Ink World Series

Somehow I have always liked stories that explored the lines between reality and illusions. Illusions can take various forms – dreams, day dreams, imagination, hallucination, schizophrenia and religious beliefs! I have read quite a lot of theories that suggest that strong belief can convert imagination into reality. A lady called Rhonda Bryne has written a book called 'The Secret' around this concept and almost got a cult following. Then we have Hindu Advaita philosophy which takes the other side and suggests that what we perceive as reality might itself actually be an illusion. We have lot of books and films exploring the entire range of possibilities around reality and illusion. ‘Matrix’, ‘Inception’, ‘The Truman Show’, ‘The Fight Club’, ‘Mulholland Drive’ are some movies that immediately come to my mind.

The Ink World series by Cornelia Funke consisting of 3 books – 'Inkheart', 'Inkspell' and 'Inkdeath' explores the theme of the characters and the world from a story book springing to life. The concept kind of appealed to me because I always felt reading a story from a book felt more real than idle imagination inside my head.

Click here to read the rest of this post on my fantasy blog.

A Hair Raising Tale for a Beautiful mind

Sometimes contest themes just get in my hair. Continuously putting my grey cells to use coming up with ideas for an interesting post keeping with the contest topic is giving me grey hairs. You might have guessed it. The theme for this topic is hair problems. The greatest problem for me at this moment is writing something interesting about hair. But when cool tablets and mobile phones are at stake, wouldn't you be ready to literally pull your hair out to win? I hope the readers don’t find this attempt of mine to present a beautiful hair story too hare brained.

This is a story of my visit to this new town. My hair has grown long and I want to have a haircut. I am told that there are 3 barbers in town – Arvind, Balaji and Chandran. The people in town tell me that Chandran is the best barber. We all want nothing but the best, don’t we? So I decide if have a haircut, it has to be from Chandran only. But if I enter the barber shop; it would be rude to come out without a haircut in case Chandran is not there. So I have to determine beforehand whether Chandran is inside or not. Since the shop is open, at least one of them is definitely inside. Then the townsfolk tell me that if Arvind goes out, he always takes Balaji with him as he is nervous to go out alone. Now I had just read this Japanese best seller Devotion of Suspect X and had begun to believe mathematics can solve every problem. So I decide to apply mathematics to my hair problem. If you mathematically want to prove something is true, you assume it is false and then show that the assumption causes a contradiction.

So I assume Chandran is not inside. So if Arvind is not inside, Balaji is also not inside as Arvind never goes out without Balaji. So if he has gone out, he has taken Balaji also along with him. On the other hand if Arvind is not inside, Balaji must be inside as there are only 3 barbers and if the barber shop is open and neither Arvind nor Chandran is inside, Balaji has to be inside since he is the only one remaining. So we have 2 statements. If Arvind is not inside, Balaji is not inside. If Arvind is not inside, Balaji is inside. Balaji can’t be inside and outside at the same time unless he is an electron. And I am sure electrons don’t cut hair. So we have our contradiction and hence Chandran must be inside to avoid the contradiction. So I confidently stride in.

When I walk in, I find out that my mathematical intuition has indeed been right. Chandran is inside. Arvind and Balaji have apparently shifted to the next town 3 months back. So now the town has just one barber. Due to that there is a huge queue. I can see a board put up prominently. “By the order of the mayor, every male citizen shall get his hair cut once every 2 months. No man shall cut his own hair nor have his hair cut by anyone other than the town barber” As I wait in the queue I have lot of time on my hands. I am now pondering how the barber would be able to follow the mayor’s order. Either he does not cut his hair every 2 months, he cuts it himself or he gets it cut by someone other than the town barber. Either way he violates the mayor’s law. So the barber’s very existence itself is against the law. But without a barber the whole town itself would be going against the law. So being in this town itself did not seem lawful. So I decide to move on to the next town.

I now have two barbers to choose from: Balaji and Arvind. I decide to check them out. Arvind is a suave looking fellow with a neat cut. Balaji on the other hand looks shabby with improperly cut hair. I have no hesitation deciding who to get my hair cut from. Balaji does a great job as expected and that was the end of my hair problems.

So that is my beautiful hair story. The stories are based on 2 mathematical paradoxes, Carroll’s paradox and Russell’s paradox. But the beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Those who do not love math may not have found the story so beautiful. Nevertheless there have been hair problems in every sphere of life from time immemorial and beautiful stories of how they were overcome through human will and enterprise.

Tamil mythology has the story of a scholar Nakkeeran who had to face the wrath of God in order to stand up for his belief that hair in itself cannot have any fragrance. Jewish mythology has the hero Samson with his own share of hair trouble when his loved one betrays him to his enemies. Australia as a country had hare trouble when the hares brought in by westerners multiplied in large number becoming a serious pest. Indian politics on the other hand is having heir trouble with dynasties emerging in almost every political party. Even our sporting icon Sachin Tendulkar had his own hair trouble – the umpire Darrell Hair. The list is endless. But the point is that there are so many different types of hair trouble possible, each with its own unique solution, each one a fascinating story in itself.

There are hair troubles and then there are hair troubles. For literal hair troubles of more mundane nature, there is a simple solution –this Dove Hair Aware App. Just use this application and find the solution and you are done. You will have beautiful hair. But not the beautiful stories of triumph of human spirit over insurmountable odds! As they say you cannot have the cake and eat it too.

Picture credit : Barber picture

My Blogging Journey: Mid Year Review and Reflections

Recently I did an interview for one of the bloggers Rahul Miglani. One question I skipped there was ‘what was the most challenging moment in your blog content development process and why?’ At first glance it did seem like an error of oversight while filling up the interview questionnaire. But then it occurred to me it was possibly too convenient a question to miss as the answer was not easy. I gave some thought and the answer came to me – writing about myself. The interview itself was one of the tougher posts to write. I don’t know how it is for others. But I find it very tough to write about myself. I don’t find it so difficult to write about my distant past or the present in a satirical manner, a kind of caricature as that gives me an air of detachment. But writing earnestly about the present is the most challenging for me. No wonder I have been continuously postponing writing a post about my 4 year blogging journey. I kept pushing the milestones. The second, the third and fourth anniversary came and went. In terms of posts, the 50 mark was breached, then the 100 mark followed by the 150 marks and I am heading fast towards the 200 mark. Same has been the case with followers. The 200th follower came 2 months back and now 12 more followers will take me past the 250 mark.

Typically when a task is too complex, the solution is to break it into simpler tasks. So I have decided to write smaller posts giving updates on my blogging journey once in 6 months. Of course I had my own doubts about the value of this update to my readers. But recently I made a most surprising discovery, much to my joy. At least 6 of the bloggers interviewed by Rahul Miglani in the same interview series have mentioned me as someone they look up to. So I can hope at least these 6 people will find something of interest in this post. Let me start by giving the links to these 6 interviews. Being mentioned as someone worth looking up to boosts my confidence as a blogger and is one of the things that will help me when I go through my phase of self-doubt and feel like quitting blogging.

I had earlier posted 2 posts about the importance of blogger awards for me while accepting 8 awards conferred on me by kind blogger friends. Ever since, 3 more friends have chosen to honor me with blogger awards. Sorry for the late acknowledgement though as my creativity has been overflowing lately and was busy harnessing it while it lasted amidst the tight professional schedule and personal commitments. I would once again like to reiterate that how many ever I get, I still appreciate every one of the awards from fellow bloggers. I am not doing the 7 random facts and 15 bloggers thingy. However you can easily find more than 7 facts about me and my blog in this post. Whether they are random are not is up to you to decide. But facts definitely. And at least 15 bloggers have been mentioned in different contexts. (The 6 people who mentioned they look up to me, the 3 people who gave me the award, the 2 blogs that hosted my guest post and the one that is going to host soon, DS and Pramod Lohia, who encouraged me and Rahul Miglani who did my interview)


Talking of creativity, I was almost planning to give up on contests after the series of losses in the Real and Expedia Indi blogger contests. But thanks to my friends, I did not and went on to participate in The Castrol, Vodafone and Lakme contest. Though the Stayfree and Incredible contests brought me more disappointment, I went to win at both Castrol and Vodafone. If I had given up before the Castrol contest as I had intended, it would have been like the story of the miner who having dug for years, missed the diamond by giving up just before the last few inches to reach the diamond. Thanks to DS, Pramod Lohia and the others at Indi who did not let me go the way of the miner. 

Zoozoo Bean Bag from Vodafone

Other than awards, blog posts from the Castrol contest on has been rewarding in other ways. I discovered my love for humorous fantasy. I loved writing ‘The Legend of the Baikadu’, ‘Man in the Dark Helmet’, ‘The Singer Series’, ‘Cloud Black and the Seven Sardars’ and ‘Blank Pages’. Also I am exploring if I can write the singer series as a novel. In this context I am in two minds whether to leave the Singer series be on my blog or take it down. I had taken it down for few days and now brought it up again for a couple of friends. I think my current thought is to let it be. The idea of novel is entirely speculative and depends on a lot of factors within and beyond my control. So why deny my readers the entertainment in hope of something long way off? And honestly I am not keen on making a lot of money by writing books. Writing is just my love’s labor and I only seek to be read widely. Money, I need only as far so as to be able to devote more time to my writing without being bogged down by other professional commitments I may have to take up to ensure by sustenance.

Two of my resolutions for this year were to do blog reviews and to write guest posts on niche blogs in order to engage effectively with other bloggers. So far I have done 14 reviews in 6 months, keeping with the promised rate of 2 reviews a month. In terms of guest posts, I have done one each on a travel blog (Shadows Galore) and a current affairs blog (The NRI). Looking to debut on a story blog (Story in Pieces) soon and I hope to be seen on few other blogs as well before the year ends.

Last and possibly the least too is statistics. But then one can’t ignore statistics altogether either in today’s world. So I would like to sign off with some statistics and rankings. When I checked a couple of days back, I found out my Google page rank has gone up to 3 for the first time. Both my Alexa and Moz Ranks are at all-time highs of 646.8 K (Lower the better. Less than 1 M is typically considered good) and 3.84 (Higher the better. Above 3 is decent. Above 4 is damn good). There are currently 296 external juice passing links.

Tryst with the Shutter Bug

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: 
Its loveliness increases; it will never 
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep 
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep 

The blog ‘Tryst with the Shutter Bug’ somehow reminded me of the poem by Keats. The blogger Ramakant Pradhan has captured many of the things of beauty he has seen on his travels and brings them to our computer screens in the comfort of our homes and offices through his blog.

The best feature of his blog I feel are the striking photographs. Sometimes one wonders if photography is an art like painting. After all it is the gadget that captures the pictures and it  only captures scenes as is without any creative input. So where is the art here? But it is when you see the works of true masters with the camera and compare their works with the regular photographer, you get the answer to this question. Nature chooses certain special areas in space to bestow with ethereal beauty at certain moments of time. The art lies in recognizing these moments and capturing them for eternity on the shutter bug before it passes away. And this blogger has done a great job at that.

Most photo blogs just put up pictures without an accompanying commentary. In these cases one tends to pass by with a quick glance. A well written commentary enhances the effect of a photograph or painting and retains the visitor’s attention for a longer duration. This blogger has managed that excellently. The writing is very coherent and flows nicely along with the pictures in most cases. It is not sketchy and unrelated to the picture as it is in many travel blogs. The writing flows seamlessly along with the pictures making it effortless for the reader to switch between picture and text. It is said that a good artist know when to stop. The blogger here knows that very well. He manages to maintain an optimal number of pictures in a blog post and does not fall prey to the temptation of posting too many pictures from a trip on to the blog.

Moving on other aspects, the name of the blog is appropriate but a bit difficult for a top of the mind recall. At least to me it sounds quite a mouthful and feels a bit difficult to remember. The catch line ‘A journey as seen through the eyes of my lens’ is not especially catchy as such. Nevertheless it clearly brings out the mission of the blog very well. The background is well chosen. Dark backgrounds enhance pictures well and the simplicity ensures the visitor’s attention is not distracted from the pictures and writing.

As I suggest in most of my reviews, here too I see lot of scope for improvement in the navigability. As of now there is no provision to navigate by themes such as geographies, type of travel destination etc. I think it will be good to classify posts by themes and give an option to navigate either through labels or even better by creating static pages with hyperlinks. Possibly there are gadgets that can achieve better results than these two ideas. But gadgets are not my area of specialty. In terms of widgets, I find any kind of widget related to traffic adding no value to the visitor. My personal view is that the blogger should track the traffic separately behind the scenes using Google analytics rather than burdening the visitor with all this unnecessary information. The widget that I like is of course the random post widget. Last but not the least, the interaction is pretty decent.

In terms of areas that can still improve, the blogger has shown reasonable literary potential. So I would recommend working further on these skills and weave more poetry, personal reflections and local myths to his narratives to make it even more enchanting. One more thing that can be explored is collaborating with other travel bloggers to blog on a common platform. Though it takes away some amount of freedom from individual bloggers, it will ensure more content at one place making things easier for readers.

In the final analysis, it is definitely a best in class blog in the travel/photography genre. Find below a selection of posts handpicked by the blogger.

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces