I have always believed that humanizing individuals is a great way to understand what they think and what makes them click. In keeping with this philosophy, I have regularly interviewed authors from different walks of life over the last few years.
And now continuing this theme, I begin a blogger interview series. My first guest is a full-time HR professional during the day and blogger after calls in the night. A working homemaker who hates cleaning and can hardly cook, she is also a family photographer and life lover. She spreads happiness all around through her lovely posts with an aptly named blog – Happiness & Food.
Ladies & Gentleman, welcome Parul Thakur.
Aseem: What inspired you to begin blogging?
Parul: It was the start of 2013 and New Year hadn’t brought anything great. At least, on the face of it. I was on bed rest and unable to walk or stand. Negligence had led to an extremely weak back and I was on the verge of a spine surgery. That was when I realized I need happiness to pull me up from my condition.
I needed to be positive and I had a picture of me cycling. I logged onto WordPress, created a blog and posted the picture. That was the start of happiness and food. Food because that too meant happiness. I had always wanted to pen down my writings at one place and with only a half-hearted attempt way back, this was the one I need to put my soul into.
Aseem: When was the first time you realized that you could write well?
Parul: That time is yet to come. I have never been able to come to terms with that thing. I know I write regularly and many people tell me that my writing strikes a chord but I do feel that there is a lot of room for improvement.
Aseem: How challenging has it been to write posts regularly considering you do have a family and a day job as well?
Parul: It has never been challenging. I believe that if you really want to do something, you will always find time. There are many instances when I am hard pressed for time. But whenever I write it’s not for the compulsion of publishing. It’s to tell myself that I should do what I enjoy doing.
When work gets hectic, writing takes a back seat but at the same time I continue clicking pictures and then one day these pictures find home on my blog. You see, one way or the other – it works.
Aseem: Today, you write on a variety of topics like women’s issues, gratitude posts, travel etc. When you began, did you have any specific genre in mind? Or were you ready to explore yourself as a blogger as you went on?
Parul: I had happiness on mind. I come from the belief that big moments that make us happy will come at their own pace. How many times will you fall in love, marry who you love, buy a house or a take a vacation? It’s the small moments that matter. The moments that have no extrinsic value attached to it.
The joy of seeing the flowers in your balcony bloom, the happiness when you know no matter what you have a family that will stand by you. So on and so forth. So as I started blogging, my circle of happiness kept getting bigger. Things became much clearer and that’s how the blog evolved. Makes sense?
Aseem: Nowadays there are a lot of blogging prompts, challenges and contests floating around. Do you prefer them? Or do you feel that writing your own thing gives you a great sense of creative liberty?
Parul: Most of the times, I don’t have the time to go by prompts or joining blog-hopping linky parties. I prefer to write what works for me. Yes, my photo posts are many times based on a prompt but there too, I can’t say I am regular.
I write because I love to write so I prefer to not bind myself. Like every rule has an exception, here too there are days when a prompt shapes the writing.
Aseem: How do you tackle the writers block?
Parul: Well, I kind of feel good about sharing this with your readers, Aseem. I haven’t had a block since the last four years. There is always something to write. And more than I can actually pen.
Writing is an organized way of thinking. If you think a lot, you can write. If you can write in a manner that makes it up a good read, you can publish it. Where is now the scope for a block? Touch wood. Yes, I can get superstitious.
Aseem: For those who struggle to write posts with a regular frequency, what would be your suggestion?
Parul: Plan your writing. I am telling this to myself as well but I think scheduling is a boon. Decide your own cadence. See what works best for you and stick to it. As an example, I love writing microblogs on Mondays. I also enjoy wordless Wednesdays so I stick to them. Rest all, I let it take a natural flow.
Aseem: How important do you think is monetizing ones blog? How has your experience been?
Parul: I wouldn’t say it’s important to monetize one’s blog. This depends on where you would like to take your blog. If you are someone who would like to monetize, know that there is a market. I was very naive when I started. I did not even know that one could monetize their blogs. Now, I only take up assignments that go with the overall theme of my blog. To me, that’s important. My experience has been decent. There are good ones and then there are those who defer payments. I have learnt all along while on the journey.
Aseem: Which according to you are your top 5 posts in terms of satisfaction of writing / views / comments?
Parul: Now, that’s unfair Aseem. It’s hard to pick five when all of them are my hard work. However, I would say that many of my personal posts have been my best. More so when I wrote about my family. They still make me shed a tear. In now particular order, here they are:
1. Maa – If I am not wrong, this was my first personal post about my Mum.
2. Outpourings from a proud father – This one because Papa has written this. I have never shared this on social media but I value this a lot.
3. A decade of love – Ten years with the guy I call VT.
4. I am from Azamgarh – This one continues to bring a lot of traffic.
5. WomenAtWork – 14 posts and counting, this monthly feature has turned out to be a joy.
Aseem: What is the best and the worst comment you remember?
Parul: There are no comments that are best or worst. Every comment is a view and as bloggers we need to be receptive of that. Criticism is a way of learning and even if a comment is not in agreement, I understand that it’s not about me or my blog but the idea or the thought.
Aseem: What are your thoughts on the current blogging scene in India and around the world?
Parul: I think the blogging world is rapidly changing. Companies are trying to tap into the talent and the talent is of course out there ready to experiment. But change is the only constant. Isn’t it? I know that bloggers need a community and if they have one, they can sure sail through the changes.
Aseem: We hear that you edit Wikipedia as well. How did that come about? And what all does that entail?
Parul: That is another story. A happy story and proof of the fact that someone is reading what is written. It was a Sunday morning close to three years ago and I was reading The Hindu at home with my usual cup of ginger tea. A news article spoke about an Indian women parliamentarian’s edit-a-thon on Wikipedia.
There were two email ids that were given for contact and I reached out to the women asking how I could help. In a few days, I was editing Wikipedia and I continue to do that. I edit women specific content and my intent is to give women their fair share of online space. It takes time and I am not very regular but over three years, I have managed to create over 60 articles.
If I could put it into simpler words – Tell me how many women scientists to do you know? Have you read about the one you know on Wikipedia? That’s the gap I am trying to bridge.
Aseem: What kind of blogs do you read? Who would you list down as your top 5 bloggers?
Parul: I read a lot of blogs and yes, you have put me in a spot there by asking that question. I read a lot of wonderful bloggers and that can be completely a different interview. To be honest, many awesome bloggers I read are Indians and I can’t be more proud of the quality of posts that are out there. Fiction, poetry, views and photography – lovely talent around me.
Aseem: A day job, responsibilities at home, a blogger, a Wikipedian and more – What is your secret to manage your time?
Parul: Ha ha! Now this is my favorite part. I have never shied away from sharing this so here it goes. I don’t cook and I don’t clean. My time at home is for my own self and that includes reading, writing and looking after my plants. My idea is to delegate what can be done to others and then find time to do what I enjoy.
I am okay sitting on a sofa that is also home to clean laundry that needs folding and arranging in the cupboard for couple more days. I have got comfortable in the fact that I store parathas in my refrigerator that I can microwave and eat. All this helps me prioritize. We all have 24 hours a day and we have to do with what we have got. I choose my battles my way.
Aseem: What would be your message to both your readers and prospective bloggers out there?
Parul: To readers, I would say keep sharing what you would like to read and how you felt reading. Nothing better than a word of encouragement. To prospective bloggers, I would say stop thinking and jump in. The world out there is very welcoming.