While you wake up this morning, to get ready for another day, our next interviewee gets ready to answer our questions. While you are having your same old breakfast menu, our interviewee has a three course menu ready and is all set for the interview. We are pleased to have Neo Indian at your adda as the first interview of 2011. It promises to be a cracker of an interview. Let us start by visualizing the setting for the interview in Neo’s own words. 🙂
Neo smiles enigmatically, then gazes thoughtfully outside his window. Suddenly, as if hit by an epiphany, he laughs attractively, runs his hand through his smooth, black hair, and starts typing with just the right combination of youthful vigor and a wisdom beyond his years—his face eclectically handsome, his eyes bright and twinkly, his ears perky, and his perfectly proportioned head encircled by a warm and fuzzy halo.
Q: When and why did you start blogging?
A: I like to believe I started in the early 90s. I wrote a short story for my high school English class titled “Devil’s Daughter” , which was a snarky take on my school’s Principal. My Principal was the sort of devotedly religious person who was never content with knowing that she would get into heaven—she had to force us into heaven too. My story was about the devil’s daughter, who is sent undercover to heaven with the mission of turning heaven—which in my story bore a striking similarity to my school—into hell.
My story did not mention my Principal, but she saw right through it. She posted my essay on the school bulletin board to shame me: “Let everyone in the school see how your parents have raised you”. As it turned out, everyone with a functioning brain (i.e. everyone except the Principal) loved the piece, and suddenly a thin, awkward and embarrassingly pre-pubescent Neo was the most popular guy in his class, well, at least for a few hours.
Naturally then, I decided I wanted to be a writer. Unfortunately, I let everyone convince me then that writing software is also “kind of sort of” writing, and you can guess the rest: “.. one day you find, 10 years have got behind you; no one told you when to run; you missed the starting gun.”
Q: What topics do you generally blog about?
A: To ensure quality and consistency on my blog, I follow a rigorous process that consists of the following steps:
- Think of something to say
- Say it
As regular readers of my blog are well aware, step 1 is optional.
But when it comes to step 2, I guess my philosophy is that “most things mean less than we’ve been led to believe.” That isn’t much of a philosophy, which is why I often get stuck while writing an entry.
Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? What do you do then?
A: Wow, it was almost like I anticipated that question. Well I should follow @cgawker’s advice and not try to force it, but I try to write it anyway and store it away in my Drafts folder so that it’s out of my mind. Mrs. Neo says that the ugly stuff that’s sitting un-posted in my Drafts folder is my real blog.
Q: Do you promote your blog? What promotional techniques work best for you and why?
A: I tweet and I have a facebook page, but ultimately the most successful promotional technique is good writing, an interesting topic, and a consistent voice, which is why I rely heavily on my blog’s beautiful theme, awesome fonts and the disturbingly pink ‘n’ logo (my current ‘n’ was created by @AdySan with inputs from @nimbupani — both awesome web-designers.)
Q: How important is it for the blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?
A: Yes, I try to reply to every single one; emails too. I consider it an incredible act of encouragement (or as my critics might call it, treason) for someone to take the time to comment on my blog. I also visit (and subscribe to) most of the blogs of the people who comment on my blog, unless their blog is worse than the Times of India. I have to draw the line somewhere.
Q: How did ‘Neo Indian’ come into existence and Why ‘Neo Indian’? Share it all with us! 🙂
A: You can blame my relatives.
One of my uncles says that only someone who, like him, has suffered 20 long years commuting on the Churchgate-Borivali fast train is a true Indian. (My cousin and I gifted him Nelson Mandela’s biography; we hoped he would gain a perspective on what it means to truly suffer. He read the book and was convinced that that his life story had a close resemblance to Mandela’s.)
My other uncle, who lives on the East coast in the U.S, claims his kids are even more Indian than Indians who live in India, because they are Bharatnatyam experts, Vedic scholars, Marathi poets, kabaddi champions and who knows what else—basically he has the kind of picture-perfect children who send a chill of horror down your spine.
Needless to say, both uncles think I’m as Indian as a blond penguin, and they look at my son as if he were an orphaned survivor from Haiti. After many years of being on the defensive, I thought I should try something different. I’ll call myself an Indian. And not just any ordinary Indian (although I’ve yet to meet one), I’ll be a neoIndian!
I checked the domain name neoIndian.org: available! (As the owner of a domain name like blogadda.com, you must know how hard it is to find a domain with “India” in it.) I took it as a sign; the blog was born; and soon after I published my first post, I got my first comment: “Awesome blog! Will be back!” I truly realized how Mandela must have felt when he said, “Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.” And so I want to take this opportunity to thank my first commentor, “cheap authentic rolex.”
Q: With a good looking maid and a chauffeur, there is little work to do. How does Neo Indian spend his day and nights?
A: I spend my days with my chauffeur and my nights with my … books.
Q: Obama’s loss is Yeddyurappa’s gain. Share with us 5 things that Obama didn’t do well to keep you there and 5 things in India that will not make you ever go back.
A: I didn’t move to India because I didn’t like the U.S., I moved to India because I wanted to experience first-hand the “new India”. I briefly considered living in Singapore too (warm weather, awesome public transport and world-class public libraries!) but I was afraid I’d go claustrophobic and drive my car into the sea. Plus, I sort of prefer to retain my right to chew gum.
Yeddy-who? Oh, that guy. Well, he could pass a law saying that any auto driver who asks for more than the metered fare gets a free lifetime subscription to Airtel’s SMS marketing campaign. That might help. He can take a commission out of it, of course.
Q: ‘How to stop faking it and start living in the real India?’. What is the India that Neo wants his children to live in? If given an option, would you want them to be an Indian or an NRI?
A: If my kids have the basic skills with which they can physically live and prosper in both the U.S. and India, I will have done my job. The choice will be theirs, not mine, and the choice will be then, not now; I think it is foolhardy and arrogant to try to predict which country will offer the best opportunities and lifestyle 10-15 years from now. Which reminds me, it’s time to enroll Neo Jr in a Mandarin class.
My kid(s?) will probably turn out okay and make a good career for themselves, but my biggest hope for them is that they find beauty and inspiration in their brief residency on Earth; something that makes life bearable for them. Whenever I finish a really good book, the kind that you get withdrawal pangs from (the last one like that was Road, by Cormac McCarthy), I panic: “What if this was the last of them? What if now the only thing left for me to experience is the crap on TV, the drivel in our newspapers, and the real-time knee-jerk narcissism on the Internet? I should just give up and spend the rest of my life @replying to celebrities on Twitter. At least I’ll be on @cgawker‘s bulb list.”
I have this recurring nightmare where my son runs to me and says, “Dad, what next?” I’m speechless in my nightmare, but in the real world, the answer would be easy: “Go ask your mom.”
Q: ‘A letter from a guy who was killed in a recent terror attack’ conveyed a very important message in the true Neo style. What according to you has changed after 9/11 and subsequent terror attacks in India and the world? As a Neo Indian, what are the things you want to tell the PM?
A: 9/11 was the Pearl Harbor of World War III, don’t you think? If Pearl Harbor had never happened, the US wouldn’t have entered World War II, and then who knows how the world would be now. As (the Japanese Admiral) Isoroku Yamamoto remarked after Pearl Harbor, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant.”
(With India of course, every terrorist attack is more like “I fear all we have done is gently tickled a sleeping giant, let’s wait for a few seconds for him to go back to sleep.”)
Nothing has changed. I think the biggest myth right now is that somehow, religious “moderation” is the way forward. It’s not. Every terrorist was once a religious moderate. As long as we have billions of moderates believing in some sort of God who answers their prayers and takes sides in wars, it’s a statistical certainty that some of these moderates will hallucinate and think that God has spoken to them, et voilá.
And so I encourage every moderate I meet—no point arguing with the extremists, or rather the ex-moderates—to write “N/A” for their religion in application forms, and to stop teaching their kids anything other than science and rationality. And I keep encouraging them until Mrs. Neo gives me the look that says: “Please let him go, he just wants Rs. 80 for the laundry.”
What do I want to tell the PM? Sir, please make some sort of rapid movement; something that will give us the hope that you are not catatonic.
Q: If you were to become the Ambassador for Indian tourism, what according to you would be 5 USP’s of tourism in India? We would want this in the true Neo Indian Style.
A: I’m no MBA, but shouldn’t there be just one USP? Anyway, under Ambassador Neo, the USP for Indian tourism would be, “Incredible India. Visit now; it’s only going to get worse.”
It’s really a no-brainer: most other tourist destinations are getting better with time, so you’re better off postponing your visits to all those other places and visiting India first. Plus, when do you really want to try the paav bhaaji in Pune’s chowpatty for the first time? Now, when you’re healthy, or later, when you’re 70?
Also, visas will be much harder once we become the Republic of Maoistan (unless you come through China in which case it’s just a stamp in your passport). Of course, Maoistan would have pretty sights too, like all those gigantic statues of Prime Minister Arundhati Roy.
Q: God gives you a chance to choose a woman and read her mind. Whom do you choose and what do you read?
A: Sarah Palin; I’d be done reading her in under a minute (don’t judge, I’m a slow reader!) and then I’d go back to reading. (I’m currently reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.)
Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?
A: Blogging is the most gratifying aspect of blogging. I have so many ideas, snippets and half-baked posts lying around, that when things finally come together and a post is ready to be blogged, that’s the best feeling. And I savor it for a few minutes before Mrs. Neo storms into the room and says, “you wrote about that?!”
Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.
A: Whenever I sit down to write, I feel strongly that society would be better served if instead I ran errands for the following bloggers, so that would get more time to write:
(Latest Post: 7 Deadly Kinds of Twitter Followers)
- Goose Egg
Ed: Read his interview.
Ed: Interview coming up, Have questions? Ask him now!. 🙂
In general I think Indians blogs offer an unbeatable value-for-money proposition.
Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog?
A: Don’t. If you’re still in the “wanting to start a blog” phase, it’s probably not in you. You’ll probably spend a total of 50 hours before you lose interest in your blog, and 30 of those hours will be spent in customizing your template and checking your stats. Forget about blogging, find out what your real passion is, then go do it!
But if you’re haunted by words, if you have to write words down just to make them stop bugging you, if you forget to soap yourself in the shower because you’re thinking, if you have a significant other who has promised to leave you if he hears one more of your metaphor-filled rants, if the truth gives you the goosebumps, then maybe you need to start a blog.
And do email me (neo at neoindian dot org) your URL, because I’d love to read your blog.
Q: Do you earn revenue through your blog? How does one go about it?
A: Monetizing your blog is like monetizing your honeymoon—you could probably do it, but you’re missing the point. I’m not against the idea, and I suppose if you have a really high-traffic blog it would be foolish to pass up on the money. But ads look ugly, and to get a good “click-through rate”, you have to place ads right above, within or below your text, which distracts the reader from the main text. Although now that I think of it, that might not be a bad idea for many of my posts.
Of course, the real way to make money off of blogging is to do what BlogAdda does, and so good luck to you guys. I’d wish you more than just luck if you mailed us bloggers a check every once in a while.
Q: Let’s conclude off with a few favorites.
Movie: Donnie Darko
TV Show: Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Book: Foundation, Isaac Asimov
Time of Day: 2:59:59 am
Your Zodiac Sign: Pisces
Thank you Neo for the wonderful interview. You truly are a Neo Indian. Readers, we are sure you would have enjoyed this interview as much as we did. 🙂 Ask him what we missed asking Neo. 🙂