From Muscat to Pune, via South India...Aseem Rastogi, a consultant with Infosys, is a writer, a proficient blogger, a content creator, and a talented young man with an undying love for music.
BookChums caught up with him to know more about his versatility. Read on...
How different was life in Muscat compared to life in India, esp. Pune? If you see at the outset, life in Muscat and India is much the same. With Indians all around, going to Indian schools, temples, watching Indian movies, one wonders whether he / she is really outside India while in the Gulf. But then there are quite a few differences which one realises only when he / she stays for a while. Not only in Muscat, but generally in the Gulf life is laid back, cool and peaceful. Whether it’s the AC everywhere you go or the food or even the clean and non – polluted life you encounter, Muscat is really different. I never felt in trouble for anything as my parents were always there by my side. But life in India has been a different ball game. The unique thing is the fact that its different each and every day. Whether its meeting new people, managing the food, the polluted air or even doing all basic jobs on my own, the last six years in this country have taught me a lot. I wouldn’t have learnt that much if I had continued to live in the small cocoon built by my parents. I guess that’s the same with every child, isn’t it? The first thing that caught me about Pune was its young and vibrant culture. I would regard it as the educational hub of the country because you end up meeting students wherever you go. But it does have an old side too which many of us youngsters wouldn’t normally see. After living in a small city like Vellore (where I did my engineering), it was different here since this is a much bigger city. Expenses were more but the chances of enjoyment were more too. All in all I would love to be back in Pune sometime in the future for sure.
When and how did you take up blogging – professional / personal? I was interested in writing since the final years in school and graduation. But due to my laziness, I wasn’t able to sustain this interest for a long period of time. Only after joining the college social media team during my masters, did I start blogging. That was also the time my journey began in the world of social media as I started improving the college’s presence on this platform. After few months of personal blogging, one of my Twitter friends recommended my name to an entrepreneur who ran a blog. And from there on I started my journey of professional blogging. The added incentive was the money I got which was enough for my monthly expenditure. Blogging has taught me much more than just putting my thoughts into words. It has improved my reading habit as I had to read a lot to write any kind of analysis. And over and above it has helped me gain a lot of projects in the digital media world and build a brand for myself. The best advice to keep blogging regularly is ingraining it in your weekly schedule. Today writing is something I can’t live without at least for an hour a day.
When and how did you foray in to content writing for companies? After a few months of blogging and being active on different social media platforms, a common friend recommended my name to Paritosh Sharma who had founded Until ROI Consulting Pvt. Ltd. What started off as a small project for a couple of months turned out to be a game changing opportunity for me. It helped me getting a summer internship project with Silicon India and a winter internship with HCL Ltd. From just content writing to strategizing to conducting market research on social media practices and to working for different clients like TCS BPO, Sage India etc. my life has taken a different traction by entering the digital media world.
What’s your take on Social Media platforms that are available to the youth today? Today there are a plethora of social media platforms in the country. Though it all started with Orkut, today it isn’t there at all. The biggest reason it failed was because of Google’s failure to innovate in the social networking world. And even today they haven’t succeeded in this. But today there are so many different kinds of social networking platforms. Whether it’s location specific ones like Foursquare, daily update ones like Twitter or business ones like Linkedin social networking is for sure the in thing in this country. Among the 70 million odd people who have access to the net, more than 70% regularly access social networks. And this is the reason smartphones and tablets are selling like hot cakes. But there are a number of things the people need to learn about social networking in this country. Two of my blog posts talk about what needs to be learnt and unlearnt in the social media world.
Your Facebook status update can speak volumes about you! http://aseemrastogi2.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/your-facebook-status-update-can-speak-volumes-about-you/
140 characters to shame! Get the Twitter etiquette! http://aseemrastogi2.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/140-characters-to-shame-get-the-twitter-etiquette/
We seriously need to move beyond using social media just as a means of timepass and fun. And many organizations have made that start. Though it remains to be seen on how far that works out.
Could you tell us about the novel you are working on? (The ideation; the theme; the characterizations) My novel began as a way to express my thoughts on college life. And to be frank after a while I realised that it was surely in danger of becoming just another college novel written by someone to make some quick buck or build a ‘non – existing’ brand. The realisation dawned after I wrote my first short story and submitted it for the Urban Shots competition organized by Grey Oak. The critical feedback was great for a fact as I started writing short stories because short stories are what I believe can improve a person’s writing. And this realisation gave me the motivation to re-edit the novel from the beginning whether it was in the style, the characterisation or even the structure. At this moment, I wouldn’t be able to reveal the characterisations too much because I am still trying to develop the story. But I surely have a word of advice for would be writers. Never aim to finish your novel in one year or something like that. Writing is a creative process and it happens over a period of time. Give yourself a lot of time and only then will you get the creative juices flowing.
We read that you like singing as well. Any favorite genre that you listen to? And sing? Music is probably my second biggest passion after reading and writing so much so that I always need it everywhere. Till now I carried an MP3. But I plan to buy a smartphone soon and the first thing on my to – do list is to download the latest tunes. I normally listen and sing the latest Hindi songs (not really a fan of the old Hindi ones though I agree they are melodious). My favourite top 5: Tu Hi Meri Shab Hai (Gangster) I wanna spend my life with you (Neal and Nikki) Tu Bin Bataye (Rang De Basanti) Pal (KK) Jiyein Kyun (Dum Maro Dum)
Your essay in Down The Road about Bollywood on Campus quite aptly describes how Bollywood has fictionalized and clichéd certain aspects of campus life. It is humorous and reads a bit like a satire. Would you like to share a fond memory from your campus life that is so not like a Bollywood movie scene (or maybe one that is)? Ahmed encouraged me to work on such an article believing in my writing ability. And my motivation stemmed from the fact that in the space of hundreds of movies Bollywood has interestingly captured the college scenario. Many like the Karan Johar ones would be plain cliché but ones like 3 Idiots and Taare Zameen Par strongly mirror reality. And that’s the beauty of our cinema. I can actually recount an incident at college which did resemble a Bollywood scene. One day while on the usual trip to the Xerox shop I happened to speak to one of my classmates. The amount we spoke that day, people wouldn’t have spoken in days. And then we regularly started meeting and hanging out together. Whether it was long walks in campus or going to movies all the time, we loved each other’s company. And then one fine day she stopped talking to me because she had a crush on some random guy. I can still remember the anger and sadness in me at seeing myself ditched this way. (It does seem funny when I think of it today).
If you had a book club, what would you name it? What would you be reading in there? If I did have a book club, I would love to name it “Transition of Thoughts” which is the name of my blog too. This is because of my strong belief that writing involves transition of thoughts into words. I strongly believe that without this, any kind of writing wouldn’t have a heart. My interests in reading lie a lot in things that have a mix of reality and fiction associated with it. Say a “Imperial Life in the Emerald City” by Rajiv Chandrashekaran or “A Cause Untrue” by David Blacker or the three book series by ex – army guy Mukul Deva or “Hell or High Water” by Peter Heller are more likely to find a place in my book club rather than Nicholas Sparks. I have frankly read one of Sparks’ works to actually understand what’s there in romantic novels, but wasn’t too impressed. Though he’s good, I wasn’t really enamoured by the romantic stuff.
A strict no – no would be the regular college novels. Though I started my reading era as I would say with Chetan Bhagat kinds and The Da Vinci code, I am seriously bored of novels which project guy + girl + sex in the name of college life. The league of Karan Bajaj, Ahmed Faiyaz, Sidin Vadukut, Ravi Subramanian are surely much better than ones who are students in colleges writing books just to become a brand. I would surely love to include books by them in the book club. And last but not the least are the biographies / autobiographies like Kishore Biyani, Sam Walton, Richard Branson, Sachin Tendulkar, Captain Gopinath etc. which I would love reading. They are the source from where I derive a lot of my inspiration, energy and motivation levels.