Standing before my wardrobe on Saturday morning, I scanned my array of sarees trying to decide which one I ought to wear. In my hand was my pocket notebook with points I’d jotted down at 7 am. They ranged from, ‘How I began blogging’ to ‘Should you get your own custom domain?’
Picking out my favourite white saree and the accessories that would go with it, I settled down to figure out how this would go. Nine years after I wrote my first post that went live on Blogger, I was preparing for my first-ever panel discussion as a blogger.
Me. Speaking on blogging.The dots didn’t connect in my brain for a long time prior to this day. I sat there, taking in the enormity of the situation even as my mind idly switched between wearing black metal or pearl to complement the outfit.
Reshma Krishnamurthy of Mums and Stories had reached out to me a month ago to ask if I’d be willing to share my experience on my life as a parenting blogger. Delighted, I said yes. It was much later that I discovered I’d be sharing the space with 4 accomplished, successful women entrepreneurs: Archana Doshi (Archana’s Kitchen), Simran Oberoi Multani (Ovenderful), Babita Jaishankar (BAJA) and of course Reshma herself, a storyteller extraordinaire.
That’s when the reality kicked in. What would I possibly say that would match the breadth and depth of expertise that these incredible women would share? How would a life of a mother who shares notes about her parenting journey resonate with an audience full of aspiring entrepreneurs?
So, I did what any person would do in my situation: I panicked. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been a teacher, handled demo sessions, conducted seminars, given presentations and not once have I ever had stage fright. But this was different. I’d be speaking about something that, for so long, I’d only written about.
Two days before the event, I called up a friend and told her, ‘I have NO idea what I am going to speak about. Help!’
And as any good friend would, she rubbished my worry and then helped me brainstorm on key points. That’s when I began to exhale and feel the tension dissipate. I could do this.
I’d just have to be myself.
Arriving at the venue early by half an hour (blame it on my paranoid experience with Bangalore traffic), Babita’s smiling, effervescent personality welcomed me. She too, was the kind who reached places earlier than expected, like me! I liked her already. That would blossom into complete and absolute awe once I heard her whole story.
As we sipped green tea, waiting for the others to arrive, the ice broke comfortably between us. Soon, the other speakers and the audience arrived and we made our way to the terrace of Bhive Workspace to start the event.
Once Reshma had welcomed us all, each of us spoke briefly on our individual journeys. Simran spoke passionately about Ovenderful and what it meant to her, on how she ran a large and active Facebook group focused on healthy baking, on creating and implementing social responsibility initiatives across India through her vision for her company.
Archana went next and if you’re a blogger or even remotely connected to the internet, you’d need no introduction to Archana’s Kitchen. While the story of how she began is familiar to many, what a lot of us learnt that day was the warm, inspiring tale of a woman who had overcome incredible career odds to be where she is today. From being a successful software professional to losing everything in the dotcom burst of 2001, becoming a Yoga guru and then starting a blog way before the advent of social media, her story deserves an entire day to do it justice.
Babita Jaishankar, where do I even begin speaking about this woman? She again, is someone who strikes you immediately with her personable, friendly, affable personality. When she speaks, that awe takes the shape of complete admiration. An image consultant, an entrepreneur and blogger, she took BAJA and turned it to one of the most fantastic brands in the country.
I was the last to speak and to be frank, was a tad intimidated by the 3 successful women who’d shared their stories. My mind flipped through the points I’d written down and as I picked up the microphone to speak, something happened.
I switched tracks completely and began to speak about what I thought about blogging, for me as a parent blogger. Letting down my guard, I trusted the audience not to judge me as I opened up about my depression, my bipolar disorder, my attempt at suicide, my struggle to conceive my daughter, my chemical pregnancy a few years after that and coming to terms with all of that through my writing.
And, as always happens with what I write on the blog, something humbling occurred. I connected with people. All the worry I’d felt evaporated as I watched total strangers welcome me with their eyes and their hearts. Heads nodded in agreement when I mentioned yelling at my daughter and chuckles flew around the room when I referred to my penchant for checklists and my love for sleep.
This was followed by a panel discussion with the moderator, Reshma, asking us to touch upon topics such as building a brand, bridging the connect between personal storytelling and blogging, knowing how to monetize and scale something like a blog into a successful business and how to stay on top of trends in the digital media space.
Here is a short video that I put together based on some things I spoke about in my session.
In the second video below, I touch upon how being a blogger means so many things:
It’s my very first time working with video editing tools and I’d love some feedback on how to make it better, if you have any tips to share. I do wish I had video snippets to share of the other speakers as well since this was one session everyone would have thoroughly enjoyed. It was heartwarming to see quite a few men in the audience as well.
After the event, we interacted with the audience over tea and snacks and it brought home to me that this is what I love the most about blogging: the connections it brings us through our words, the way it reaches people and that finally, underneath it all, we’re one and the same.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my fantastic support group of friends and family on social media who shared my event, sent me good wishes and even showed up in person to make my day. I’m forever in your debt, people.
Thank you once again, Reshma, for making this event a memorable one for me. I wish Mums and Stories all the best as it grows and fosters these connections between the writers and the readers.
Special thanks to Bhive Workspace for hosting this at HSR Layout. It’s a lovely location to consider if you’re looking for co-working spaces in the city.