Friday, October 31, 2014

#Celebrateblogging: THE LESSONS-2

I took part in a group activity, recently. What you are about to read is the second part of my personal experience during this activity. [For the first part, go to OLDER POST below. 

Do you believe group activities are meant for the benefit of the individual? Believe me; I didn’t care a rug-sack about what anyone else thought. All I did was to jump into this challenge. And all I expected at that moment was some hidden benefit in from this activity on a personal level. [Just as they teach us in personality development classrooms.]  

Image Courtesy: Indu Manoj © all rights reserved
The name I suggested for the team was elected. Thus our team was baptized Kalakar Colony. Kalakar in Hindi means artist

In the process, I also suggested that one of the names suggested by another member of the team sounds a bit amateur. I meant only the word not the person behind it. However, I was about to be given a great lesson in interpersonal communication. Only I didn’t know about it back then. It was revealed to me only after a few days when the time for publishing the posts came up.   

The next stage in the contest was ‘finding a plot’ based on the aforementioned readymade characters. The team members suggested their plot ideas. Discussions took place through group mails as well as through Facebook. A plot suggested by one of the team members was accepted.

Each member had to write one chapter at a time. There were three rounds. In total, a team had to make about ten posts per week. So it was obvious that a few members had to post twice a week. I didn’t, as a matter of fact, consider myself inclusive of this rule. I had solid reason. The Blogadda caller had guaranteed that I had to blog only once a week.

Discussions raged in a Facebook group titled ‘Kalakar Colony’, created only for the purpose of such discussions. We discussed on the plot and who would do the next post and then the next. Meanwhile, a very serious question and a very impressive answer to that question were coursing through my mind. The question was; “wasn’t the phrase “celebrate blogging” indicative of increasing the frequency of blog posts and raising the number of visits; and due to this very reason, shouldn’t we all post our rough story-drafts onto our blog first and then edit it as per the suggestions of other members of the team?” this question took a remarkably poignant space in my mind.

My answer to this question was; Yes, we should post the first draft of the chapter to our blogs, which could then be group edited and rewritten within the blog itself as per the comments one received. In my view, this was the real “celebrate blogging.” I am baffled at the possible flexibility blogging offers to writers.

I proposed in the Facebook “Kalakar Colony” group that we must utilize this opportunity to drive more page views to our blog. By simply posting the rough drafts onto our respective blogs and editing it as suggestions came by through the comment box, we would be able to generate ‘Unique Page Views’, the count of people who visit our site for the first time. It will also enable us to generate “Repeated Visits” from readers, especially from the members of Kalakar Colony during the editing process itself.

By the time I got around to do my part of the story, the plot had taken a decent twist and a few unprecedented changes had appeared that weren’t present in the original plot. Where the story was going was out of my understanding. However, as it appears to anyone who reads this, it sounded like a semi-exciting challenge to the classic introvert in me, working with more than one person at a time on a story that made no sense after the ‘group contribution’. So I decided to follow the thread of the story from the person, who made the post before I did. 
Will continue in the next post.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

#Celebrateblogging: THE LESSONS THAT CAME BY

“I had made my inner vow to teach self rather than group reliance.” –Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, I Can See Clearly Now
Image Courtesy: Indu Manoj © all rights reserved
One early September evening I received a call from Blogadda is an Indian organization who successfully monetized blogging by providing a network for individual bloggers in order to share their blog posts. Blogadda also provides opportunity for bloggers to receive free books from new and successful Indian authors for book reviews. I have been associating with Blogadda for a long period now through book reviews. Over the years, they have advanced into other product reviews and blog contests, offering bloggers a chance to try at what they love doing and win prizes.

When the correspondent from Blogadda rang me up, I wasn’t in a situation to respond. It was a busy, early September evening with lots of grocery shopping on my mind. Somehow, the call seemed important.

I took it.

I was attentive to the person on the other side. My initial reaction to the realization that the call was from Blogadda was to tell the caller to call me back as I was busy shopping groceries. Perhaps, the person on the other side was experienced enough to see that “call you later” was a euphemism for “leave me alone”.

She did not hang up. Experience teaches us a lot, doesn’t it? This turns out to be true in the case of the correspondent who called me.

“I am currently busy with another project,” I explained to her.

The Blogadda correspondent then made it clear that she and her team at Blogadda understand that we, bloggers, are busy beings.

That seems nice, I thought.

At last, she persuaded me by saying that I may not be required to do blog posts weeklong, as this was a four-week contest. The only requirement was to blog once a week with a one-liner at the bottom of the post saying, this was for blogadda and that we are participating in “celebrateblogging” with a hashtag prefix to it.
Image Courtesy: Google

I thought… no big deal. So I agreed and registered for the #CelebrateBlogging Contest in the Blogadda website.

Within a week, an email arrived in my inbox with email ids and blog URLs, revealing who would be my team members, assigned by Blogadda.

We could mail each other or share group mails as part of the game in order to discuss matters. The team members should adhere to a set of conditions if the team should be retained in the contest.

I feared group activity ever since I was a child. I never was good at playing it cool when a lot of people are around to pass their opinions.

However, my reality has changed considerably once I started living a “mission-accomplished life” to use the terminology from Steven K. Scott’s book The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived: Secrets for Unparalleled Success from the Life of Jesus. Rather than continuing the dream to become an author, I have experienced the shift into being an author the previous year. The difference was staggeringly enormous. I started participating in activities and using social events in order to gain more understanding of how the world functioned. As an author, I take a very different perspective when taking part in group-activities now. I use group activities in order to attain insight into human behavior and find new ideas. Of course, the blogging contest in front of me seemed very attractive due to these reasons.

Image Courtesy: Google
The bloggers were supposed to “compose” a story based on the characters Blogadda provided. This was the contest.

You can see below who those characters are. [Perhaps, now you can understand what the whole deal was in publishing the three earlier blog posts, three chapters with seemingly disconnected content.]
Characters :
  1. Shekhar Dutta - Stay home Dad, freelance writer, Hindu, Stays in Mumbai
    Description - French beard, bald, average height, fair, thin specs, lean, wears t-shirt & track pants generally, ever smiling.
  2. Tara Dutta – Shekhar’s wife, Media professional , career oriented woman.
    Description - Fair, short hair, tall, prim & proper dressed, wear formals & high heels.
  3. Roohi Dutta – 9 years girl, Shekhar and Tara’s daughter.
    Description - Fair, healthy, notorious, 2 ponytail, wear frill frocks.
  4. Jennifer Joseph –  Photographer, Christian, Stays in Kochi (Kerala)
    Description - Dusky, average height, tattoo on right hand, wears casual shorts and tees, lots of accessories, always carries a camera.
  5. Cyrus Daruwala – A law student, Stays in Delhi
    Description - Tall,  extremely fair, big specs, curly hair, stern face, beard on the  chin. [Courtesy:]

I am very glad that you still came back to my blog, even after going through these seemingly unconnected and confusing pieces. They were actually part of the long story my team and I had put together. One can go to the previous and next chapters through the links posted along with the previous three posts on my blog.

Blogadda proposed a set of rules for playing the “Game of Blogs”.
Rules of the Game:
  1. There are 3 rounds in this activity
  2. Every blogger has to write a minimum of one blog post per round i.e One blog post per week. The team has to have one blogpost per day.
  3.  A point of Contact/Team Leader from the Team will have to discuss and decide the order for the bloggers in which the blogs will be written and the link will be submitted to the Point of Contact/Team Leader and in the form here.
  4. There should be a minimum of 7 blog posts from 7 different bloggers for a team to qualify for the next round. Any team submitting less than 7 blog posts will be DISQUALIFIED.
  5. Bloggers cannot kill any main character and can create only upto a maximum of 3 sub characters.
  6. The team has to submit all the entries before the last day through the given form or the team will be disqualified.
  7. You can check your team’s score at the leader board here to know the status.
  8. The first round ends on 17th September 2014. [Courtesy:]
Image Courtesy: Indu Manoj © all rights reserved

The next important step for our team was to find a ‘Point Of Contact’ from the members of the team, and to find a name for the group. From this point onwards, much as I feared as a young boy about all sorts of group activity, “freedom of expression” and “group interest” came into a course of head-on collision. The names suggested by some members for the group did not rhyme right for me. In my view, we must stick with fresh names for titles that every one of us could connect with. I tried to give an example in one of the group mails that was being sent back and forth.

To my endless surprise, one of the team members said she would like keep the title given by me as the name of the team. I was surprised because the name I suggested was only to provide an example, a working model so to speak, in order to find a better name. 
                                                    Will continue in the next post. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

FINAL CHAPTER: The Circle of Deceit

Chapter 30
Kalakaar Colony. 
Read the previous post here
The door to Room Number 202 opened and Tara entered. Shekhar’s face reflected an emotion that Jennifer could not comprehend. There was a sense of suspense with the silence in the room then. No one spoke. Everyone waited for a response from the other, expecting something unexpected. It was the same room where Aryan questioned Cyrus. It was the same room where Shekhar had heard that heart-breaking truth about Roohi’s kidnapper. Aryan’s job was to take care of the man who had done too much to that family. Once he took him out to the same abandoned house in Mud Island, where Krishna had found Roohi for further questing.

“Stay where you are!” Shekhar said. His voice came out as a shout. It startled Tara. She stopped. Shekhar walked towards her. “Why?” he growled.

“I don’t understand what you mean, Shekhar…,” Tara was upset too. Her voice trembled. Her eyes became wet in a silent agony. Jennifer, who was watching Shekhar move forward, alarmed at his behavior, tried to cross him before he could reach Tara.

Shekhar’s face glowed in anger and frustration. He advanced towards Tara. His right hand was raised as if to strike her hard.

“NO!” Someone said.
The door opened again and Mr. Gupta came inside. “No,” he said.
“Shekhar…are you mad?” Mr. Gupta asked.
“Perhaps…,” Shekhar said coldly.
“You have no idea what we heard…,” Jennifer intervened. “The person who kidnapped Roohi is none other than…this…this…,” she was shivering in apparent shock from the new turn of events. “I haven’t seen such a hopeless scene in my entire life,” She said.

“Do you want to tell me what’s going on? I am a mother; I need to know where my daughter is…” Tara fumbled for words. Her lips were shivering.
“Hey, wait a second…,” Shekhar sneered at her. “I didn’t know that you were such a fantastic actor, my dear wife.”
Mr. Gupta was getting restless. No one noticed that, though. Is it time yet? He thought to himself. Perhaps, it’s not.
“Who in the world would have thought a mother herself could arrange for kidnapping her daughter?” Shekhar completed, his words all fire and amber.
There was silence from the other end. Tara, the desperate mother, did not say a word in return. Her face showed no emotion. It was as if she was suddenly transformed into a plastic doll. Lifeless and motionless.
“Why? Why did you do that?” Shekhar was almost on the verge of breaking down.

“She did it so that you will suffer, Shekhar,” Mr. Gupta said. “Do you realize something?” Gupta continued. “There is something else that manifested between you both. A spark of what you were even ready to die for, when you were college sweet hearts. I still remember the day when you came to ask for her hand, Shekhar. I had seen the spark of love in your eyes. Where have you both lost it? Here is a chance for both of you to regain it. I have seen it in your eyes a few days back, when you were heartbroken to lose the most important part of your soul, Roohi.”

Mr. Gupta was making no sense at first. Then, a clear picture emerged. One that neither the husband nor the wife had expected. Jennifer stood there aghast, turning her eyebrows upward, as if preparing to take a good shot of the unveiling scene in the chapter of life.

“Yes, Tara planned to kidnap Roohi and she was almost close to success.” Mr. Gupta said. “But fate had something else in its pages. I realized that something wrong was happening between the two of you from Roohi’s words, whenever she visited me. You know what? I loved you both…and your small life….I respected you for the bold decisions you took in life. But I could not see your life breaking apart. So I put one of my men, Krishna, on the duty of quietly observing Roohi. He would bring news if anything goes wrong in your house or with my little Roohi. Our little angel was with that Cyrus when Krishna found her.” Mr. Gupta stopped.

“Shekhar, I have something for you. Listen, I didn’t tell Tara. I wanted to tell you first. I wanted you to see her first, your Roohi. My man Krishna is on his way here.” Then he took his cell phone to his ear. “Yes,” Mr. Gupta said into the phone.

A few moments later, a face emerged at the door. It was Roohi. A stream of tears started down her cheeks. “Mamma…Pappa… we played the kidnapping to bring you two together…. I am sorry mamma….” The little girl mumbled and her tears muffled her voice.

Shekhar leapt towards her and grabbed Roohi in his arms. Tara slowly sat down on the floor, with a sigh. Then she wept too. It was not the tears of a journalist, who was betraying her husband; it was the tears of a wounded mother.

“What shall we do with Cyrus, who did more than his share?” asked Mr. Gupta.
“Well, hang him…,” said Jennifer and walked towards Roohi and Shekhar. She kissed Roohi on her forehead. “I have to move on now. Wow! What a ride I had…Anyway…thank you for keeping the girl safe…,” she said to Mr. Gupta.
“Where do you go now?” Mr. Gupta enquired.
“My place…South…. I am a photographer by passion. I will go see more scenes and take more pictures…I will see more life…” Jennifer said.

“Call me if you need something like a job or something…,” Mr. Gupta handed her his card.
All the while, no one noticed Tara. Mr. Gupta put his hand on Roohi’s head, in an act of blessing her. Shekhar was weeping and kissing his little girl. Those tears no longer were of sorrow.

“Is Tara madam alright?” Krishna enquired from behind Mr. Gupta. He was the one who brought Roohi to the doorstep.
That was when Mr. Gupta and Shekhar noticed her. She was lying on the floor now, motionless.
“Tara… Tara…,” Mr. Gupta called her. He shook her and then with a glass of water, which Krishna gave him, he splattered on her face.

When Tara woke up, she found only Shekhar around. She was lying on a familiar bed in a familiar room…their home.
“Gupta ji enquires what to do with that scoundrel Cyrus…,” Shekhar said with a smile in the corner of his lips.

“I am sorry…,” Tara’s eyes flooded. Words came out reluctant and with a wrapper of guilt over them.

Her eyes said what her words couldn’t. She was sorry.

“Did I ask you anything about that? Tell me about that Cyrus,” Shekhar reprimanded his wife playfully. Tara saw that instead of the man she had started disliking, the person who now stood in front of her was the same old college boy whom she was even ready to die for.

“Hang him,” she said and smiled at the man who was now swooping down to get a lock on her lips. 

__The End__
“Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at #CelebrateBlogging with us.”