The name of the interviewee in Sanskrit means both ‘enrapture’ or ‘enchant’. He is an ex-web copywriter and sub-editor and has been online and blogging for more than three years now. Yes it is none other than Vijayendra Mohanty aka @Vimoh. He is the brains behind mypajama.com and blogs at Vmohanty.com. Read on to know how Vimoh thinks and what he feels about many things in life.
Q: When and why did you start blogging?
A: I started blogging in 2002, mostly because nobody else was doing it. 🙂 I am an early adopter by nature. I started off by reading American political commentary blogs that were chronicling the Bush-Gore elections. It looked like a fun and liberating exercise to me and I started one myself and used it as a mundane, daily diary kind of thing.
Q: What topics do you generally blog about?
A: I blog ideas. I look for high concepts in everyday reality and type my thoughts down. My blog often comes across as some sort of pop philosophy website, but I prefer to think of it as my personal journal. I have always been good at explaining things. And I tend to be able to find deeper meanings in everything I see. I put these to use on my blog.
In addition, I write stories on my blog. Not heavy literary fiction, but small little fables that can be read and digested in one go and give you something to think about. My previous blog mypajama.com (still around, but not being updated) was almost completely powered by my flash fiction.
Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? What do you do then?
A: Not often. When it does happen however, I stop writing and take a walk. Sometimes, when the problem is only in expression but the idea is fully formed in my head, I type it out without caring about what it ends up looking like. Then I return to it later and fix it up. I try to never publish a half-formed post. I take hours to edit even something as short as 400 words. I am a perfectionist to a fault. 🙂
Q: What promotional techniques work best for you and why?
A: I have experimented with almost all kinds of promotional techniques out there, mostly with my early blogs. But in the end I settled for just one — blogging. I have realised that if what I am blogging is good, it will find its audience. If what I am publishing is anything less than the best I can produce, no amount of promotion is going to help my blog stay afloat in this ever expanding sea of text on the web.
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 would say very important, but that is just my opinion. The importance depends on what kind of blog we are talking about. On one of my old blogs, 90 per cent of the comments I received went, “great post!” or, “I love the way you write!”. While it was very heartening to see such a response to my writing, it did seem pointless to answer each and every one of them.
Some blogs thrive on discussion and comments are their life-blood. Some blogs are more of a one-way deal and don’t need the interactive angle as much as others do.
As far as I am concerned, I do try and answer all comments I receive. Mostly, I explain or defend my view of things. I even engage the occasional idiot who lands up and disagrees with something I have written without fully understanding it. What I do not tolerate on my comment threads is foul behaviour. I have had more than one troll running around in my threads and it caused me to enable full comment moderation on my blog. But it is one of the prices one pays for being public with your opinions.
Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.
A: To be honest, I do not read any blogs. I haven’t done so in about a year or so. I know it sounds crazy but I believe reading others’ blogs gets in the way of your own blog. I do subscribe to a lot of feeds, but I treat my feed reader like a book. I read the text without looking at where it came from. So a list of my favourite blogs would be as new to me as it would be to you. Anyway, here goes:
- The Better India
Latest post: Khabar Lahariya – A Weekly Newspaper in Bundeli
- Non Toxin
Latest post: Solving the Unsolvable: Andrew Wiles
- Jai Hind: Proud to be an Indian
Latest post: A Strong Bhartiya Janta Party is required for Healthy Democracy!
Latest post: Sufism: The Heart of Islam (New Book by Sadia Dehlvi)
- Fly you fools
Latest post: Agony Uncle and the Drunk Driver
Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?
A: Every word I blog makes me wiser. I think I blog as much for myself as I blog for my readers. I find I write best when I assume I am my own reader, when I take the imaginary reader out of my head.
Some of my readers sometimes assume that I sit down in front of my computer with a preachy “what shall I teach them today?” attitude. But in reality, my posts are a way for me to make sense of my world. Indeed, most of my seemingly philosophical posts are inspired by events going on in my own life.
Q. One of your posts ‘Day of the Dog’ is a very well written story :). What were the thoughts when you were writing this post and any message which you wanted to send across?
A: I wrote that fable soon after I quit my own job to pursue my dream of writing. The dog in the story is me. Everything that happens to him, actually happened to me.
The story is an old one and it is about breaking out of the prison we build around ourselves with our delusions about prosperity. I didn’t consciously intend to send out a message with the story but I was happy to see that it resonated with a lot of people.
I actually never intend to send messages with my stories. All that I ask for is that the reader think about it for a moment. The conclusions they come to will be their own and not what I intended. There is no way I can control the outcome of someone else reading a story I have written. So I don’t worry about it. 🙂
Q: The recent court ruling in favour of Sach Ka Saamna took us back to the post which you had written a year ago on a similar issue? Do you think these kind of cases are filed for publicity or is it that we still are not comfortable discussing such thoughts?
A: I used to wonder about why things are the way they are. I used to wish things would be more to my liking. But then I realised that conflict is the very nature of our universe and these things don’t matter.
I try to not judge people for their views. However, I speak up against such ‘ban-mentality’ because that is my nature. It is as simple as that. 🙂
Q: You read around 3 books every week, that is something. 🙂 Out of those books, how many are of Indian authors? Do you think that Indian authors are still behind in the terms of reach inspite of having some great content? Share with our readers your favourite books, authors and recent recommendations. What are you reading now?
A: My per-week book count has gone down somewhat since I put that statistic in my about page. 🙂 But I am in the middle of one book or another at any given point of time, so its not far from the truth either. Perhaps two-books-a-week is a closer approximation. 🙂
I keep a record of subjects I have forayed into. So it is difficult to remember authors and their nationalities. But I have been steeped in research these last few months and the topic happens to be Hindu mythology. There have been tons of scriptures and books full of commentary and paraphrasing.
I do not choose my books by browsing bestseller lists, but Indian authors are doing better and better with time, if you ask me. The question of reach is moot. India is much bigger a market than most of the world is likely to be, especially for an Indian writing about India. I don’t think we should alter our subject matters of choice merely so we can cater to a so-called larger market.
Q: You were very active and forthcoming with your views during the Indian Elections on Twitter and other platforms. We would love to have your opinion about how can the medium be used effectively in the future.
A: I think social web tools like Twitter best serve our interests when we use them to voice our opinions. Most of the problems of a country like ours root from a convoluted system. Between anyone with a problem and their solution is a veritable army of middlemen. Social media can do away with that and simplify things to a great extent.
Even without a system to channel grievances, something like Twitter can act as a complement to the mainstream news mechanism. An everyday Joe like you and me doesn’t need to be heavily armed with equipment to use Twitter. It just works. I like to think of Twitter as a book written by the proverbial million monkeys. It’s where the truth is… or will be, soon. 🙂
Q: You are working on a Fantasy Novel. 🙂 Can you give our readers an inside scoop about it and more details?
A: The story came to me, all made up, three years ago. Since then, I have been trying to do justice to its execution.
All I can tell you is that it is a contemporary story with elements and characters from Hindu myth and folklore. It is an adventure story about saving the world.
My writing of it has been periodically interrupted by daily life concerns. The battle rages on. 🙂
Q: Do you earn revenue through your blog? How does one go about it?
A: I do not earn any money from my blog. I never have. I tried ads once long ago but gave up soon because my heart wasn’t in it.
If you pay your blog enough attention and build it to the best of your ability, it can be a useful addition to the top of your resume and can get you a job. Jobs usually come with a salary. How is that for a blog monetisation strategy? 🙂
Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog?
A: Just start a blog. Whether you stick to it or not is up to you. Whether it works or not depends on how much work you put into it. But do keep one thing in mind.
Blog the way only you can. Don’t do a tech blog because an Amit Agarwal makes a lot of money or a political blog because an Amit Varma is very popular. If people wanted to read Amit Agarwal or Amit Varma, they would go visit ‘Digital Inspiration‘ or ‘India Uncut‘ respectively.
You are not an Amit (unless that’s actually your name). You are you. What will set your blog apart is you. If you want to do a blog about dead flowers, do so by all means. Don’t research a niche or wonder who could possibly be interested in something like that. If your topic gets you going, then it is the right topic for you.
Most people don’t do this. So 90 per cent of all blogs are trash. That is sad. Good thing is, it relatively easy to shine in a pile of trash. 🙂
Early on, I was blogging about blogging. It sounded like a good idea at the time because everyone else was doing it. But I didn’t get around to doing my best posts till I got offline and wrote about things outside my computer, till I started blogging things my own way.
Q: Let’s conclude off with a few favorites.
Color: I used to like black a lot for quite some time. But these days I like white better. Grey, brown and other dull colours are also my thing.
Movies: More than I can name. A few titles off the top of my head — Forrest Gump, Kung-Fu Panda, The Matrix, Transformers, Iron Man, Dark Knight, The Last Samurai.
TV Show: I don’t watch a lot of TV. But these days I manage to catch an episode of the following every once in a while — Dr. Who, Ben 10, Full Metal Alchemist.
Books: Lots! A few of them are — One (Richard Bach), Illusions (Richard Bach), What should I do with my Life? (Po Bronson), The Power of Myth (Joseph Campbell), The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho), Tuesdays With Morrie (Mitch Albom), Good Omens (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman).
Time of Day: Late night and early morning.
Thanks a lot Vijayendra for this wonderful interview. We are sure after reading the interview our readers would have seen a different side of you :). It was a pleasure interviewing you and your answers were spot on.