His missus says she has never met anyone who can use so many words to say so little, which he thinks is a compliment. He is known for his good driving, parking, blogging and tweeting skills. When he is not writing his autobiography (which we guess he has been doing since his MIT days), he is the father to two awesome kids (is there a job more better than that?). We are extremely happy to have Narendra Shenoy at your Adda for this interview, which will make you forget, driving, parking, blogging and tweeting. Welcome to the world of Shenoy’s.
Q: When and why did you start blogging?
I used to write longish, allegedly humorous e-mails to friends and relatives in the old days, which they had to manually send to the trash bin. Then a well meaning uncle told me about blogging, around the beginning of 2007.
“You write it on this page, see, and publish it, and then the whole world can read it. It’s called a blog” he told me.
“And what’s more, you don’t have to mail it individually to people”
“The whole world!”
“Only the ones who see it, of course” he added, clearly gleeful that my tiresome emails would no longer infest his tidy little inbox. But I was bitten. I started writing and soon enough, found enough chaps reading my stuff and commenting on it.
Q: What topics do you generally blog about?
I usually write about my family – I have a wonderful wife and two absolutely adorable sons – and the things they do. Going by the blog, you’d probably think they pull my leg all the time, but that’s not true. Not all the time. Sometimes, very rarely, I write about things that bother me. I wrote a couple of posts on the Mumbai Municipality’s fondness for digging up perfectly decent roads for no discernible reason other than to inconvenience the public at large, leaving the pits open for a while and then filling them up without of course bothering to resurface them. Wrote one or two about why I thought the Lokpal bill was probably not such a great idea. Stuff like that. But mostly it is the missus and the lads.
Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? What do you do then?
The ripest posts flow straight off the bat. I hardly need to even edit them for grammar or spelling. But if I start getting spaced out too often while writing, I give it up as a bad job and try some other time. Usually another day altogether. I also find it virtually impossible to write when I am stressed or worried about something. I mention this because I read somewhere that the French novelist de Balzac, a profligate libertine, wrote his best works when creditors were trying to bang down his door. He would, or so they say, write his masterpiece, shin down the drainpipe, slip the manuscript to his publisher, collect his advance on royalty, run back home, shin up the drainpipe, open the door and ask the creditors indignantly what the devil they thought they were doing, before imperiously flinging the money on their faces. What a guy!
Q: A rose by any other name-brand – this post makes us wonder from where in the world do you get time to write these things? Either you actually are a hippopotamus in a mud pool who has nothing to do but to wander around like a tortoise, or you have some serious time management techniques. Where do you get your humour from?! What is the inspiration? Clear some mud from this please. We would also love to hear business plan 3.
I get most of my ridiculous ideas in conversations with friends. The wacky ones that is, and usually over a drop or two of some whiskey. I try to surreptitiously jot down a key word or two somewhere, usually on my phone these days, in the hope that it will make sense on the morrow. It does sometimes. And sometimes it makes me wonder if I’m periliously close to being declared clinically insane when I read things like ‘thing thong voice’ or ‘capitalism or small caseism’.
Q: Nail polish designer is what I shall be when I grow up – you said this in 2007. So have you been lucky enough to pursue your big dream and succeed in it?
I actually did meet a nail polish designer. I still can’t get over the idea that someone can actually design a color for a living! Sadly, I haven’t been able to get into anything even remotely resembling that. I run a small manufacturing business and do tooling and machine design on the side. It’s enough to keep the wolf from the door, but only just, most of the time.
Q: In a post of 2007, you had written about parenting, role of a father, and the changing times. What are the things that you feel still work from the past, in the changing parenting lifestyles? If you had to change few things in the way your kids were brought up, then what would they be? Have your kids also imbibed your humour?
I’m not much of a parent. I am hopeless at disciplining my children or inspiring them to achieve greatness. However, I do believe that the worst thing you can do to kids is to nag them. Nag a child and you will get him or her doing exactly the opposite of what you what him or her to do, just out of spite.
I try to express my displeasure, on the extremely rare occasions that I feel it, by completely ignoring the lads. Not being nasty or even cold. Just going about my life as if they don’t exist. It usually works. The lads last a few days and then crawl in waving the white flag. I’ve only had to do it twice or thrice. (Doesn’t work on the missus though.)
Q: Tell us something about your work. You are an MBA by education. What do you feel about the whole MBA wave that has taken shape among the fresh graduates?
My work in mostly hardcore engineering. There is very little room for any serious MBA stuff like Marketing Strategy or Financial Analysis of the Firm. We have more than enough work if our charges are equal to or lower than the competition, which it usually is because we are a very small firm. There is scope to crank up the scale of the company, but I’ve always chickened out because that involves taking on lots of debt and I feel very insecure about owing money.
But here’s what I feel about MBAs. I think the course itself is very insignificant in its contribution to developing managerial talent. A good manager simply is a good manager because that’s the way he or she is. Not because of the institute and the training. It’s a combination of many skills – the ability to motivate people, the ability to hustle, the willingness to suffer in the short term for a medium-to-long-term gain and I don’t know what else. Reams have been written on it. All that the course does is open a door to a managerial position. Management is much much closer to the arts than it is to the sciences. Long topic of course and I shall bore you not. But give me a decent beer or two and I will tell you more.
Q: Your wife Sheela also blogs. We loved the welcome page which showed ‘No Posts’, in a blog named “Don’t Worry, Panic!” Like you, did she also think of writing about you and your kids? It would be fun to read a wife’s and a husband’s perspective on one family incident. So can we hear both your perspectives on a current tornado that occurred in the family? Does she also write on your current blog?
Confession: She doesn’t write. She should actually, because she is a great raconteur and can be very very funny when she feels like it, but she hates writing and refuses to even consider it. Sigh.
Q: Your house seems to be a complete riot of sorts! Share few completely hilarious situations that occurred with the loved ones. Tell us something about your kids too.
My kids love to pull my leg and crack PJs after leading me up the garden path. They start off a serious sounding discussion and when I’ve bitten the bait and started responding seriously, they crack the PJ. I’ve wised up but they ambush me every now and then. Some examples are on my blog.
Q: There are a lot of comedy shows and movies that have cropped up in the television and the film fraternity. Do you follow any? What is your take on them? Also tell us your view about platforms like The Comedy Store, Mumbai, that are beginning to cater to such talent.
I watch a few comedy shows on TV now and then (I hate watching TV in general). I liked a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory that I watched. Did not care much for Two and a Half men. About standup comedy, especially at places like The Comedy Store, I have to say that I LOVE it. And I’ve grown to admire Indian standup comedians hugely. People like Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya for instance. I tried my hand at it once – at an Open Mic thing – and I can assure you, it ain’t easy! I love the spontaneity and the unique Indian-ness that our local comedians possess. They are funny to me in ways American comedians can’t always be. I think it will grow quickly. Not because there is money in it – there isn’t, I’m told – but because it’s the most fun you can have when you want to chill out with friends. I expect to see more pubs and sports bars having standup shows around Mumbai at least.
Q: Life was a post you wrote in 2011 which was originally meant to publish on Google+ because of the privacy it provides. How much is privacy important to you, and what are your views on privacy options provided by social networking websites? Do you think it is stringent enough?
There is a whole section of my life that is very private, same as everyone else. I am concerned about networking websites encroaching on that, getting information I haven’t shared, using it in ways I wish it wouldn’t be and so on. I have opinions I wouldn’t voice in public, incidents I wouldn’t want anyone other than my nearest to know. I don’t think the laws covering privacy over the internet are very stringent at the moment. It will take years for case law to emerge, according to a couple of lawyer friends I’ve discussed this with. There is also the problem of how to punish someone who doesn’t live in your country, or whether it is fair to allow governments the right to pry out IP addresses of users from service providers.
Q: It will take months of patient practice before you achieve any kind of expertise at pooh-poohing. What things would you like to add to pooh-pooh 101? What expertise level have you reached and have you ever been pooh-poohed? How do people on Twitter fair in pooh-poohing?
Haha, it’s a delicate art! I haven’t progressed much, probably because I’m more pooh-poohed against, than pooh-poohing.
Q: Have you ever thought of writing a book? If you ever do, what would it be about and why would you choose that topic?
I attempted writing a novel. This was in response to something called the National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in one month (the month of November). I wrote some 10,000 words of a story about a chap who lives in a small town and finds out that he is suddenly the owner of a large organization belonging to an estranged uncle who didn’t have anyone to leave it to. It started off promisingly enough but suffered from several flaws, some of which eventually turned out to be fatal. For instance, I introduced too many characters too soon (this is what you get from reading GRRM) and tried too hard to be funny. I decided that the world would be a better place without tripe of this sort inflicted upon it, but the itch has returned. I’m planning to rewrite it and fling it upon the unsuspecting universe. Since I’m convinced that there aren’t enough suckers who’d actually pay to read the thing, I’m probably going to have to give it away free.
Q: Do you promote your blog? What promotional techniques work best for you and why?
In the early days I would infest the comment space on other people’s blogs in the hope that someone would read my comments, infer that I was a latter day Shakespeare and read my blog. This strategy had a limited success. Nowadays, I put a link on twitter which usually gets a few dozen hits straight away.
Q: How important is it for the blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?
I used to respond to every comment in the old days. I still do, off and on, but I wonder if anyone reads the comments much. Nowadays it is mostly on twitter. My blogs aren’t exactly thought provoking so there isn’t much by way of intense debate but I get my leg pulled enough.
Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?
In my case my blog is like a snapshot of what I was thinking. I read an old post and remember what I was dreaming about when I wrote it. Love that. Sometimes it is a funny incident or a funny thought that is nailed down and preserved forever. And I’ve made some great friends through blogging, friends I would never have made otherwise.
Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.
I think the general quality of writing is superb. My favorite blogs?
- Anand Ramachandran’s Son of Bosey
- Krish Ashok’s Doing Jalsa and showing Jilpa
- Lavanya Mohan’s Coconut Chutney
- Ramesh Srivats’s Let’s Put Da
- Deepak Gopalakrishnan’s Chronicles of Dementia
- Sidvee’s brilliant sportswriting
- K Balakumar’s Cranks Corner
Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog?
Practice makes perfect. Start writing straight away and be prepared to find your first few posts raw and quite unlike what you wanted to really say. The idea behind blogging, to me at least, is to write an interesting account of what you are thinking about. It takes a while to get the ‘interesting’ part down, but you will, eventually.
Q: Do you earn revenue through your blog? How does one go about it?
I haven’t really. If you have a decent readership, I suppose you can run Google’s ads on it. But I haven’t tried anything like that.
Q: According to you, what is the future of Blogging?
I think blogging will continue and thrive. There are many interesting people with interesting ideas out there who people will always be interested in listening to and I can think of no better platform than a blog.
Q: Let’s conclude off with a few favorites.
Color: Ah, I was asked this question by the missus before she married me. I answered ‘Blue’ I think, which convinced her I was a sound bloke, kindhearted and all, and influenced greatly her decision to marry me. But honestly, I don’t know. I mean, favorite color is such a relative thing. Blue might well be my favorite color but you’d never catch me drinking a blue whisky. It would have to be amber or light gold or whatever.
Time of Day: Love the early morning. 6 to 8 am. And, if there is a decent scotch at hand, the early evening.
Your Zodiac Sign: Taurus.
He loves the early morning and the early evening. Follow the awesome Narendra Shenoy when he is free in between. Thank you Narendra for this awesomeness interview and wish you all the best for the book. We will surely make it a part of our Book Reviews Program.