Bhasha Blogs: Indic Blogs in the Indian Blogosphere
Desipundit is turning one. Congratulations guys! It has been a fabulous year for you people and I am happy to see Desipundit graduate from a link blog to a movement. The welcome addition of links to Indicblogs has given it a wholesome flavor. I salute the dedicated team for relentlessly pointing to the best of the Indiblogdom. What Indibloggies does once in a year, you guys do on a daily basis.
Patrix recently asked me to pen my thoughts on the scene and I must say that I am honoured. I am not good at writing longer posts and the following are a collection of jottings spread over several days, so dear readers do bear with me if you find a lack of coherence or flow.
On hindsight my own personal blog journey seems pretty insignificant to me. My English blog Null Pointer, with which my blog journey started, by virtue of it being techie in nature and being hosted on JRoller, a den for technology bloggers, didn’t ever earn much notice from desi readers. So being a timid blogger that I am, I get more casual visitors than regular ones, the latter are probably being those who rely on the feed. My Hindi blog Nuktachini probably gets better attention.
Over these years I can say that I gained a lot from blogging. Whether actually blogging or not I was always happy to be part of the activities that spun around it. It gave me opportunity to be associated with the growing Indicblogging phenomenon, explore various CMS and blogwares, learn and try new technology and getting involved in Hindi localization. I am happy that Indibloggies was an effort that was respected yet I think the majority of readers may not be aware that the Indicbloging scenario has had enormous growth too. Having seen the Hindi blogging scenario growing from strength to strengths over the last 2 years, my belief about the growth of blogging in Indian languages has been always strong. Recall that the category for Indic blogging was added to Indibloggies back in 2004, Abo-hawa was a column at Nirantar that kept tab on the growth and Chittha Vishwa still sports a pie indicating the Indicblog share apart from having blog aggregators for Hindi, Marathi, Nepali and Gujarati blogs. With the meteoric growth in Indic blog count and with Google saying so now, that belief has been fortified.
I think that the journey of Indiblogdom has been significant if you see the blogs transition from mere personal journals to podiums contemplating on serious issues. There has been a spate of “Pundit blogs” since then, though even today majority of blogs simply postmortem news from the Main Stream Media (MSM). The paradigm that “content is supreme” still holds true; while bloggers like Rajesh Jain have been consistently blogging on technology others like Anita Bora also get good readership despite of her blog being chiefly a “personal journal”, so frankly one cannot say what works and what doesn’t, suffice to say that there is an audience for each kind of content.
Over the years Indian blogs also caught the fancy of the MSM, probably because many journalists recognized it as a potent medium for publishing their offbeat reports. Post IIPM furore I think, MSM in India also realized the “collective power” of, what the BBC calls, “army of irregulars”. Today many print publications and TV Channels have started vying for that element of conversation that had made blogs popular. It is therefore not too difficult to guess where the progressive news channels got the idea of “citizen journalism” from.
I think that this whole MSM v/s blogs debate is all bulls**t. Will Blogs replace MSM? Did FM Radio replace TV? Blogs and MSM can only compliment each other. Probably 60% of the blogs discuss topics brought forward in MSM, off late MSM, especially the online editions have started attributing Blogs as a major source of opinion. Peter griffin said it correctly, “Blogs will keep the MSM honest”, point out their flaws, make them more responsible, make them double check their facts and learn not to ignore seemingly insignificant issues. I can quote the recent case of The Acorn pointing out a historical flaw in Bill Clinton’s foreword to a book, a valid point that was augmented by a MSM journo and that led to the publisher apologize for the error. This is an apt example of how Blogs and MSM would co-exist and actually augment each other.
The advantage of Blogs is the collective wisdom that emerges, the 360 degrees perspective that they provide to an issue. Blogs would certainly help MSM take a true non-partisan approach, each news article can thus become a mini-forum voicing all concerns and bringing all facts to light. Moreover, the subjectivity of the view helps you get a bird’s eye view. The prudent can traverse the pheromone trail and could probably reach a better decision.
How has been the journey in Hindi blogdom? Alok, the “pitru-purush” of Hindi blogging, was the one who started the movement and even coined the term “Chittha” for blog. I “think” in Hindi and though I had written for Hindi print publication before I was bit hesitant to start as I was non-committal on the time it would need. So I prompted a colleague at Webdunia to start one. It was so difficult to hold myself after that and “Nuktachini” was born soon after. It was as if people were just waiting. Today we are a 225+ strong community; the growth is slow but steady.
I am fortunate that I just happened to be there, at the moment when Hindi blogging triggered-off. I was fortunate to be part of a group of like-minded people who were frenzied enough to bring Hindi to foray and do something new. Blogging was the common passion; this is what made it sticky.
I have high regards for Pankaj who launched Akshargram the first group blog of Hindi blogdom and Sarvagya our community wiki. People like Jitendra helped forge this community, the quality writing from people like Anup, Ravi, Atul, Sunil and so many others provided credibility. Since then many other ventures like Chitthakar, Anugunj, Nirantar, Buno-kahani, Blognaad and Narad came through; some survived some didn’t but I am sure the community was strengthened in the process. The baton of this passion has passed many hands since then, the knowledge base that we have created hopefully helped lot many people to create their own blogs.
I had been asked whether the regional language blogs can compete with Indian blogs in English. Honestly, I don’t see any element of competition here. With so many dialects we have, blogging in these languages was a natural course Indiblogging could have taken. Each has it own space to operate. The challenges with blogging in Indian languages are more technological in nature. Indian languages are not viable options for the blog-wares; there is still none with a built-in Unicode Indic-editor. A majority of computers in India still run on Win-98 that has poor support for Unicode, Internet Café owners despise Win-XP as it is resource intensive and warrants hardware upgrades. The whole publishing process, the simplicity of which made Blogging popular, becomes much tedious for Indic languages.
A corollary to the growth in Indicblogging is the growth in use of Indian languages over the Internet. The ubiquity of Unicode on Indicblogs has inspired websites in Indian languages hitherto using proprietary or TTF fonts to switch to Unicode. But Unicode is yet to find universal acceptance and it is here that tools such as Padma (extension for browsers such as Firefox) hold great value. Padma facilitates reading sites using popular formats by transforming the text to Unicode on the fly. Days are not far-off when search engines like Google would adopt similar technology to index numerous such Indian websites that have still not converted to Unicode.
No wonder there are many who foresee a bright future for Indic blogging. Many bloggers for example in Hindi started experimenting with blogs as a medium of showcasing their writings, their poems and stories. Literature is a great tool to popularize the language. Blogs in South Indian languages have already made it big, during Indibloggies I was pleasantly surprised to get a mail from a farmer in Kerala who has been blogging in Malayalam, despite being ignorant about the technical nitty gritty. So I think technological barriers notwithstanding the love for language would surely see the number of Indic blogs swell.
I am not sure if Blogging has got a long future, but it sure set alight many movements all along. Internet is more vibrant, news more vivid and opinions in galore. Even so blogging in India is an urban spectacle; the skew is so prominent, views portrayed don’t yet represent the real India. Indian corporate is still to recognize this phenomenon and employers still to devise blogging policy for their employees. Will there be a day when the blog post of a farmer written in Marathi and raising concerns on the agricultural policy of the state government echo in the corridors of Mantralaya? Amen to that.