Interview with Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan

‘EM’ as an abbreviation has a lot of meanings to it, but EM in the Indian blogosphere has a different meaning altogether. EM is one of the early adopters of blogging in India. Her blog continues to have all the Masala and Spice which she is known for. It is now time to explore EM aka Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan‘s world which is still unknown to many. She is here at your Adda for an interview where she shares all about her life, spice and the wise. 🙂 Are you ready?

Q: When and why did you start blogging?

A: I started blogging in the summer of 2004. I don’t think I had a particular reason, just that I was a bored trainee journalist with too much time on my hands, and my office computer had the fastest Internet I had ever experienced. (It’s probably not a surprise that I didn’t last long in journalism!)

Anyway, so I had been reading a couple of these new fangled things called “blogs” online for a bit, and of course, I thought I could do one too, so I googled the word ‘blog’, found Blogger, set myself up and I was ready to go.

Q: What topics do you generally blog about?

A: It really varies. Mostly it’s just the stuff that’s in my head wanting to get out, and that I feel is too much for a Facebook status update or a tweet. Sometimes it’s when I go somewhere and feel the need to chronicle for other people who want to go there too–like a bar or a place. Sometimes it’s just like two in the morning and the need to write is greater because of a glass of wine and some nice music on, so really, it’s pretty much anything.

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

A: Not really. I start by thinking what I can write about for that week, and then listing in my head the stuff that should go down. I have a couple of half finished drafts that never got done, but those were probably never meant to be anyway.

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

A: Not actively promote, no. When you’ve been around for a bit, you sort of know who your readers are and where they’re coming from. What I HAVE done recently is install the Wibiya toolbar, which lets people tweet and Facebook right from the home page. I also tweet each time I put up a new post and sometimes put it on my Facebook fan page too.

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

A: Wow, I really should respond to all comments! But I do have an email address up, and often I reply to those. Mostly, I’m pretty rubbish though, at all communications, even my friends have to remind me a couple of times to return their calls, but I do love getting feedback–even from the meanies.

Q: Your pseudonym ‘eM’ is ‘Me’ when read backwards. Your blog has 124 posts where ‘being me’ factor clearly reflects. Would you describe this as self obsession or a reflection of a strong woman? Why?

A: All writers are essentially self obsessed. Why else would we bother to tell our stories, convinced that ours is the most important story that can be told? I’m definitely narcissistic, but I like to think I limit it to my writing, which you could choose not to read if you were bored with my going on and on and on about my life.

Q: Not many know that you have recently started a photo blog. Has photography always interested you or is it a new found interest? What are your other interests?

A: Photography is a brand new hobby. I picked it up year before last with a small point and shoot camera, and last October, I got a “proper” big camera which I have absolutely loved using. There’s something about not talking and just seeing, the whole visual medium thing that really appeals to me. I also really like reading and collecting weird things (hotel ashtrays, piggy banks, random animals, kitsch).

Q: Preferences change with growing age. Few years ago you were addicted to coffee, cigarettes, potatoes, cell phones, the Internet and lifestyle. Also which are the things you want to get addicted to but have not been able to? How would you differentiate between passion and addiction? What is your latest addiction?

A: I’d like to get addicted to exercise. That’s a habit that I’m finding a bit hard to form! For me, the basic difference between passion and addiction is that one constantly makes you want to do better and the other, well, it’s just an enabler.

Q: We loved reading the desi version of We Didn’t Start The Fire. We would love to have another exclusive desi version of a song of your choice for our addaites.

A: I’ve been thinking about it, but couldn’t come up with anything! I think that was a one-off bit of inspiration for me. But I promise when or if it strikes again, you guys will be the first to know.

Q: You are very open about the number of relationships you have been in, sex life, guys & things alike. What have you learned/regretted/wished from all of these? Have your family members, peers or readers objected against it, especially after being publicly asked about it in NDTV’s We The People? How did you handle the family’s response?

A: Wellllll… as you get older, there are some things in your life you choose not to talk about anymore. No doubt, long time readers of my blog are a bit disappointed by the less sexy nature of my posts these days, but I think the beauty of having an ongoing project is that it evolves with you. What was okay at 23 doesn’t seem so okay at 29, just like I’d be trying too hard. I do still write about any relationships I might have, but since my blog is now more known than it was in the past, I have to be sure and respect other people’s privacy. My family has always been incredibly supportive though, no matter what I’ve been doing.

Q: Do you think a relationship has a positive/negative effect on one’s career? How fragile are relationships in recent times, according to you? What are your tips for a successful relationship?

A: I can tell you that in my last very emotionally fraught year I got little to no writing done, and in a way, I’m a little relieved to be relationship-less at the moment, because I am deep into my third book and want to focus on that. I guess a successful relationship is all about trust, respect and kindness. You have to be kind to people you love.

Q: Belhi-ite is how you describe yourself,  which is a combination of Delhi & Bombay. If you had to choose any one city to spend your future years which one would you choose & why? Delhi, being where you have grown up & Mumbai being the city you can take a rickshaw alone at 4 am! Would you choose the roots or the freedom & independence?

A: Oh god, this is the dilemma that has been bugging me for ages! I’m not sure actually. At the moment, I’m LOVING being back in Delhi but then, I also miss Bombay with a passion, so maybe I’ll be this tennis ball for the rest of my life, back and forth between two cities.

Q: Your father, N.S. Madhavan is a famous Malyalam writer and IAS officer and your mother Shiela Reddy is a journalist. Do they review your writing very often? Whom would you say your biggest critics are?

A: I think my biggest critics are either me (because I can be quite exacting, and if something doesn’t meet my standards in my head I am merciless to myself) or people who have been reading the blog for ages and are all like, “Oh you can do so much better!” My parents, like I said before, are very supportive people, they do read most things I’ve written, and usually think I’m awesome. Isn’t that the nice thing about parents?

Q: You have written two books, You Are Here & Confessions of a Listmaniac. While, ‘You Are Here’ revolves around the life of a 25 year old Arshi, the latter talks about a 17 year old Layla. What kind of criticism did you face? What were your learnings from it? What’s up your sleeve for the next book?

A: A lot of people preferred Layla’s story to Arshi’s, as for me, both marked a sort of evolution for me as a writer. I aim to get better with each book. I think I’ll always love You Are Here the most because it was the first book I wrote and it changed my life in so many ways. Also, it’s on its third reprint, so I’m guessing other people are reading it too!  The next book is a bit hush-hush at the moment, when I’m further in, all will be revealed.

Q: What tips would you give to bloggers, aspiring writers & also to the single women staying in big cities?

A: Bloggers and writers: be true to yourselves at all times and at no point write something just to please other people. Single women: I think the same thing applies, oddly enough!

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

A: Definitely getting instant response from readers.

Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.

A: I feel that blogging, thanks to Twitter, Facebook and so on, is beginning to be a bit of a dying art. I’ve linked to most blogs I read on the sidebar of my blog and I delete people off that list if they don’t update often enough or if their content no longer appeals to me.

Q: Do you earn revenue through your blog? How does one go about it?

A: I earn absolutely nothing. I think once Google sent me a cheque for about $100 but then it got lost in the mail or something. I’m terrible with ad revenues, so you could say I do it for love, not money.

Q: Let’s conclude off with a few favorites.

Color: Purple

Movie: Oooh.. tough question! I’d have to say Love, Actually is a movie I keep returning to. (I know, I know, I’m quite sappy like that.)

TV Show: Glee. And Modern Family. And Community. And Episodes. And.. how many more choices do I have?

Book: The Catcher In The Rye changed my life and made me want to be a writer at the tender age of twelve and a half, so I’m putting that in.

Time of Day: 6 pm.

Your Zodiac Sign: Sagittarius

Thank you Meenakshi for letting us into your world and sharing with us a lot about your life and your blog. We wish you all the best for your third book. Readers, if you have any questions feel free to ask. 🙂

Connect with Meenakshi: Blog, Twitter.

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