Interview with Suranga Date aka Ugich Konitari

At the time when the ladies are busy watching the Balika Vadhu, Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata hai and what not, there are some of them who spend their time blogging and make use of their free time to engage in wonderful discussions. She is a Masters in Physics, used to work for what is now one of India’s biggest IT company, TCS and India’s most sought after college, IIT Mumbai.

She is fondly known as Ugich Konitari (means ‘someone just like that’) and blogs at Gappa. She manages multiple blogs and is a contributor to Limerickwala as well. Let us welcome Mrs. Suranga Date, 60 years of age, one of India’s senior most and respected blogger to our Adda for this very inspirational interview. For the first time, she reveals her photo in an exclusive with BlogAdda. The stocks of Balaji Telefilms would crash once this interview goes live as people will start blogging taking cue from Mrs. Suranga. Here is Mrs. Suranga Date unplugged for you.

Update: Part 2 now live!

Q: When and why did you start blogging?

I started blogging in May 2006. Prior to that, blogs were never my scene. I was conversant with making webpages, and in general  IT-fied, if one may say that.

There were many reasons for starting.  My son had just started a Cricket blog, and  that was really my introduction. He was on blogger, so I got on to blogger. Didn’t even know there were other platforms.  Add to this the fact that I had “voluntarily retired from service” (as they say), and after the initial euphoria, had settled down to a life where there was a bit more free time than before. What of course helped, was that right from childhood, I have enjoyed writing, both prose and verse, thanks to a huge amount of encouragement from my parents.

The additional thrill factor here was that you could write what you wanted, folks would read, enjoy, tell you off, praise, whatever;  there wasn’t anyone sitting behind a desk, twiddling a red pencil, and handing sheets back to you, and saying “Sorry”.

You just wrote, enjoyed, and basically got on with life.

Q: What topics do you generally blog about?

Difficult question. Many times, it is about my childhood memories, seen in a new light as a senior.  Sometimes it is about everyday personalities that I encounter in my daily life. So many that one takes for granted. Occasionally, it is about people who I admire for the way they deal with problems in their life. Many times it has been about children and how they think.

Medical science and research is of great interest to me. I am interested in life stages, fascinated by the brain and the human body. It interests me to learn how the brain makes decisions, and how intelligence of certain kinds can be encouraged in children, sometimes  considered incapable. Sometimes,  I need to blog about it because it delights me so much. Sometimes I am cynical about some research. That makes me blog too.

Occasionally, I get really angry about something and do a sarcastic blog.  Like on the monkeygate-cricket  thing in Sydney, Slumdog, our ministers, etc.

So you see, I don’t really know where to slot myself. Probably a Dadi of all trades, Dada  of none.

Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? What do you do then?

A:  See, there is no schedule for blogging. So it’s not like I sit there and nothing happens.

Most of the time, I can’t wait to blog about something, and the thought  speed always, but always, threatens to drown the speed of my two fingers on the keyboard. Now that you ask, I must say, that I have never really got stuck.

But, should I ever suffer from a bloggers block, I will probably go make myself a nice cup of coffee, make something special for a meal,  call a friend to chat, do some housework, or even sleep. (Just realized I don’t need a bloggers block-I do this all the time !)

Q: Do you promote your blog? What promotional techniques work best for you and why?

A:  I am not in the commercial domain. So I don’t earn anything. (Someone once encouraged me to do Google Adsense, and after a few days, I must have messed up something, because the Google types cancelled my account)…

I love to read other blogs and comment whenever I have something to say. I sometimes participate in  things where you (or someone else)  nominate your blog or post for something like an award. In such situations, you get to read and enjoy  many new blogs.

It’s become a standing joke when I email all my friends to vote for me for something, and they all do so and hear nothing later on.  (It doesn’t cost and I never lose my deposit, unlike several people we know, who cause excessive noise and lies pollution once in 5 years). Once in a while one has tasted success. But overall you end up meeting many new bloggers and make many new friends.

Lately, someone has been extolling Twitter.  I must have made 1 post till now (for votes). I have no idea how this thing is supposed to work, why someone would be interesting in pearls of wisdom thrown out in fractured English, why there must be continuous updates. Sometimes, I see people coming to my blogsite from Twitter. I have yet to figure out how they do.

Q: How important is it for the blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?

A: The interaction with those who write comments,  is the fun part of blogging. I always answer the comments, mostly individually, but occasionally en masse, depending on the nature and tenor. I greatly value that someone actually takes the trouble to read and comment on my post. I am simply overcome by the fact that out there, there are so many folks who regularly read what I write!

The comments are usually nice, and constructively complementary, but occasionally there have been amazingly abusive comment, like when I did a post on cigarette smoking; the guy just went angrily ballistic, and came back the next day and wrote another angry abusive comment. I have left both the comments there.

Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?

A: Very clearly, the huge amount of friends I have made there.  I have friends ranging in age from 25 to 84, across the world.  They communicate with me even outside the blog. And you know, what’s interesting, is that first you imagine the persona of the blogger from their blogposts which you read often.  You have an image in your mind, of the personality. And when you actually get to the know the person, either in person or even outside the blog, on email etc., its uncanny how the two match up.

My blogger friends are world wide.  There is a 76 year old lady in Seattle who posts photos and I write poetry based on those, which she adds to her posts. Like she says, “we are a pair!”.  Then there is a lady in her forties in Australia, whose grandfather taught polo to the Jaipur royals, and her father in his eighties, was a cricketer. He enjoys some of my posts, and since he has age related sight problems, she reads my  blog posts (sometimes about cricket) to him. I called up my 84 year old blogger friend in Tucson, Arizona, on a recent short trip to the US,  and you wouldn’t have known she is deaf, because she has a phone that spelled and  displayed what I was saying! The stuff you learn about technology!

I am basically a people person. So I feel blogging is just made for me, as it were…

Q: You are one of the Senior bloggers of the Indian Blogosphere. What keeps you going and who inspires you to keep the wonderful posts coming?

A:  What keeps me going? Who inspires me?  Life, with all its troubles, happy days, sad days, worries.  And the ability to feel that I can write anything  on any subject of my choice. I feel grateful, that I have lived the life I have, with the opportunities that I have had right from when I was a child, till now.

It also certainly helps that what I write, compose or draw  is not dictated by anyone else’s standards, and possible marks and rewards.  A certain amount of bravado and  a conviction that you don’t need to confirm to certain societal norms (so long as you don’t hurt anyone),  in general public also works in my favour.  Of course, being a woman helps.

Travel within India and outside and interacting with people everywhere is a big inspiration.

As such, Vanaprasthashram is simply not on. Blogashram is.

Q: Recently, you met up with your fellow bloggers who share the same thoughts and or on the same wavelength as you are. You have made a lot of blogging friends, what are your thoughts on ‘Online Friendship’? Why are people apprehensive about it?

A:   I would distinguish between Online friendships made through blogs, and those made through social networking sites (SNS).  SNS originated in a country where people interaction is more organized, privacy is a huge concern, life situations do not involve hoards of people all the time, and family bonds normally, not always strong. So someone decided that if you indicated a persons qualities/properties/inclinations  in on-line pages,  you could garner a social group(s).

I feel this is slightly redundant in the Indian context. Our society and “inclusive” socializing makes for different kind of friendships, based on connections through family and friends, school etc. People who are already friends keeping in touch through these SNS makes sense.  Though there are always interesting success stories about people who met on the Net, one does worry about fake folks posing as someone else, and messing up a young person’s life.

Q: You are one of the contributors on ‘Limerickwala’. How different is community blog to a personal blog?

A:  This isn’t a community blog where you sign up, and get a Welcome email.  On the way back from our first blogger lunch, where we had already started commenting in limerick form on each other’s blog posts, just for fun, one of our group, brought in this suggestion for the Limerick  blog.  Of course, most of us jumped on it.  We started as 3 contributors and slowly have added  some more. We all have different extraneous interests and so our choice of topics to “limerick” about is diverse.  And we automatically respect each other’s space.

We did a limerick on the oil-PSU strike early 2009, when papers reported salaries there in excess of Rs 1 lac a month.  The thing was inundated by PSU types, commenting  in  limerick form, poetry form as well as prose.  And we had to write another limerick in reply, separately.

Q: You are known for ‘The Art on current happenings’, that too using Microsoft Paint as a tool :). Can you shed some light on what thought process goes into it while making one?

A:  Please, I didn’t know I was “known”.

A blogger friend from Australia, in her seventies, did a kind of “discovery of MSPaint” post, and I was supremely attracted to it when I  saw I could fiddle around with it, kind of non-trivially.  I also do some stick figure art as a hobby where  I do personalized  pseudo warli paintings (as personal gifts), to depict happenings in a person’s life. So I thought this stuff like MSPaint was made for someone like me who had a problem with the anatomical proportions of real figures, their expressions  etc.

I started the Reghotya (means Scribbling in Marathi) blog  as a art commentary on happenings  around me, in the country and the world. As in my main blog, being shocked or angry about something triggers  some artistic outputs.  Of course since my art ability was severely limited, I had to add a wordy part. But that was the irreverent part. One depicted one’s take on the event and then had a good bloggy laugh at it.  I am just surprised that people actually click and go see that blog .

What makes all these kind of endeavours possible is that  you can give free reign to your thoughts and creativity, and enjoy the resultant output.  It doesn’t matter if no one comes around to read it. You can sit back and enjoy it in your old age. (Speaking about which, maybe it is  time to sit back)…

That was sheer awesomeness! Isn’t it? We went back to the 70’s and 80’s and yeah we won’t ask you about roads. 🙂 Readers! Here is your chance to ask Mrs. Suranga what you always wanted to know about her, her times and her blog. This interview is not yet over. There is another part coming up pretty soon. Watch out for this space and the part 2 of this wonderful inspiring interview.

And here is the part 2 of her interview. Don’t Miss it!

34 Replies to “Interview with Suranga Date aka Ugich Konitari”

  1. Before I read the interview I must congratulate Blog Adda… congrats on getting in the real bloggers… she is one of my favouritest bloggers… and you guys did great to net her !!!! 😀

  2. I second Hitchy! Ugich is a really good blogger, and I remember her from one the of Indusladies contests. And ‘Blogashram’..whoa..that was classic 🙂

  3. Geez.. mostly I have not interacted with Suranga outside the blog… at times i have seen her in my g-talk list and always thought her to be a more serious person… !! geez… have I been wrong… reading this blog comes out a very simple and down to earth person..

    I always have thought that she is a great observer and a very beautiful narrator… !!!! 😀 😀 loved knowing more of you and now I think you might have one guy buzzing you on gtalk !!!! 😛

    WAiting for part 2 !!!!!

  4. Loved reading this one. Thanks blogadda 🙂 I started following Reghotya first and then got to know abt Gappa from Hitchu 🙂 And eh, he also told me u r one of his fav bloggers 🙂
    BlogAshram idea is gr8 🙂

  5. Pal Thank you. I remember you from the contest too !

    HW Down-to-earth. That I am. Can’t help it though. Its all the “wajan”:-) And yes, I look forward to the gtalk…..

    Swaram Thank you. HW used to make fun of my cricket knowledge at first. I used to have Gavaskar bowling googlies and stuff 🙂 I am just wondering how you landed on Reghotya! But , welcome !

  6. Suranga ji, Congratulations! Harish told me just now about this interview and I had to immediately come and read it.

    You know what? This one was on my list for a long time. I had even mentioned that to a friend once on a casual conversation. Always wanted to see you here. Deserving!

    Now let me go read it.

  7. Just finished reading.

    Quoting Suranga ji: “But, should I ever suffer from a bloggers block, I will probably go make myself a nice cup of coffee, make something special for a meal, call a friend to chat, do some housework, or even sleep. (Just realized I don’t need a bloggers block-I do this all the time !)”

    Love that. I don’t get the concept of blogger’s or writer’s block either. As you said, there is no schedule for blogging.

    Eagerly waiting for Part-2. 🙂

    Once again Congratulations! and thanks BlogAdda team for featuring one of the most erudite bloggers here.

  8. Dear Suranga,

    You must have forgotten about one of your greatest admirers, who is awe of your accomplishments as a self-fulfilled person, as a mother to a daughter and a son, as a sister to my son and as a writer of interesting essays. I am referring to me — Grandma Hanni — in California who is in my 92nd year and writes to you about your blogs. May I don’t “count,” since I am not “on the computer,” and my responses are done by snail-mail

    Congratulations on this nice interview.

    Love, Grandma Hanni

  9. Smitha Thank you.

    Solilo Thank you for all the kind words and appreciation. I think this bloggers block is all bunkum. You shouldn’t blog if there is nothing to say. Maybe people love to create jargon. Who knows ?

    Just explain one thing . Why is a nice girl like you called The Don ? 🙂

  10. Vikram Karve Thank you, and welcome to Blogashram 🙂 I was checking out your blogs on sulekha, and something rings a bell. Will contact by email. Hope its OK.

  11. Exactly. You have block when you have a deadline. Blogging is personal and no deadlines. I take short breaks all the time when I get bored of writing and reading blogs.

    Ask the devils (read Hitchwriter) who call me Don. I am so Angelic. :))

    Actually it started with my virtual name ‘Solilo’ which is (sounds) Spanish. So everyone simply started pulling my legs that it reminds them of a Don’s name.

  12. Grandma Hanni Thank you for this most heartfelt comment and I am greatly honored. I am so glad you liked the interview. And you are certainly not forgotten. Its just that i was looking at putting blog links to those that I mentioned in the interview and one cant put actual addresses there. You are more than a friend. You are family…..

  13. Woww… that was beautiful. and i must say ive been to Surangaji’s blog only a few times, and now shall visit more often!!

    Lovely interview indeed… Kudos to BlogAdda

  14. Suranga dont go on the bhola muflar waali lady… she is a real devil… !!!!

    apni taang thodi to bahar nikalo… I bet she will pull it… !!!!! 😛

  15. How lovely to read this interview with Suranga! She’s an intelligent, thought-provoking, creative woman that I admire and respect. Whenever I go to her blog, I never know what to expect for the topic, but I always know it will be enjoyable 🙂

  16. Few days back, I read a poem in Solilo’s blog and remembered the name – Suranga !! And today, when I read Suranga Date – my mind went back to that poem. It was a lovely poem, what you wrote there.

    And it is a lovely thing, what you have told here. It just goes on to say, that age is no barrier, when we want to do things. I am amazed at the number of blogs you contribute to.

    It was such a pleasure reading your interview !!! Its certainly an inspiration to many.

  17. One of my favorites to read, to see in my inbox and comments with her creative, unique, and talented comments formed as poetry….I loved seeing your photo at last, and what a beautiful surprise it was :)))

  18. Braja Thank you. Though some people think I may have caught the verse-virus really bad. As for the photo, I have closed my eyes and looked elsewhere in so many photos, that this was a surprise to me as well ! :-)))

  19. Great interview, Suranga! It’s true-you to the bone! So glad you found a vehicle to release your inner sage, and share the sharp insights and subtle humor that have been a gift to me for so many years. Blog on!

  20. i’m so so happy to see you featured here. You are one of my favorite bloggers. When i am unable to read your posts, i keep them unread so that i can read them later, but i try not to miss a single one!

    I loved reading the interview and great to see the face behind gappa 🙂

  21. Hello again Suranga,

    What a lovely surprise, I’m so glad I clicked to see what Blogadda was … I now can put a face to your name .. when I’m reading your posts I can now enjoy my tea or coffee and feel that I am truly visiting you .

    Cheers from the land of the Tartan, Kate x.

    BTW say hello to that yellow ball in the sky for me, it hasn’t been sighted here yet.

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