Monday, August 04, 2008

Memoir - Pakistan Paindabad Blogged Me to Fame

Open Secrets - Gay Life in Pakistan

This blogsite has changed my life.

[Text by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The day I became a story on page one of Hindustan Times (Blogged in India, between covers in Pakistan), one of India's most popular dailies, thanks to dear old Pakistan Paindabad, people looked at me, looked away, and then looked again. What kicks I got.

Current friends demanded a treat, forgotten friends demanded to meet, neighbours congratulated and strangers called from Gorakhpur to Peshawar to Buffalo (my phone number is listed on my blog). But these glory moments are fleeting. The day dies, the daily is dumped, and that day's story becomes yesterday's headline. Life chugs back to anonymity and I'm back in darkness, groping to keep the machine running - five blogs, one day-job and five bosses in that day-job to take care of.

In the beginning, three years ago, there was only one blog – Ruined by Reading. It started by accident one afternoon when I first saw Arundhati Roy – my muse – in the flesh in Jantar Mantar. That was a different time and I was just another employee in a different office. During the day, my mind would be on my job; at night, I would pour my mind and also my heart and soul into this new calling. The blog was my secret mistress. She was a new world with her own lingo: float alignment, site archiving, dashboard and rss. Here I wouldn't write stories, but 'posts'.

I would stay up late, sometimes going to bed at dawn, to write posts. Once 'published' (ah, that sweet feeling!), imagining people around the world reading me, I would wait for comments that wouldn't come. But, so what?

Each day I would read a new book, see a new thing, and write a new post. Just when I would start losing interest and fail to 'upload' anything new, a stranger's comment would pop up demanding a new post. I would start again. A writer needs nothing more than the satisfaction of being read. In the office nobody knew the real me. That didn't matter.

Then I went to Lahore, drove all the way to Karachi and started distilling the adventures in a new blog – Pakistan Paindabad. Once back in Delhi, I consummated my affair with the city and the result was a new baby – The Delhi Walla. Then I made a Sony digicam my mangalsutra and presto – there was a photo blog. A few months ago I decided to translate my passion for Arundhati Roy into something more tangible and, yeah, here was another blog.

While my colleagues 'poke' friends in facebook, I twiddle away my after-and-before work life (4am-7am; 10pm-1am) in blogspot. Sometimes, a new idea would start hammering in my head just when the boss is ordering me to stick to the deadline. Listen to her or to write a new post…?

Blogging is addictively sinful. It is sex outside marriage while a day job is sex within. With blogging it's no rules, no protocols. You can be nice or nasty, responsible or irresponsible. If you have more than one popular blog, you feel as if you own a publishing house.

Except, of course, you have no office, no employee, no printing press and, sadly, no secretary to wake up at 4am and do the mundane-but necessary stuff – writing and publishing blog-posts, answering reader feedback, requesting contributions, networking and forwarding 'great' stories to the 'right' folks. Plus no secretary can take care your day-job which pays the bills, including your internet connection.

In any event a secretary would rob me of the pleasure of answering a mail that says, "I reached your blog through… I couldn't resist writing this mail to you"? Why deny myself the nervous thrill of waking up at an unearthly hour, splashing cold water on the face, logging on, opening a blank word document, staring at the laptop screen, thinking hard to compose the first sentence of the day's first post and -- oh God – nothing comes to mind!

Such are the illicit thrills of the blogger's life. Pakistan Paindabad.


flygye12 said...

i think the lady writer from Pakistan was right about your blog. infact i find all of your blogs so reader unfriendly. that is the sole reason i don't blogroll you.
why can't u follow the simple blogger format? why do u have to list all the posts on a single page?it becomes so confusing. and that 'contact me for ads' is such a tacky thing. HINDUSTAN TIMES must be paying you enough i am sure. why do u need to make money out of your blog??? is not charging you anything then why not keep it free? if u want to make money start your own !!!
and please pleas please go back to NORMAL blogger format. btw the 50 places to see before you die, shows a single photo. is that what you mean by a series???

Anonymous said...


The hindustan times article on your blog, attarcted me to your site.
I must say I was very much impressed and esp the blogs on similarity of Delhi and lahore etc etc is so striking and amazing,,
I have lots of pakistani friends and it seems we are no different in thoughts culture and food.
best of luck and keep the good work going...

Ajit said...

That was a different time and I was just another employee in a different office. During the day, my mind would be on my job

Oh really? In which parallel universe did a Mayank "Austen Soofi" pay attention to his job? :-)

Snobster said...

I have to confess..Like the minions..I discovered about your blog via that article in HT..and to say with,I simply adore the write-ups in HT city[though most of it is about who's dating whom crap],but honestly the articles make me love Delhi even more.I aspire to be a journalist soon..well i think I'm stuffing too much in here..which is because this one particular Blog Post was my favourite..I read this on a particular sunday and boy oh boy! it was enchanting!!.I think all bloggers,go through the same feelings about their stuff..Gee..I dunno I am harping on..But you are def on my list of "my inspirations"..

Saira Mallick said...

Greetings Mr.MAS

You would be pleased to know that the book which the Hindustan Times article talked about has finally been published by Oxford University Press (Pakistan) this year! Being personally involved in its publication as an editor,I am proud to be part of the journey that took Raza Rumi's post from your blog to the pages of this book. I wouldn't have otherwise known about the wonderful job you are doing here...keep it up! We need more people like you in this world.