founding members of Clinicom my responsibilities included interaction with various Clinical Research Organizations (CROs), assessing documentation, researching information to support some of the questions raised about various aspects of the protocols, and the day-to-day administration. We meet once a week to discuss the studies scheduled for that meeting. We also inspect and audit the facilities where these trials are conducted. It is an amazing learning experience and I love it. I am thrilled that we are making a significant contribution to the public through this service.
Q: Tell us something about The Complete Health Guide for Women, which you are planning to release this year. What are the subjects that you touch upon in this book? When will it hit the stands? You also write e-books, please shed some more light on this.
I am excited to have finished the first draft of The Complete Health Guide for Women. I definitely have miles to go before it meets a publisher. I am keen on a print version, but I might also decide on a digital version (easier logistics in a digital world.) I am hoping I am ready to show it the world before the end of this year.
The Complete Health Guide for Women is geared to be the woman’s best friend and companion, and an exhaustive reference guide in a conversational and informal tone. Topics covered are: women’s health, nutrition and fitness, pregnancy, breastfeeding, mental health, menopause, osteoporosis, STDs, healthy aging, health screenings, tips and information about various health conditions (heart, digestive, oral health, etc.), what to expect, natural ways to handle them, guidance about when to see the doctor, when not to panic, the first line of action to take, and so on. Naturally, I will add snippets of home remedies that work, mostly from the kitchen shelf. The idea is to split it into smaller standalone books later.
I write e-books as a ghost writer for various clients. I just love the “long form” as they call it, and realized early on that it is one of my strengths. I am currently working on some short e-books to give away on my blog, which will be ten years old in July this year.
Q: We know that you are still mentally juvenile. But if you go back to actual juvenile days, what are the special memories that you instantly recollect?
My childhood memories are priceless. I had the privilege of growing up in a joint family with my Grandmother, Mom, Uncles, Aunts and Cousins. We always had a full house. Festivals were great – and so was vacation time when everyone would visit. Playing carom late into the night – great food, lots of laughter, singing, music, trips to the beach, walks with my Grandma just so I could buy “chana” and eat…. Both my Grandma and Mom were fantastic cooks – so good food was taken for granted. I once remember my Mom stuck a candle in an idli (rice cake) because a cake was too expensive and we were broke. I loved playing marbles and gilli danda. I cherish all the wonderful moments spent with my Uncles who were so good to me.
Old conversations still ring in my ears and make me smile. My Uncles pampered me with lots of clothes – that figures out why I have a clothes fetish! I remember lovely Bicycle/ Lambretta/ Yezdi rides with my cousin. I also fondly remember how my Uncle and I would go watch a movie the day before my exams started. I feel so happy to say I am still in touch with my schoolmates and college pals – we’re talking about three-plus decades here, folks! I remember Saturdays when Mom and I would finish our washing and cleaning and take a ride on my bike and return home with samosas, pedhas and jalebis and watch a movie. It is not like life was all roses, but I love how the happy parts stay in the mind and the not-so-good parts fade.
Q: You are doing a great work by helping out the orphans in whatever way that you can. Which is the charity that you’re associated with? What stories do you come across when you are doing your bit for the orphan kids? Does the hapless situation that they are in (in terms of not having a family), affect them in anyway, in their progress or thinking?
I am presently associated with Seva Sadan, an orphanage for young destitute girls, where I sponsor food several days a year and contribute to their medical fund; RK Foundation, where I collect and donate clothes, toys and other usable things; Samarthanam Association for the Blind, where I support some students by bearing their food and education expenses; Courtesy Foundation, where I contribute towards a few children’s living expenses and education. I regularly contribute to ISKCON’s Akshayapatra scheme. Besides these, I am associated with those who live on the streets in our area and the construction workers’ and their children to whom I donate clothes, food and toys regularly. I appreciate the nice folk employed by the municipal corporation to keep our area clean in cash and in kind.
It breaks my heart to think children are abandoned at birth. Seva Sadan also takes in children of women who are unable to support their children. They rescue young girls who are being ill-treated in the houses that employ them. The saddest are the ones rescued from trafficking, because they’re scarred for life and it takes a while to return to “normal”. I find it soothing to see that the children are well taken care of at these homes, with good food, shelter and clothing and also given basic education followed by vocational training to help them find their feet. True life is far worse than fiction. The only way these children recover is through the love and affection they receive. They are so grateful for every little thing that it hurts.
It is a lesson for everyone – to appreciate the little things.
Currently, Sury and I are in the process of setting up a trust fund in memory of my Mother to benefit students who are economically weak, to help them pursue higher studies. Still working out the logistics.
Q: How do you spend time with your family and Vidur on a weekend? What family things do you all take up?
We enjoy spending time together traveling, walking, playing “antakshari” (yeah -remember?), word games and board games. We love to listen to Vidur practicing his music and when he finishes, we all take turns to sing. Every day, Vidur recites “slokas” (prayers) for half an hour in the evening and we cherish that time together. We enjoy watching movies and comedy scenes together, or just going for a stroll together on the terrace. Every day, we make it a point to have dinner together and listen to the radio a lot. When a favorite song comes on, we have fun singing along. Sometimes we work on a DIY project together.
Q: Do you promote your blog? What promotional techniques work best for you and why?
I don’t aggressively promote my blog. I haven’t made any serious efforts towards monetizing it, except for those default AdSense ads. I am guilty of not being a blog stats checker. It is all about the joy of blogging for me. But sharing on social media, visiting other blogs, commenting and guest posting are all great ways to promote a blog. I am lucky to belong to a wonderful community that is generous enough to appreciate and share what I write. Whenever I read something I like, I enjoy tweeting/ sharing on Facebook and Google+.
Q: How important is it for the blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?
Oh, interaction is what blogging is all about. It inspires the blogger and the reader. I love the discussions that come up. And yes, I respond to all the comments I receive. Even the “great post!” ones. Interestingly, quite a few of my blog readers don’t comment on the blog. They either email me directly, or phone me to talk about it, or connect on chat. Some of them also send me post ideas. I love it.
Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?
The connections, the relationships, and the friends I make. I love how the world becomes a smaller place as geographical boundaries fade. I am totally humbled to read so many amazing blogs out there. And hope someday I’ll meet some of them in real life.
Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.
Indian blogs are fabulous. I love the sense of humor and the compassion with which the bloggers write. There are very, very special bloggers who make me laugh – like Sahil Rizwan (The Vigil Idiot), Krish Ashok (Doing Jalsa and showing jilpa), Tambrahm Rage, Blogeswari, Illegal briefs….and so many more. I love food blogs – especially Nandita Iyer’s Saffron Trail, Naga’s Edible Garden and Mahanandi.
My favorites? Just FIVE?? That’s not fair. But let me mention the first five that jump to mind. (Drumroll!)
- Zephyr at cybernag.in,
- Purba Ray at purba-ray.com,
- Anamika at poupee97.wordpress.com,
- Farida at chaptersfrommylife.blogspot.com,
- Gappa at kaimhanta.blogspot.com (I bet she didn’t think I read her blog!) and
- Vidur Sury at vidursury.com
Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog?
Start the blog. Write. Have fun. Long posts or short posts – keep writing. Be consistent. Be Yourself. Enjoy the process. Create a tentative schedule for posting, if you want to increase your reader numbers. Keep your blog design pleasing and simple. Be passionate about your blog. It will show. Interact with other bloggers. Comment on their blogs. Be generous about sharing. Above all, have FUN.
Q: Do you earn revenue through your blog? How does one go about it?
I don’t earn revenue through my blog, except for the very rare sponsored post. I have AdSense enabled, but am yet to receive a check from Google.
However, there are some great ways to monetize a blog: sponsored posts and links, writing paid blog posts, offering advertising space, joining an advertising network, creating a digital product and selling it on the blog, or through affiliate links – all these work.
Q: According to you, what is the future of Blogging?
Blogging IS the future. In a social world where primary interaction is through social media, even businesses reap the benefits of blogging as they realize that it is all about keeping their audience engaged. Blogger outreach programs are a highly effective method to create awareness about businesses and their products. People trust the opinions of their peers. And so, blogging IS the future.
Q: Let’s conclude off with a few favorites.
Color: Vibgyor (is that allowed?) I am partial to black, pink, red, orange and blue.
Movie: Comedies and Children’s movies.
TV Show: Lt. Columbo (a 70’s police procedural), in fact – all police procedurals, Comedy Central channel and reality music and dance shows.
Book: Wodehouse, law/ medical/ legal fiction, psychological thrillers.
Time of Day: 6 am.
Your Zodiac Sign: Libra.
Wasn’t that an inspiring interview? Friends, we are sure you would enjoy more conversations with Vidya. Shall we invite her to interact at Conversations? Do let us know. Thank you Vidya for this.