Six Degrees – Game of Blogs

Title: Six Degrees – Game of Blogs
Author: Co-authored by 3 teams of bloggers across India
Pages: 422
Price: Rs. 349

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Six Degrees – Game of Blogs is a collaborative effort of 30 Indian blogger storytellers, from various walks of life, who weave three fascinating tales.

Conceptualized and facilitated by BlogAdda, Six Degrees is indeed a labour of love. The bloggers, split across ten teams, were provided with five characters, their descriptions and periodic twists in the plot. Each team wrote out a blog post a day to spin an intricate tale, post by post.

A celebrated jury, comprising some of India’s best-loved writers, judged the stories: Ashwin Sanghi, Natasha Badhwar, Ravi Subramanian, Meghna Pant, Raksha Bharadia and Kiran Manral.

Three teams emerged victorious, and we get Six Degrees – Game of Blogs. It was extremely interesting to find out how each team handled the given characters and the subsequent plot twists.

I might also have been a recipient of an email by BlogAdda announcing this initiative. And I probably gave it a miss. But I’m glad that so many bloggers participated!

In each of the three tales, among others, we encounter the Dattas: Tara, Shekhar and Roohi, a close-knit nuclear family, residing in Mumbai. Tara is a successful media professional; Shekhar Dutta, a freelance writer; and Roohi, their nine-year-old girl. Other characters include Cyrus, a law student, Jennifer, a photographer and an acquaintance; and Akshay Ahuja, the next-door neighbor.

The Awakening: Team By Lines

In The Awakening, Cyrus and Jennifer’s arrival marks the beginning of a series of incidents, sometimes spooky, that promise to throw their cozy lives off gear.

Team By Lines takes readers on an intriguing journey delving deep into the realms of science fiction, mythology and ecology. While I paid little attention to the real-life feasibility of the facts mentioned, I found the plot quite engaging and refreshing.

Entangled Lives: Team Potliwale Baba

In Entangled Lives, a murder in the Dutta household throws their lives into chaos and confusion. There is much anxiety, insecurity and turmoil within the pages, as each of the characters are continually interrogated and investigated.

Team Potliwale Baba offers a delightful picture of a Bombay cop in Sadashiv Jawalkar, called Java by most of his colleagues. That for me was the highlight of this story. The plot has its twists and turns, but Java is the backbone, almost as if he was the protagonist and not the Dutta family. 

Missing – A Journey Within: Team Tete-a-Ten

I found Missing – A Journey Within the weakest of the three tales. Roohi goes missing after school one day and the Duttas launch a full-fledged hunt to locate her. It is a contemporary read, with social media and blogging aiding the plot. But it is riddled with just too many subplots.

With the name Roohi, there is also an attempt to juxtapose the journey of the soul. But it appears just too contrived and forced.

And Team Tete-a-Ten’s draft was a little too raw I felt.

Six Degrees – Game of Blogs in its totality is an admirable effort. However, the writing was too amateurish, in need of some honing and polishing. While the bloggers let their words flow, I missed an editor’s red pen. There was much telling and little showing with the words used. Else each of the stories would have been much stronger reads.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

6 Degrees is India’s first book published through collaborative blogging, written completely by bloggers for the Game of Blogs activity at BlogAdda. Know more about Game of Blogs here. You can buy 6 Degrees: Game of Blogs if you liked the review.:)

Book Review: News Now – Being A TV Journalist

Title: News Now: Being A TV Journalist
Author: Sudesna Ghosh
Pages: 171
Price: Rs. 299

Growing up in the late 1990s, in a newly liberalized India, whenever they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d promptly respond, “A TV journalist.” Star News had just begun to engage the Indian audience and prime time was a word yet to enter our lexicon. My cousins would often tease me, “Have you met Ravina Raj Kohli and Barkha Dutt as yet?” For folks who are too young to recognize that first name, Ravina Raj Kohli is one of the pioneers of Indian television news. And Barkha Dutt was just creating a niche for herself.

Over the years, my idealism gave way to pragmatism, and soon I was reevaluating my career choices. I stumbled upon a chance marketing opportunity and shut the doors on my journalistic dream. But then I hadn’t read News Now: Being A TV Journalist by Sudesna Ghosh.

News Now offers a bird’s eye view of a news studio, from the writer’s to the editor’s desk. You get a peek into the lives of reporters, camerapersons and anchors. And Ghosh shares tips on conducting interviews smartly, reporting from conflict zones and managing a high-stress job with aplomb.

The ‘Contents’ page is a handy guide to help readers grasp the intricacies of each role. I particularly liked two sections at the end of each chapter: A Typical Workday and Quick Recap. Both reinforce the larger picture intended for that particular role.

The language is simple and engaging, and steers away from being preachy or didactic. Ghosh chooses her words carefully to explain the various roles and activities in the newsroom. She intersperses the theoretical bits with crisp anecdotes and real-life experiences of TV news veterans like Suhasini Haidar, Shireen Bhan, Bhupendra Chaubey, etc.

You also get to meet your TV idols in the last few pages of the book, where prominent news personalities share insights, words of advice and their experiences. While some of this information might already be there in the public domain, it is refreshing to read about their first big assignments and landmark stories first-hand. That for me was the highlight of News Now. And it drives home one point: Every individual in the news business started out small, and they’ve worked their way up, often in the face of adversity, setbacks and sometimes, danger. Some of the personal accounts also touch upon the benefits of a journalism degree vis-à-vis field experiences.

Apart from offering a glimpse into the heady world of news, News Now also serves as an excellent career guide for aspiring journalism students with information on the various routes into the newsroom. You will find sample CVs, a list of websites you can refer to and some tips to ease your first few days in the industry. There’s also a glossary of terms to help you get familiar with the newsroom lingo.

I was a little disappointed with the editing in a few instances, but there’s nothing that a good proofread can’t fix in the subsequent editions.

It is a timely and important read for individuals seeking a career in television news. I just wish this book had been written earlier!

News Now: Being A TV Journalist by Sudesna Ghosh releases 6 July 2016. Pre-order it on Amazon now.

Read What Would I Tell Her @ 13, Sudesna’s first book.

Celebrating curiosity

Close to a decade ago, I began leading heritage walks in Mumbai, and each walk was a revelation to me. It was not just about how much I learnt about my city but also about the people I interacted with. While I rattled off multiple facts about the buildings be it architectural, historical or social, what remained in most people’s memories was the feeling that each of these buildings evoked. A decade later, the facts are no longer important. I remember the stories behind those heritage structures, the interesting bits that find little space in our history texts. For example, how architects in London shipped over their designs to India, for local engineers to execute, with little else to guide them.

I remember being in awe of century-old structures, for what they signify, for what they’ve weathered and sometimes, simply for how they came to be a part of the larger social fabric of the times. And while traveling across India via the train or road, I have often marvelled at some of the houses adjoining the railways tracks/road. I have crafted imaginary stories in my head about the numerous characters inhabiting these houses and sometimes wondered what they’d have endured to construct these houses. Early in the morning, one can usually spot a pretty rangoli. And during important festivals such as Diwali, homes are colourfully decked up with lamps or lights. It’s a soothing sight of camaraderie, and one that warms the heart.

It brings to mind this line, from a popular web series by Yashraj Films, “We do not stay alone… in an apartment, we live in a community.” And unlike the cities, where people lead largely individual, anonymous and isolated lives, the towns and villages in India have communities co-existing over generations. And it is in this community that more often than not, that we end up seeking help, on the basis of experience, expertise and exposure.

And, therefore, in India, we treat certain people with absolute regard and respect, doctors, engineers and teachers, for example. In many parts of the country, people consider advice dispensed by the doctor as something handed down by God. However, we must also understand that little or half-baked knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Just like we trust some people, we also heavily rely on certain brands and products, which have become definite household names, and today, brands permeate every facet of our lives, be it rotikapda or makaan. At every stage of our lives, we choose to stick with established brands that can simplify our lives and perhaps, enhance it. This is especially true when one is searching for answers for some of life’s bigger questions.

The epitome of one’s success is being able to invest in one’s own house. At that point, one is plagued with multiple questions and is constantly wary of whom to trust and rely on, be it a person or a brand. And sometimes it offers great solace when you know whom exactly to direct all your queries to.

Just like we have helplines for farmers to assist them with weather updates, TATA Tiscon deploys an expert at most of its dealerships to help individual homebuilders understand the complexities of building a house. And if you’re unable to visit a dealer outlet, you can connect with them online, via the website, the mobile site or the Facebook App. They also conduct regular home-building camps.

Steel rebars form the backbone of any structure; therefore, they need to be picked with care. And people are reluctant to invest in better grades of steel, owing to inadequate access to the right information and the appropriate guidance. And these experts, clad in red and white T-shirts, promise to simplify your life. They can help fine-tune the existing blueprints of a property, identify the exact quantity of the building materials required and resolve any home-building misconceptions or queries.

On a recent trip to Calcutta, we saw two different retail formats, catering to different sets of customers. The first was a traditional setup that adopted a more functional approach to guide individual homebuilders and contractors with their construction and rebar questions and concerns, in a tent outside the shop, emphasizing ease of access.

The second setup lends a more experiential approach to the entire purchase process, with an emphasis on comfort and aesthetics, in an urbane setting. One can walk in with a draft of the design and these experts will help you with the layout of your dream home, on a computer screen, once you share the dimensions of the plot.

There are no set or defined answers. And each query is evaluated independently for each space is unique.

Sometimes, a home is a physical space we call our own. Sometimes, it’s an emotion we long for. Either way, it’s what keeps us whole!

The retail formats are no doubt different. But the service is identical for the team is split across the stores on a rotational basis. TATA Tiscon understands that building a home is an emotional journey, and that offering the right kind of support goes a long way in making the journey simple, smooth and stable.

This post is a part of the #BuildingBlogsOfJoy activity of TATA TISCON in association with BlogAdda.com.

From furnaces to flats

A truck transporting long metallic construction rods is a common sight on Indian roads. And common sense dictates that one maintain a considerable distance from that vehicle. More than often, we leave it at that, without a second glance. Made up of either iron or steel, we vaguely understand that these rods are an integral part of any building construction. We see them litter most construction sites, in pieces of various lengths, but have little idea of their role and importance in the construction process.

Hidden to the naked eye, these bars, termed as rebars in the industry, lend structural integrity to a building. To the common eye, it’s an innocuous piece of metal but little do we realize its significance or its journey to become an intrinsic part of our homes and lives.

Recently, I was fortunate to get a sneak peek into the workings of the mother of all steel plants – the Tata Steel plant in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. It was awe-inspiring, overwhelming and humbling, all at once. That it ate into my Bombay sojourn was but a minor detail. I was sold in an instant.

At the face of it, what would I get out of visiting a steel plant? I’m not a geek or a techie. And I’ve never been inclined towards the sciences. The engineering genes in my family had totally skipped me! But a part of me was curious. About Tata Steel, about rebars, about Jamshedpur.

The City of Joy, apart from its jhalmuri, sandesh and nolen gur, now held other attractions. It was the gateway to Steel City.

We spent Day 1 of our steel excursion in the City of Joy, interacting with the marketing team of Tata Tiscon. The rebar’s branding journey was our introduction to the change that Tata Steel seeks to inspire.

Among the many insights I picked up that afternoon, one particular nugget of information continues to stick in my mind. In 2000, when Tata Steel began embossing the Tata Tiscon brand on its rebars for the very first time, the company also shared this technology with the other players in the market. This reinforced my belief that the Tata legacy stands for inclusive growth, and seeks to nurture the entire ecosystem it operates within.

That evening, we also got an opportunity to speak with a Tata Tiscon dealer, who has had a long association with the brand. We saw two different retail formats, catering to different customers. The first setup adopted a more functional approach to help guide homebuilders and contractors with their construction and rebar requirements. The defining feature of such an outlet is the Ask an Expert facility, wherein individuals can consult the experts with any home-building queries that they might have.

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Tata Tiscon rebars, stocked at the dealer

The second setup offered a more experiential approach to the purchase process, with an emphasis on aesthetics, comfort and ease of access. It presents consumers with yet another opportunity to consult the experts, in a slightly urbane setting.

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A quick stop at the Princep ghat later that evening was a reminder of yet another legacy. I only had one question to ask, “Why have I not seen this immortalised in Bollywood enough number of times already?!” It was a charming sight, and the tourist in me was sufficiently enthralled.

It was business as usual at Howrah Station, the next morning. It was cold; we were sleep deprived. But the smile on my face didn’t waver, for we were en-route to the Steel City or Tatanagar as the railways would have us know it.

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Welcome to the Steel City

It’s tough to separate the brand from the city, and vice-versa; I was Alice in Wonderland. Eye to eye with the intense ball of fire at the blast furnace, all I could think of was that the sun had gone berserk! It changed from yellow to orange to a bright gold, within seconds, and I stood mesmerised; a small speck in the face of so much power and purity. I was armed with a state of the art smartphone but I couldn’t get myself to capture it either on film or stills. I now know why moths embrace the fire, so willingly!

That was just beginning of being awed. What I saw next was akin to a railway line with numerous tunnels, and steel billets racing through them to be transformed into long rods that grace numerous urban constructions in contemporary India. I felt like a silent spectator on a sci-fi movie set. It was eerily calm, but the rhythm was oddly comforting. I’ve seen manufacturing plants before, but nothing as grand as this.

I was filled with questions. But the answers were not important. In that moment, I was just grateful.

We encountered numerous staff members, in varying capacities. Some of them were second or third generation employees. And it was fascinating to note how uniformly content they all seemed with their work. They were only refashioning a piece of metal; but this metal would withstand the onslaught of time. And perhaps, that’s what defined their lives. The singular nature of their existence. A life very different from what you and I know it as. To owe your allegiance to one particular brand for the entire duration of a life, maybe more. To be invested in a city. Did they choose this life, or did this life choose them?

It makes me wonder if these individuals ever switch off from work. Or how their spouses cope with this singularity. Do they have a say in any of this? Is the younger generation raring to break away, or will Jamshepdur always be home? I will never know the answers to any of these.

What I do know is how significant that piece of steel rod is in the construction of a house. For homes are special places. They nurture, they protect, they heal. And for that, they must be built with the utmost care. One can always replace the furniture at will or repaint the walls to suit a particular temperament. But the foundations for a home are a commitment for life. And we only get one shot at that.

Here’s a brief glimpse of the sojourn:

This post is a part of the #BuildingBlogsOfJoy activity of TATA TISCON in association with BlogAdda.com.