How many of us bloggers are out there?
A mind-boggling number very hard to grapple with for sure.
Our sheer numbers reminded me of a well known tale of Akbar and Birbal I came across recently on my flight back to the US from India. It was a version of the story in animation adapted for kids which I watched on the screen trapped in my little space in the sky.
It goes something like this:
Accounts of the wit of King Akbar’s minister Birbal had spread far and wide beyond the realms of the kingdom. As a result of his fame, Birbal attracted both admiration and jealousy from his compatriots.
One day, a visitor to Akbar’s court asked a very difficult question. He was a very clever man himself who wanted to challenge Birbal’s reputation and by extension, the King’s unparalleled fame regarding his stellar collection of knowledgeable men in the court.
“How many crows are there in your kingdom?” asked the man.
The population of crows in the kingdom had indeed grown beyond measure. They were everywhere. In the parks, on the roadside, wherever the eye could see. Even King Akbar had commented on their numbers when he had taken a walk with Birbal just the previous day.
This visitor sang praises of the king and his court. He was sure that counting the number of crows in the country was a task equal to no one but Birbal. No one else could do it.
“Hmmm,” said the king. He had no option but to call his favourite minister.
Birbal, however, did not seem worried at all. He asked for a day. “Tomorrow I’ll let you know the answer,” said Birbal. Then he disappeared.
The next day, Birbal was summoned according to plan. Everyone was stressed but Birbal was unfazed. “There are 95, 463 crows in the kingdom, ” he said.
Everyone gasped at the precise number.
“Are you serious!” said the visitor.
“You can double check if you want,” said Birbal. “ But let me warn you. At any given time, a few of these crows will have flown to neighbouring lands to visit their relatives and a few will have flown down here to visit their friends. Keep those numbers in mind when you check.”
Birbal had outwitted his competition yet again!
Now, to come back to the blog connection.
I know that a lot of people don’t like crows. But I do. I admire them. They are quick. They are clever. They are adaptable. They don’t need a lot of resources to thrive and if you’ve lived in Calcutta for a long time, you know that they are your constant companions, if not always a good friend. They may not be pretty and poets may not have written odes to them but they are the birds that you always see and for sure they know how to make themselves heard.
I think it is so with us bloggers.
In our numbers we are strong. I’m sure there are ways of counting us that are more sophisticated than Birbal’s but just like his birds, a lot of us are singing and cawing in groups and alone, adapting to a niche in the blogosphere or remaining nomads.
Within all this noise, how do we make ourselves heard?
Just like my favourite bird, I know that we can!
We’re an adaptable lot just like my bird.
So here are a few things we can learn from the crows.
[Those who know crows will know how the following points fit the personality of this bird I’m talking about.]
Caw! Caw! Caw! Get everyone excited. Choose a topic you care about and then get everyone excited about it. The advantage you have with the blog medium is that you can take your time to gather people. Multiple posts, comments, questions, dialogues, news you share about a topic can do the trick. The audience is young and so open to ideas (not necessarily by age but by a mindset that’s not so set yet!).
Be the crow. Each blog is unique despite our numbers. Let your personality show through. People care about ideas but people also care about people (and birds). Get them excited about a voice, a style, a perspective, an approach, whatever is “you.” This person can, by all means, be a persona, not necessarily the real you but let people remember someone. People are looking to connect to an expressive writer behind the blog.
Can you spot your crow? Be different, be open, invoke a reaction. That seems like a cliché. It’s hard to be different in a world of sameness where sameness is valued simply couched as difference. [Think shampoos on store shelves. Normal, long, short, sleek, frizzy, dry, shiny, ad infinitum until the mind is numbed.] But even in this vanilla world (unfortunate analogy since vanilla is my favourite flavour) it’s possible to push the boundaries just a little bit, especially in the blogosphere. Talk. I mean really talk. Invoke a reaction, engage people in conversation.
Keep cawing. Be consistent. This is the difficult part. Appear from time to time with a post. Whatever your comfortable interval is. Don’t disappear for long periods. People will connect only when they know you’re there somewhere.
Being a blogger is an option whereas life isn’t. Yet one has to keep at the former even as the latter keeps making its demands on us.
The life of a crow is hard. Always on the periphery, always being shooed away, fiercely competitive and rarely welcome. And yet, these birds manage to thrive and make themselves permanent parts of city streets. They can even seem beautiful to the right eye.
In fact, groups of crows perched on electric wires on city streets silhouetted against the orange sky at dusk is one of the most beautiful images I can remember of my own city.
A sight which speaks of the relevance of these peripheral beings to our modern lives.