Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. ∼ Benjamin Franklin
Before you even close this window thinking that this a blogpost in the manner of an Oscar speech, please, please stop. I am writing my 200th+ post and my blog turned 4 just day before yesterday. And like an awestruck mum I kept staring at my baby thinking ‘where did all the time fly and did I do it all right?’ I must have done something right indeed, for in these 4 years I have had an incredible journey which started off with my first post. An excerpt here.
More than a decade back we – my husband and I, set up our first home in Srilanka. Albums stacked with those good-old memories fill up our book shelves even today. It was time that we showed our two little girls, the Z-Sisters, the country which had become our second home. Re-visiting Srilanka was more than just a vacation. It was as if, we were searching for our own roots. A decade back we had stood by the banks of the Kelani river, letting our eyes wander into the woods. Now a decade later, the four of us were standing at the same spot. As if one circle of life just got completed.
The empty bench seemed symbolic. With the beginning of the second circle (with the four of us now) I had to unblog them all!
This picture below was the first picture in my blog, although my romanticized Arien mind visualises it as the one on the right – in sepia.
Why did I start blogging?
Keep reading – hold on, I will keep it short by my standards. I started writing because I had always wanted to write, direct a film, write a book. I started on the first, skipped the second, stalled the third. The books I want to write will take time – a food-oriented travel book and another epic one on Bengali cuisine, the kind that can be passed on to my daughters as a wedding trousseau. So I have started writing blog posts instead.
My earlier food posts were strewn with my nostalgia of Bengali food and my childhood years of growing up in Kolkata and my travel posts would be of places that we were traveling to as a family – all bills paid out of our own pockets. In fact, I didn’t have a very concrete idea about what a blog was, I felt it was just like an extension of a private diary – only now more public. I would approach editors of various publications for writing assignments and would be asked to show sample of my writings. Fair enough! I started venting out in my blog – not rantings but passionate food and travel stories that started connecting to people. And slowly this snowballed into something more serious – the blog literally started taking me everywhere. I made blogger friends around the world and the connection with them would be so strong that I would be seeking them out when I travelled to different cities, ask S to deliver chocodates (a speciality here) to some of these friends while on his travels (S would cringe – deliver a gift from my wife to a random stranger – how bizarre!). I met chefs (some of them huge names and a few budding), food critics, hoteliers, PRs, random people in airports with whom I would exchange recipes, whatsapp the nurse who tended me while I was in the hospital about the new restaurant that she was probably mentioning… my life had become bizarre. Readers would ask about our daughters (affectionately called as Z-Sisters in the blog and now in real life), ask about my Mum if I happen to mention somewhere in my social media that she was in town… and most bizarre (and touching) of all… offer my family and myself their home to stay, in case, we were ever around in their town. Who knew I would be stroking out words in my About Me page as my blog evolved and my family ‘aged’!
I could go on and on about how far I have come since my first blogpost and how many great opportunities have come along the way, but what I really want to do is tell you how I feel about you – if you are my reader, a blogger, PR person who may have approached me or would like to approach me and lastly, a few Editors who may have snubbed me down in my earlier days. Strangely enough, I have also become very close to a few of you – readers, bloggers, PR and Editors in many ways and I have grown with you all. I will also tell you what my plans are.
To all my readers
- Please leave comments: I know you have super ‘liked’ my post. But how I miss the dialogue – the follow up comments that could be converted into a subsequent blogpost. I do agree that social media is connecting me to a wider audience, if you don’t like reading, follow my visual journey in Instagram or if you hate the long sentences I write, catch me squeezing myself hard within a 140-words limit in Twitter. But you know what? I miss ‘hearing’ you!
- Share if you like and let me know if you have already done so: You know that you have already done me such a huge favour by sharing! But please let me know who you are, so that I can thank you. I meet readers who mention friends and family who recommended my blog and who have been reading my blog and know the blogposts by heart. I want to know who you all are.
- Do hang on even though I have stopped doing giveaways: I have consciously stopped competitions and giveaways on the blog as I have realised that those of you who genuinely care and read my blog would be hopping in anyway – whether you win something or not. I don’t want to entice people who don’t intend to read into leaving comments on how beautiful my writing is, just because there is a giveaway. I want genuine readers to rub shoulders with me in the sanctity of the virtual space where I live in – that’s my blog.
- You think that you are getting disconnected? Let me know immediately: You have become busy in your life, I have become busy in mine. I have evolved as a blogger, the direction of the blog might have changed its course from the first blog post. You don’t like it anymore? Do let me know. One thing that I can assure is that – the ethos and the values haven’t changed. It never will.
To all my blogger friends (food bloggers mainly vis-à-vis the lifestyle bloggers and fashion bloggers)
- Blog for the right reason: You know your designations today, right? You are an Influencer. Your Instagram posts are microblogs with peripheral sub stories emanating from each post. Do it right. If you want to earn money out of your blog – you have all the right to do so and please go ahead and do it. Which fool would be working his/her spoons and forks out, clicking pictures and wasting gigabytes of memory space without earning anything in return? Getting invites or lovely goodies for sampling should be considered perks of a blogger – but you have to justify that. Don’t accept products or invites that you can’t justify – agreed, you might not be able to write a blog post about it, then you should be able to put it out on Instagram or Twitter at least (provided that you like it – but make your intentions clear.). If you do plan to do some shout out, ask yourself the honest question – is that product really worth that shout out? Nothing comes free in this world. No body questions an Airline staff when they get a discount for their family or travel for free – its considered as a perk. Pilots become pilots because first of all they love flying. They didn’t become pilots just because they can travel for free. Blogging is no different. But if you were to blog only to grab the free fois gras that you wouldn’t want to pay for from your own pocket, then that’s probably the wrong reason. Make it clear to your readers or any damn living organism who lands in your blog that it provides you with your bread and butter. Or may be the occasional bread and butter. Or may be it’s just an outlet for your creative expression. Make it honest – be it on Instagram or a blog post – whether it’s an invite or a product to be sampled. Your reader ‘deserves’ honesty from you so that they can make their own judgements!
- Don’t underestimate your blog: You are a mini news channel on your own and reach out to much more people than you think. Don’t give out wrong information or a sudden judgement that can break businesses or someone’s credibility. You have to be honest for sure, but not misuse the power that you yield.
- Unique voice is so cliched. Follow someone who inspires you: I mean seriously, how many of us are nerdy enough to have our own unique voices? Or start ticking the right check boxes from the very first post? You have to be inspired by someone, you have to have a blog mentor, you must give in to temptations to change your direction after getting inspired, you must have passionate co-bloggers who you can relate to. And you must have that someone who you want to emulate. Even in art school, students are taught to copy the masters. And then you shall find your own blog wings.
- There’s no right or wrong: Blogging is just like child rearing and like all mothers doing ‘mostly right’ for their children, you know instinctively what exactly you are doing. Its your blog – write however you want to write. If you want to write a fictional story while writing a recipe post – go ahead and do that. Just keep it simple, keep it coming out straight from your heart.
- Pray for traffic, a bit of spotlight, few media mentions and awards: Face it, we all need these in dollops. The first one attracts the second one, and that attracts the third… so on and so forth… but where do you start, I honestly can’t remember. All I know is that you can’t be trying too hard and you can’t just be writing good and wait for all these to happen. Networking can be taxing, time consuming and can affect the quality of the blog. My advice to you would be (although I haven’t done it yet and probably am losing time trying to do everything myself) – Get someone to do it – a Talent management company who gets you big clients that pay them to pay you. Bottom line, do your own PR – after all you are the best person to understand the ethos of your own blog. Next best scenario – get someone good to do it for you!
To all the PRs (not applicable to all and you know who you are)
- I need you, but don’t use me: The love hate relationship between PR and Bloggers is so strong – it’s like a strawberry smoothie having the power to start a bush fire! All those wonderful invites coming my way from you guys make my day or rather a few delicious evenings. But what spoils them are when some of you make me feel that you are doing me a favour by giving me a free meal. If your client is reaching my audience of 20K+ through my social media and because of my writing, I am giving you PR coverage worth thousands of dollars, it’s me who is giving you something for free, not the other way round. And you are obviously aware that there are bloggers who even charge for attending events, right?
- Mere invites don’t pay for the school fees or the grocery bills: This blog may be my creative space, it is also a platform to showcase my writing. It brings in a huge amount of traffic (and I do have plans to invest in SEO in the future). It is also intended to bring some spotlight on myself so that I can brag some paid work that revolves around food and travel. Dare to pitch me with some exciting projects that would blow my tastebuds and senses right away?
- Shocking, but yes I have a name. Different mailing systems let you send bulk emails addressed by the first name. So please, please don’t address me as ‘DEAR BLOGGER’ or ‘Hello _’! It’s really rude and insensitive. How much more time does it take to get the settings correct?
- Send me an invite that I can’t refuse: A few invites come in asking me to ‘bring along S and the Z-Sisters’… wow, you got me sold already – it makes me happy that you made that effort to know a bit about me. That’s fantastic but I may not be able to honour your invite – honestly there are far too many invites than I can physically attend. Most reviews on this blog aren’t against invites although I may take up invites if I am curious, or I might feature in a roundup in the blog or else where. Please don’t send me an invite to join you for a Friday Brunch on my own so that I can write a review on my blog. Do you work on your holidays? Tell me, why should I come on my holiday, eat on my own and then go back writing for you? Ask me to bring a bunch of friends along on a Friday – and you may have already pitched it right. I am not being greedy here – I am just telling you that it’s my day off and I won’t work for free, at least on a Friday, so let me have some fun as well!
- Ask me before you send in products: Honestly, your client wants their brands to be showcased properly. And I need to justify why I am accepting your gifts or invites. I am not obliged to post anything on my social media channels unless I choose to, specially when I haven’t been paid for it (and yes, there have been many commissioned projects that I am actually working on).
- I have rejected your invite or haven’t replied to your emails? Trust me, I don’t hate you. It just means that I have been truthful to myself. If I can’t feature my dining experience in a blog post (probably because these are not the kind of places my blog writes about or I really am not interested in the venue or I am already done or I am fasting!), or post on Instagram or Twitter, I shouldn’t be accepting that invite. And if I haven’t replied to your emails – oh, I am really working hard on that – to keep pace with replying to the number of emails that pour in daily – my sincerest apologies.
- Don’t invite me for a night stay with complimentary breakfast and expect me to pay for my dinner and write about the stay: What do you expect me to write about? My sleeping experience or my breakfast? Decide on what coverage you want for your client and pitch appropriately.
- Or send me an invite for an event on the day of the event: Promising to offer transportation doesn’t help either.
- Or tell me that you will invite me to a restaurant every time you meet me: Darn it! Just shoot that email invite out, please!
- Or think I am waiting for all the invites: No! I can very well pay my own bills and I do pay my bills often at many restaurants. If I get an invite to a restaurant I that wanted to visit, I may take up on that.
- Or think that all blogposts are sponsored: While there are no sponsored posts here, there have been projects – both food and travel, for which I have been commissioned for. The stories that you read are my own stories. For example, my Istanbul trip was hosted by Turkish Airlines but all the stories that you read on Grand Bazaar, eating heritage Turkish Meatballs or Izgara Köfte or our crazy night out in Ortaköy are all my own. Disclaimers disclose all.
- And lastly, FoodEMag dxb is completely another product: I agree, this adds to the confusion. Please don’t mix up. Yes, I co-founded FoodEMag dxb and I edit it, but accepting something on behalf of the blog doesn’t guarantee a space in the emagazine and vice versa. You are probably confused between the blogger (IshitaUnblogged) and the Editor of FoodEMag dxb – we are two separate identities – my blog is a personal space where I write about things that fit this blog and the emagazine is exactly that – it’s a commercial magazine. It’s got its running costs, design costs and development costs. I probably am to be blamed anyways for not having cleared this confusion… so a new About Me page is on the way.
To all the Editors
- Thank you, for repeatedly telling me that I didn’t have enough writing experience: Because of you all, I started writing in my blog and I can’t thank you enough. Today, I own a blog space where people come to read ‘my writings’. These are writings that I want to write and not writings commissioned by you.
- So nice to meet you: I am proud to say that I am going to the same exclusive invites and places that you are going to. And all because my blog (and now the emagazine) creates similar noise (if not more at times) like your ‘big name’ media publications create. I apologise if I am sounding arrogant here… but I am sick of being asking how I managed to get the invite. I didn’t manage the invites, the invites managed to get accepted by me. Do recognise that my blog is powerful.
- I am not qualified enough like other journalists: True, I may not be qualified as a journalist but I am highly qualified having obtained a First Class Masters Degree in Econometrics and… oh, I will let it pass. Yes, I am learning and yes there are many mistakes that I am still making, but its a learning curve. I am gathering more experience and knowledge because I am building a brand of my own – however small it might be. I plan to make it only bigger!
- I am a good story: Trust me when I say this. I have managed to travel countries, speak on radio channels, connected to people, attend international forums. And yes, I have co-founded an emagazine that is so beautiful that it makes me proud… If you still think that there isn’t much story in here, then do read what I plan to do in the next few years (of course I am not disclosing all!). Inshallah!
Lastly, to myself
- I want to blog like before: I want to go back to my simplistic writings – take out the blogposts from my brains rather than brewing them inside!
- I want to travel the world with my family: Make sure, I am writing on travel more than what I am… I still haven’t written on Srilanka, Florence, Goa, the US and Ladakh. But I have spoken about the latter a lot. So tourism authorities and travel companies, take note. All stories retold in my style.
- I want to concentrate more on Hidden Gems and quirky finds, culinary travel (in this blog): I write a Hidden Gem column in PW of Gulf News. Small places are my passion. And the fine dining and all the gourmet opportunities – go into my special roundups or FoodEMag dxb.
- I want to write my book: I need to travel to Bangladesh first as probably that’s where the story would start unfolding. On hold for many years now, I should start planning soon. Is there a good publisher who can sign me up?
- Travel show? You tube channel? Media columns? I am not pitching. You come forward and show me a plan that will incorporate all the crackpot ideas that I have. I can see a luxury caravan travelling all around the world with the logo painted in graffiti style. Lil Z doesn’t mind home schooling at all. This would be an inspiring story of an ordinary family who leads an extraordinary life through their travels and what better school can I provide them than showing them the world?
- I would love to open a Bengali fine dining restaurant: When? I am not sure! This is one passion project that I would love to work on eventually.
- Take FoodEMag regional and international: With the pool of talented blogger friends around me, I don’t see why this can’t be made into something that is really influential, inspirational and unique. Yes, the brand is becoming visible, but I want to take it to different cities and to different levels. Investors and resources please?
- Take care of my health: Late nights and working without any structure has taken tremendous toll on my health. If I have to live my life eating and travelling, I better be fit to do that!
- Enjoy life, my new garden, friends, family and our two gorgeous girls: I think I had been too harsh on myself, working too hard and chasing no dream in particular. All this started off so that I could live off my passion and then I stopped breathing in the daily moments. So here I am, pausing once in a while – from writing, from clicking, from uploading, from sharing, from helping others… and doing ‘just nothing’!
- Lastly, but not the least, I will never write a recipe with Chia in it: No honestly. I think I must have choked on Chia seeds and died in my earlier birth – how else can I explain my apathy towards it!
I have to say this because I really want to, and I really owe this to you: Thank You so very much – I am humbled and touched and feel absolutely blessed. I feel like mentioning so many names in this post – starting from some readers who have become close, blogger friends of Fooderati Arabia and around the world who feed my alter ego and keeps me sane (and some Gen X bloggers have also started saying that I inspire them which makes me blush – not out of the thought that I really inspire them but that I might have become really really old), close friends and family – the last two sets have been tolerating me enough and have been bearing up with all the idiosyncrasies that I do in the name of blogging. I still remember the 1st birthday cake that our friends’ daughters had baked (above – but those days clicking good pictures wasn’t really a priority) and we celebrated at home. Thank you so very much for reading till this exclamation mark!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: Please note that this blog is not a sponsored blog and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from this post. You can catch my daily travel and food journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.