A girl who is full of life, loves to travel and discover new places, up for absolutely anything that is challenging! Born and brought up in Vishakhapatnam, after completing her studies in IIM Kolkata, Pranava now stays and works in London. A voracious reader, a movie enthusiast, a music fanatic and someone who writes spectacular poetry! Presenting to you, a wonderful interview with Pranava Boyidapu at your very own Adda.
Q You come across as a very regular blogger and that too covering a volley of topics. When and why did you start blogging?
A: I have been writing for as long as I can remember, but mostly just poetry and occasional short stories. IIT introduced me to 24 hour internet and blogging was an upcoming idea. One not so sultry day in April 2006, I pulled out my book of poems called “Still Lake” and typed them all out in a blog titled the same. In the meantime I also happened to submit a few articles to The Hindu and to my surprise, they got published. So I thought may be I wasn’t so bad after all and SlishaCrazy was born in June 2006, original recording the articles published in The Hindu. I actually started to write anonymously but somehow broke out of my shell soon enough. That’s how I started, but now the blog to me is memories of growing up, not of photographs but of thoughts and feelings. Who said time travel is not possible?
Q What techniques do you use to promote your blog and to make sure that it goes noticed?
A: A few years ago when social media was not so popular I used to actually tell my friends. And since not many blogged, it was something people would notice if I annoyed them enough. Now I share on facebook, I tweet, I put it up as a status message on gtalk. I sometimes ping. And I also recently noticed, thanks to Google Analytics, that if you keep the title simple and easy to google, you would have more viewers.
Q How often do you interact with your readers?
A: Readers nowadays are too dispersed. Previously I would have comments on the blog. Now I almost have none. Instead, people comment on my facebook share or reply to my tweet. And other ways of communication that probably feel more personal than commenting on the blog. I respond to all of them in as much detail as possible. In my blog, some posts are particularly interactive while some actually prefer not to have comments. So I guess it depends.
Q You have directed a play. Can you tell us more about this whole experience? What all goes into directing a play?
A: I think selecting/writing a good play and casting appropriately is half the job done. When I directed our hostel play in IIT, we had the issue of having to find an all girls play. As a director, I am not sure if I was a good one. I believe I am a good actor and I had in my head how a scene should look like and pushed my actors to do it perfectly. A good director would probably give more freedom to the actors to develop on their own. Sets are equally important to bring a scene alive. I felt putting together the set was far more exhausting. Technicalities aside, it’s always a lot of fun, endless nights, nervous jitters, shouting and screaming, but mostly laughing, and all along striving together to make something happen.Whether it was for a competition in IIT or our culfest in IIM, the sole motive was to put up a fabulous show and t he final show was worth every minute spent on it.
Q You love travelling and discussing places in details. Every place has its own charm and uniqueness. Which have been your favourite places till now and why?
A: Favourites are hard to pick. I can write a romanticised one-pager on each city I’ve been in. So, I’ll talk about the city I currently live in, London. I love the way the old and the new mix together, how I live in a little building on a canal that looks like a house from a children’s story book, how I take a bright red bus everyday, past the Thames and a majestic bridge, to an architecturally beautiful old English building in the middle of a jungle of glass and steel high rise buildings. London, I love the way as an unsuspecting passer-by I might walk right into the middle of a street festival, or how the tube/bus always has a spare newspaper lying around for me left by people who have already read it on their commute. London, I love the way every morning, I walk like I m running, along with people in dark suits checking their blackberries all the time and bumping into clueless tourists in bright clothes and inverted maps. London, I could go on…
Q We discovered your special poetry blog which is straight from the heart & very emoted. Poetry is a very different style of writing and is challenging. Can you tell us more about this blog.
A: As I mentioned, I had actually started writing poetry for as long as I could remember. I did not realise that general prose is also a form of writing and a good one at that. When I was in school, I used to try to rhyme the lines, and build it like stanzas because that’s what you are taught in school. So I would write on line, try to find a rhyming word and write the second line such that it would end in the rhyming word. But overtime, I changed. At some point, I got frustrated at trying to rhyme and then I started writing what I feel is much more beautiful and heart felt. Yet again, my poetry evolved to include a little sing song and with the rhythm comes the rhyme. So now I write rhyming poetry with a little rhythm. I can’t tell if it’s better than before. And I still write non-rhyming poetry as well. I haven’t been very dedicated to my poetry blog though. You make me feel guilty!
Q What is your favourite genre when it comes to reading books and why?
A: Indian English. I have grown out of thriller novels and I would like to read a book for the love of writing, and something I can connect with. We have some great writers like Amitav Ghosh. When I was studying in Calcutta having interned in London, I went for a student exchange to Boston, and read Jhumpa Lahiri’s collection of short stories on Calcuttan families in London and Boston. I think Indian English writing has evolved now to write about Indianness and be proud of it rather than copy the English (mostly American) style plots. What Amish Tripathi has achieved is fascinating. He has inspired young people to find out about our own mythology instead of reading about the Greek and Norse gods. We still need to improve our style of writing and develop better editors in the industry, but we are getting there and as a genre, it inspires me. I must add though, I find the new best-selling formula of masala love stories of IITians or people from other famous colleges hilarious. I just don’t see how studying in a famous college should make any difference in love; love is love.
Q In the near future do you plan to write and publish your poems or your own book? If yes, can we have a trailer of what we can look forward to?
A: I have always wanted to publish a book someday. Given the fact that I’m too impatient to write an entire novel, I think I would write a collection of short stories that are interwoven. And together it would be a novel. It was only recently that I decided I must work towards it. I have written about 3 or 4 stories and I m working to put together the rest. But it would be at least a year before I can pull together say, 20 stories. And then, well, if you can get me publishers, it might work out well! As for the trailer, it’s bunch of stories about little incidents, each one based in a city I have been in and something integral to the people of the city. A worried young woman in Hyderabad, a lost middle-aged man in Calcutta, etc and somehow a small thread of thought connects all these stories. I also planning on a final story that would create a concrete connection, hopefully.
Q You spent your childhood in Visakhapatnam. Tell us you most favourite childhood memory from there.
A: I can tell you I love the city with my whole heart; the beach, the hills, the valley, the greenery; it’s mixed people from all over the country, thanks to the Navy, the port and related industry; so untouched by the rest of the countries politics and yet so well versed with the development of the country. The city signifies what I am, a simple life with big dreams. If you haven’t visited it, you must. Most of my memories are attached to the beach or the apartments that I lived most of my childhood. My friend and I, we used to cycle around in circles around our area in the evenings. In one corner of our block, there was a very old unused house in a large compound with a high wall around it that we couldn’t see above it unless we stood on the peddles of our cycles. We had called it Bhooth Bungalow and made up so many stories around it. One day it was Nagula Chaviti, a festival to pray to snakes that protect the farms and in the city we obviously don’t have farms or snakes, so our families took us to the Bhooth Bungalow’s yard to pray to a “snake”. With that all the imaginary stories our young minds had created all came crashing down. Now we laugh about it.
Q “Four years of togetherness and all my insti life transformed into one cake”. You have indeed had an amazing IIT life. Share with us a few incidents from your college life that are indelible from your memory.
A: The label called “the IITian life” on my blog has 98 posts tagged to it. You have to accept it’s very difficult to pick a few incidents, but I shall try anyway with a few incidents that happened before I started blogging. In my first semester, I took part in debate at inter-hostel competitions. The previous contestant was twice my size and had a voice 1000 times the strength of mine. When I went up the stage I understood the meaning of the phrase “rubbery knees”. Same month I also sang in the western music solo competitions and went out of tune. I finished my performance, went out and started crying on the way back to my hostel, feeling extremely stupid for having humiliated myself for no reason. A friend of mine, better with his guitar than I am at my vocals, cycled up behind me to tell me I did a great job and that he would not have had the courage to perform in the very first semester. In the years to come, I won points for my hostel in debate, elocution and monoacting, and in western music solo and group. But those two incidents in my first semester, I remember like they happened yesterday. I probably realised I am not afraid to make a fool of myself.
Q Movies are another huge feature in your blog. Which recent movie did you watch and absolutely love? Is there any specific genre of movies that you follow?
A: I don’t have TV at home, only youtube and an unlimited movie card at the cinemas. So now I watch all kinds of movies. However, I appreciate a movie with good talent and a good story. One recent movie that I really appreciated (and haven’t blogged about) is Bombay Talkies, specifically Dibakar Banerjee’s Star which is an old Satyajit Ray story and Nawazuddin Siddiqui was outstanding. There is something about his acting that makes you feel that it could have been you. But the latest movie I totally loved was The Wolverine, because I love the character and Hugh Jackman is simply awesome. I would give it ten for entertainment and zero for originality.
Q What are three important pieces of advice you would give to a person who wants to start blogging?
A: Firstly, just start. Pick your area of passion to blog about and start. Niche blogs are more popular. Mine is just a personal blog though. Secondly, keep at it. Don’t neglect it. If you write one post in 6 months, you’ll lose all your readers. Finally, be sensitive and responsible. You are blessed to live in a country with freedom of speech. Do not misuse it. Criticism can also be beautifully written. It need not have to be hurtful.
Q According to you, what is the future of blogging in India?
A: I think blogging in India has grown quite vastly over the last five years. Now we have specialised blogs for everything. It’s a mode for putting your ideas out there and testing the acceptance level. However, it is still considered a part-time job or a hobby. A proper format of monetisation or blogging as a career choice is not widely accepted. It is coming up in pockets and I think there is a lot of future in that direction. We need more professionals to talk about their profession rather than their hobbies.
Q You also seem to find a lot of happiness in the little things of life. Tell us five things that brought a smile on your face recently.
A: Wow. I actually managed to find 5 things that happened in the last 8 days that made me smile, more than smile.
1. I opened the book “An Equal Music” by Vikram Seth. It starts with the protagonist taking a walk near the Serpentine. Just then a friend of mine buzzes on gtalk and says “we are planning a picnic in Hyde Park, probably near the Serpentine”. And just like that the book became magical.
2. One morning I logged on to Facebook as I was drinking my morning coffee and 4 people had poked me. Those were the girls I spent all my IIT life with. It was a pure coincidence. And it made my day.
3. I usually need 20 alarms to wake me up in the morning. But one day I woke up before my alarm because my phone was constantly pinging. Turns out, my class from school created a whatsapp chat room. And here I was joining in the chat with people I haven’t seen or spoken to in a decade. This one didn’t make my day, it stopped it. I was hooked all day.
4. Last weekend, I called up a friend of mine who recently moved to London to catch up. And we spoke about our childhood and remembered all our good times. She reminded me of how we used to cycle in the evenings around Bhooth Bungalow together.
5. So one day I got an email from this guy who runs this Indian blog community asking me if I could answer all his interview questions, and he could put it up on his website. It totally made my day. I can’t wait for it be published. 🙂
Q Let’s conclude off with a few favourites.
Movie: Mumbai Meri Jaan
Author: Amitav Ghosh
TV Show: The Big Bang Theory
Your Zodiac Sign: Cancer
Thank You Pranava for this amazing interview. Bloggers, we hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as we enjoyed asking the questions. Do give us your feedback. 🙂