Tag Archives: bloggers

“The joke happens in real life and then I blog about it”


Jayanth Tadinada, aka g2, is the author of gtoosphere, a blog of satire inspired by his life as an IIT student and a member of India’s growing upper middle class youth. He is also my colleague on The NRI, contributing regularly hilarious posts such as his aam aadmi interviews.

His posts on gtoosphere are a mix of observations about television media, social networking culture and Indian society in general, and they often seek to explode myths and inspire people to look at the world around them in a more mindful way. In the line with his heroes, his method of confronting people is to amuse, something at which he succeeds apparently effortlessly. His irreverent ideas come across as equally inspired by Indian and American senses of humour, and will hopefully strike a chord with many.

Jayanth did me a favour and answered a few questions to help me get this Inside the Bloggers Studio thing rolling again, even though he is a busy college student preparing to join the salaried masses.

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Why did you start blogging?

There was a phase when I was bunking a lot of classes and yet I was not happy. (Those were pretty depressing times!) I felt I needed a better reason to continue bunking classes. So I thought a hobby might help.

In your first blog post, you mention a diary. Is gtoosphere an extension of that diary, and do you still write it alongside your blog?

No, I don’t write a diary in the traditional sense anymore. I maintained a diary for a couple of years in high school. It was mostly about what was happening in my life around that time. After coming to IIT, I no longer felt the need to keep an account of things happening in my life.

I was into reading psychology for fun (nerd alert), interpretation of dreams and stuff like that. I started maintaining a dream diary where I describe the dreams I have at nights (afternoons actually). We remember our dreams only for a very few minutes after we wake up. So I always sleep with a book and a pen somewhere close to my pillow. (Yeah, I know that’s weird!)

For the last year and a half or so, I developed the habit of noting down funny ideas, silly observations and interesting thoughts as soon as they pop in my head. I store them in Google Wave (yes, Wave!) and refine them from time to time. So technically, I do write a diary but it’s more about what is going on in my head rather than what is going on in my life.


What is your first memory of writing creatively?

The first time realized I enjoyed writing was when I was writing essays in high school. Most of the topics were very dull and ordinary like ‘your hometown’ or ‘post man’. I took it as a challenge to write those essays in interesting ways.

I often broke the conventional school essay format and made up stories with long dialogues, exaggerated descriptions and bizarre storylines loosely inspired from the Famous Fives and Hardy Boys I was reading at the time! Luckily my English teachers did not discourage that sort of behavior and often rewarded me (with generous grades) for my attempts, however lame they were!

Describe something that is beautiful to you.

I consider any of the little things that momentarily make me lose sense of time as beautiful. It could be a movie or a book; a conversation or a cat playing; filter coffee, National Geographic channel, a warm shower on a cold morning, dessert before main course, an intelligent conversation, yawning, huge spiders, useless trivia… it’s a very long list.

I also find extremely complex stuff like snakes, Scarlett Johansson, the human brain, religion, the Internet, Godavari, classical music, history etc. all to be very beautiful.


gtoosphere fits quite nicely into Indiblogger category of ‘humour’. Are you ‘the funny one’ among your friends in real life?

Yes, I am definitely ‘a funny one’ if not ‘the funny one’. Most of my friends have a very good sense of humour too. I get most of my ideas from the conversations I have with my friends and my brother.

What differences are there between telling a joke in real life and telling it on your blog?

The joke happens in real life and then I blog about it. That is usually how it is. A joke in real life is about timing and spontaneity, it just happens. But when you’re writing a joke, you have the time to think and build the context. So the onus is on how funny the idea is to begin with. Maintaining the flow, the punch lines, the comic art – all just follow from the idea.


Speaking of Indiblogger, you’re quite active on there, as well as on Facebook and sporadically on Twitter. How important are social networking sites in relation to your blog?

Very important! They are the lifeline for my blog. I would have never got myself to write anything more than sticky notes if it is not for the instant feedback that I get from readers through social networking sites.

Comic art is integral to many of your posts. Which do you enjoy more, drawing/design or writing?

What I enjoy most is the ideas – coming up with them and connecting two or three ideas that people wouldn’t otherwise think of connecting. That is what drives me. I also immensely enjoy the process of refining the lines over and over trying to find that elusive economy of expression. I feel I am moving in a direction where words come easier to me than strokes.


Name some of your favourite satirists, and whether they’ve influenced your own creative style.

The first comedian that comes to mind is Jerry Seinfeld (his standup). He has this ability to point out really silly things around you which makes you go, “how did I not think of that first?” In one of his interviews, he explains that he never uses profanities in his material because he feels that (in many cases) they are a shortcut to get a few cheap laughs. I adopted that policy for my blog too.

One more thing I picked up from him is to not misrepresent anything just for the sake of getting a laugh. This pushes me to work from an honest feeling about something. So when I joke about how the aam aadmi doesn’t deserve any sympathy, I really mean it!

George Carlin is a personal hero of mine. His body of work is just so vast that it’s an encyclopedia on how to construct a joke. The philosophical undercurrent that runs through his material had a huge influence on not just my writing but on me as a person as well.

Larry David, the genius behind Seinfeld (the sitcom) and Curb Your Enthusiasm is another big influence. He kind of convinced me that profanities are funny when used in a tasteful way but I decided to stick with Seinfeld on that one ;)

When it comes to political satire, Jon Stewart is the best it can get. All my posts on politics and media were directly or indirectly inspired by him. I also like Bill Maher (I did a couple of “New Rules” posts) and Woody Allen.

I love Telugu comedy in general. I think we people have an amazing sense of humour. I am a huge fan of Mullapudi Venkataramana. He is a genius when it comes to capturing the beauty, the simplicity and humour in middle class life – something that our entertainment industry completely overlooks.

Is there a post on your blog that you are most proud of?

If I have to choose one, I’d probably choose my take on Meter Jam. This campaign sort of summed up the attitude of the young city folk of my generation. They protest because it is cool and they only do it in the comfort of their Twitter and Facebook accounts. Their anger in most cases is justified but none of them are inclined to do anything more than cathartically yell at the symptoms.

I am also proud of the articles I wrote for The NRI. I really pushed myself to write about issues that I wouldn’t have written otherwise and they were very well received too.


Do you believe in God?

Depends on how you define God. When I was 13 or 14 years old, I was like, “If the Gods are really that powerful, why do I even have to pray? Don’t they have access to the wish list on my Facebook profile?” That was when I realized praying for material things makes no sense. I’ve been kind of agnostic since then.

But I feel that Hinduism (technically, it’s too broad to be an -ism) is an awesome religion to be born in. It gives you a lot of freedom of thought. You can be atheist or agnostic and still be a Hindu. The line between culture and religion is really blurred in India. I never pray but I do celebrate all festivals. (If you remove the puja from the festivals, all you’re left with is good food, family reunions and fun activities. Now who doesn’t like that?

I love the culture. I love the mythologies. I have immense respect for the religion and its philosophy. I just don’t subscribe to the over-the-counter-30-million-Gods-in-the-skies version of it! I only scratched the surface of Hindu philosophy and I definitely want to go deeper. Not now but maybe later!

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This interview is part of Inside the Bloggers Studio, an ongoing project of short interviews with bloggers I read and admire.  (Apologies to James Lipton.)  To view the archive, click here.

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“Writing helps me clarify my thoughts and beliefs, because I have to finally put them into words”

Rock on beach in Abel Tasman National Park

David Cain is the author of Raptitude.com, a blog about ‘getting better at being human’. His posts are a combination of truths he feels he has discovered about the nature of humanity, and/or the world, and experiments he undertakes – and their outcomes – in trying to improve his skillset for life.

He also wrote a travel diary about his experiences travelling in New Zealand which is here. The photos in the post were taken by David in NZ.

I discovered Raptitude.com at a particularly low point in my life and while I wouldn’t give David all the credit for turning it around, his well-composed, clear and unpretentious words provided me with plenty of inspiration. He himself has experienced darkness and appears to write from a deep yet continually developing understanding gained through those dark times, and is dedicating his greatest efforts to something as simple and meaningful as sharing what he knows.

David’s following grows daily into the high tens of thousands, but he was kind enough to answer a few questions.

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Why did you start blogging, and why do you keep blogging?

I was a fan of Steve Pavlina’s blog for a long time, and one day I read a post in his archives about his favorite blogs. One of them was Problogger.net, which I hadn’t heard of at the time. I visited, read a few of the posts and a few of the comments, and realized there was a whole culture of blogging out there, with its own history and social structure. It wasn’t unlike the music scene; there were up-and-comers, has-beens, wannabes, hacks, big shots and legends. Everyone was doing their own thing, and talking about what others were doing. I wanted to be part of that. So I got started.

I keep blogging because I love doing it, and I feel like I have something to say that can help people create more ease in their lives. Another side-effect of writing is that it helps me clarify my thoughts and beliefs, because I have to finally put them into words. I am now too accustomed to this to stop.

Do you keep a personal journal/diary as well as your blog? If so, how much is one an extension of the other?

No I don’t keep a journal. I have tried, but every time I do I think, “Who’s going to read this? Not me.”

What is your first memory of writing creatively?

Every year we had to write short stories in grade school. It was one of the few parts of school I loved.

Tree and ocean at Napier

Describe something that is beautiful to you.

The surf at sunrise. I really need to move closer to the ocean.

What were the circumstances in which you first came to read Ralph Waldo Emerson?

Good question… I came across a quote of his, in the Crypto-Quote puzzle in the newspaper I think. I forgot about him but remember being amused that his middle name was “Waldo.” I pictured Waldo from “Where’s Waldo.” Later on I was reading a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who mentioned Henry David Thoreau. I read a bit of Thoreau and soon learned that Emerson had been his mentor. I finally looked up Emerson, found his essay, “Self-Reliance” online, and loved it.

How much of an effect has travelling had on your belief system(s)?

I think it has left me with fewer beliefs… fewer foregone conclusions about people. It’s left me more curious, more open, more forgiving and more grateful. It has also rearranged my priorities in life. I now feel it is very important for me to travel a lot, which means I can’t settle for a typical 9-5 lifestyle for long. I can’t be happy with two weeks’ vacation a year. Or even four or eight. I need to see the world in a big way, and I’m not waiting for another lifetime to do it in.

Sandstorm on Farewell Spit

You frequently discuss the effect of habit (and addiction) on today’s society. How large a role does habit-forming play in your life now?

Well I’m currently doing an experiment where I’m trying to install five little habits at once, and it’s going well so far. Habit change is hard and I’m not particularly good at it. I have never had terrible habits that I was desperate to change, which means I have never developed a lot of strong habit-changing skills. But I am always working on something, and when I look back I see I have made a lot of progress.

Habits and addictions are by far the greatest determinants of a person’s quality of life, so I will never stop working on them.

Is there a post on your blog that you are most proud of?

Not one above all others, but I’m particularly proud of Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed, Who You Really Are, and How to Be Right All the Time.

Name two countries: one you’d like to visit, and one you’d like to visit again.

I would like to visit France, and I’d like to visit Thailand again.

Sunset at Napier

Do you believe in God?

Tricky question. My answer is no, but that doesn’t mean I think God doesn’t exist. I just think the conventional concept of God — the God as characterized by churches — is way out to lunch, like not even close to meaningful, and I don’t think there’s any merit to it. The idea that God has emotions or desires, or resembles a person or a thinking mind in any way strikes me as completely asinine.

So when people ask me that question I say no. What the word God means to me is not something I can explain fully here, but let’s say it has something to do with a higher intelligence that human beings can have access to, yet are habitually oblivious to. Beliefs, more than anything, are what get in the way. So believing in God doesn’t make sense to me. Once it’s a belief — a mental image or a mental position — it’s not God.

Clearly there is some order behind the universe that we don’t yet fully understand. Even hard-minded empiricists must agree with that. God, to me, is that order, or is an aspect of that order. It seems to be intelligent. Einstein would agree.

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This interview is part of Inside the Bloggers Studio, an ongoing project of short interviews with bloggers I read and admire.  (Apologies to James Lipton.)  To view the archive, click the category tag in the ‘By Category’ section at the top right of this page.

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“feeling the power and force, yet utter lightness, of our deep interconnectedness”

Sign on the road to Mitzpeh Ramon, Israel (used with permission)

Katie Schuessler is the author of the road less traveled, a blog of her experiences travelling and volunteering in Palestine, Israel, India and Japan.  The majority of her posts are from her time spent in Palestine and give a sense of the culture, landscape and people of a place that most of us only know about from news reports, as well as giving an inside look at human rights issues.

She is also a photographer, and all of the images in this post (except the peace portrait) are taken from the vast archive posted on her site.  Click each one for larger size.

I discovered her blog in an odd way: looking at referrers to this site, I followed one and found it was a spam page with all Kerala-related links.  Her blog was listed directly below mine as she was writing about her travels in Kerala at the time, and after clicking on it I wound up spending an hour reading through the archives.  Perhaps this chance path speaks to the interconnectedness she mentions below.

Passionate and personal, her entries have a considered-yet-raw quality about them that implies an immediate clarity of her surroundings, and a well-honed belief system that nevertheless remains open to change.

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BHM: Why did you start blogging?

KS: i started my blog specifically because i wanted people to see what was happening in the west bank through personal stories and photos, and the whole thing kind of took off from there. it was great to publish my photos and writing while traveling, and nice to give my friends and family an easy way to see what i was up to.

BHM: You mention a journal in your writing. Do you see ‘the road less traveled’ as an extension of that journal?

KS: i’ve often contemplated blogging etiquette; what sorts of things are acceptable to a broad audience, and what sorts of things does one keep to oneself?  my paper journal holds much more personal information about my experiences, ideas, and even art that i may never post, whereas the blog is only peripherally personal.  i’d say the two complement each other quite nicely, but if anything, the paper journal is an extension of the blog.

BHM: Can you elaborate a little on that last sentence (‘if anything, the paper journal is an extension of the blog’)?

KS: i think there are some thoughts and perceptions of mine that don’t belong on the web. for instance, when i wrote about my roommate snoring like a tuba, it felt a bit too personal and i kind of regretted it. i do think there is a time and place for such intimate expressions, and for me they manifest in my paper journal. even though my posts get pretty personal — talking about breakups, life revelations and identity crises — i never get into the gritty day-to-day details like what i ate for breakfast or who i’m spending time with on a given day. i don’t really have stringent rules about what i can and can’t post, but i hope to maintain a certain professionalism and thoughtfulness on the road less traveled that is positively absent in my paper journal.

Woman forcibly evicted from her home in Sheikh Jarrah, Palestine (used with permission)

BHM: Describe something that is beautiful to you.

KS: there is something remarkable about laying in savasana (‘corpse pose,’ usually the last posture of any yoga asana practice) and feeling each cell of my body vibrating with the postures i’ve just done.  from there, i like to visualize how each cell makes up my body as a whole.  then i think about how more cells make up all the people and objects around me, and how we are all part of one larger cell.  then i think of how this larger cell is part of the whole community surrounding us, which is made of similar cells comprising yet another big cell.  this process continues to expand until i’m seeing the whole earth as one cell and feeling the power and force, yet utter lightness, of our deep interconnectedness.  it’s beautiful.

BHM: What is your first memory of taking photographs?

KS: my parents gave me my first ‘real’ camera for my sixteenth birthday.  it was a pentax k-1000.  i spent a long time photographing flowers around the front yard of their house.  focusing the manual lens was a magical experience. prior to that i had photographed with a point-and-shoot but there is absolutely no comparsion with using a manual camera.  it gave me a whole new way of experiencing the world visually.  later, when i went to pick up that first roll of film from the processor, i realized that i hadn’t loaded it properly and it was completely blank.

BHM: Did you display photographs publicly anywhere before you started your blog?

KS: yes, but not for quite some time.  most recently i had a solo exhibition at the public library in tucson, arizona, but that was in may of 2008.  it was a portrait project where i asked those who i photographed to write about peace between israel and palestine onto each of their respective photographs.

Moshe (used with permission)

BHM: I found your blog through an ad site about Kerala that also linked to mine, but I added it to my bookmarks largely because of the Palestine posts. Did your experience there have an effect on your belief system?

KS: before i left for palestine, i felt that i understood the situation.  because i grew up jewish, i had the israeli and zionist perspective pretty well-covered.  to learn more about palestine, i read books, magazines, and lots of online news.  but unfortunately nothing could have prepared me for the reality of being there.  there is no book that can describe what it’s like to live in a refugee camp under constant military surveillance.  there is no magazine article that can (or that is willing to, perhaps) describe what it’s like to pass through checkpoints on a daily basis and be subjected to regular interrogation. it seems to me that there is a slow, agonizing process of trying to break people down via constant degradation — whether it’s unfair distribution of water, a refusal to grant permits to travel, housing demolition, regular raids, arrests, and murders, or even just simple, constant military presence.  what’s remarkable is, the people living under that illegal occupation have such open hearts.  if any part of my belief system has changed as a result of this experience, it’s that i have more faith in the strength of the human spirit.  on the flip side of that, i am more puzzled than ever by the cruelty and out-of-handedness of humans making war.

BHM: Off the top of your head, which photo that you’ve posted on your blog holds most meaning for you?

KS: this is a tough question.  the first photo that springs to mind is of a boy in mysore, india.  he was part of a group of kids who i was visiting to drop off some photos.  the kids were going nuts for the gora and the camera.  somehow, amidst the chaos and silliness and posing, he gave me his full self, full of childlike innocence but also the maturity of someone who has seen a lot.  it’s meaningful to me to have been able to catch that moment.

Boy in Mysore (used with permission)

BHM: Is there a post on your blog that you are most proud of?

KS: i think it’s the two posts (here and here) about water rights in the west bank.  it’s a fascinating subject to me, and at the crux of the human rights deprivations happening there.  i learned so much when i researched for that post, and felt that it was very important for people to learn about.  there is no arguing about water — it’s vital for everyone.

BHM: Name two countries: one you’d love to visit, and one you’d love to visit again.

KS: i’m on an africa kick right now, but it’s hard to narrow it down to just one country.  i’d probably start in east africa: somalia, kenya, uganda, ethiopia…and i would like to do another trip to palestine and india (if they’re on the same ticket, does it count as one?).

Palestinian children in volunteer-run photography class (used with permission)

BHM: A simple question for last: do you believe in God?

KS: yes, i believe in god.  not in the sense of a man with a white beard and heaven and hell.  but in the sense of a guiding creative force of the universe.  and a trust in the earth.  and a belief in our innate interconnectedness as inhabitants of this planet.  and a sense of the power each of us holds to make a positive difference in our lives and the lives of others.  this is divinity.

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This is the inaugural post for Inside the Bloggers Studio, an ongoing project of short interviews with bloggers I read and admire.  (Apologies to James Lipton.)  To view the archive, click the category tag in the ‘By Category’ section at the top right of this page.

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