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Of blogs and houseboats…

Recent visitors to my blog might’ve noticed a banner proclaiming my participation in the BlogCamp. And if you have a keen eye, you might even have noticed its absence by now! ๐Ÿ˜‰ The reason simply being that the BlogCamp concluded. To quote Mani Karthik, (the SEO Expert), “It was good and great..kickass!” Yeah! Prasanth, Jacob (my friends and doyens of Opdyne) and I: we kicked some ass! ๐Ÿ˜€

It all began on a slight off-key note for me. In all the gusto that morning, I ostensibly slipped over my bathroom floor and suffered a nasty injury on my right ear-lobe (my head hit the sharp end of the bathroom-door socket). There was a lump in my head and my ear started bleeding profusely. Mom went hysteric at the sight of all the blood and Dad, a staunch critic of my trip was ‘roaring’ abuses at the top of his voice against my decision! I writhed in pain for a while until the blood clotted to some extent, thanks to ‘betadine’. This happened early in the morning, and thankfully we weren’t late. Picking up Jacob & Prasanth from Sreekariyam junction, dad dropped us at the railway station at roughly 5:40 in our Indigo. Our train, the Janshatabdi was due only at 6:25; so we idled away at the platform and around the train until the ‘poor man’s Shatabdi’ took off on the dot.

Jacob & Prasanth

The trip was good; this was my sixth train journey this year, and I must admit, I SIMPLY love them! Pashu (Prasanth) and Kalip Annan (Jacob) [Old nicks never die!] were at the best of their spirits and we literally laughed all the way, sharing Jacob’s N73 headphones occasionally to listen to an ensemble of music from Japanese ‘dappaankkoothu’ (LOL Jaco, that rocked! :P) to the soulful ‘Khuda Jane’. Prasanth, almost suffering from burnout, thanks to a packed college & work schedule,had barely closed his eyes when this punctillious a$$ came in and announced that he needs his seat. We had reseated ourselves so as to sit together and we entreated with him in the politest of voices, but the guy was too adament. Poor Pashu lost his sleep and I was seated at the adjacent seat next to an Old gentleman and a studious medicine student. As we neared Alappuzha, creative juices started flowing into our heads and some interesting photo sessions ensued! The results, as you can see down here, turned out good. After all yours truly weilded the camera! ๐Ÿ˜›


A view from the train.


Exhilerating, indeed! ๐Ÿ˜›


Hmm… Nice place! ๐Ÿ˜€


To jump or not to jump, that is the question.

We deboarded at Alappuzha railway station at 8:37 PM. Endeared by the punctuality of our train, we caught a bus to the ‘boat jetty’. A few fellow bloggers hobbled in with us. I had the previlege of talking to the veteran Malayalam blogger ‘Chandrasekharan Nair’ a.k.a. Keralafarmer who sat in the seat right in front of me. Sujit and his friends from SBCET briefed us on the way to the Punnamada Jetty from the bus stop (which was just “walking distance”, they assured us). Satisfied at having saved a few bucks of auto fare; we merrily walked enjoying the scenic beauty of the place. Jacob’s ‘probing’ eyes saw a female figure walking toward us and wondered if she was a BlogCamp attendee! Prasanth disagreed with him. But, having seen her pic in the attendees list, I joined Jacob’s stand and struck a bet for 10 rupees after she’d walked past (and I ended up winning a sprite, needless to say! :P).

Walking to the ‘boat jetty’: A rest session. Pashu is smsing ‘someone’! ๐Ÿ˜›

Twenty minutes of tiresome walk later, we reached a place with scores of houseboats stacked together. Lots of BlogCamps going on, we mused! But the ‘attendees’ strangely resembled Toursists and fisherfolk rather than bloggers with all their laptop backpacks. Ten minutes of sniffing around, a phone call to Kenney and a chat with a policeman made us realize that we still had to trudge over two kilometres. And yea, it was just ‘walkable’ distance. ๐Ÿ˜ Pashu & Kalipannan badly wanted to ‘relieve’ themselves and couldn’t wait till the houseboat. So after another thirty minutes of tiresome walk, Pashu helped himself beneath an undergrowth while Jacob & I stood ‘guard’. To our rude shock, the SBCET guys (yea, the “walking distance” guys) zipped by in an auto! And they merrily waved at us!! ๐Ÿ˜ Before we could mutter a set of abuses, another empty auto rushed to our help and we reached the ‘Punnameda Jetty’ in three minutes time. (Turns out that it was over three kilometers away from our previous checkpoint).

Lo and behold, 80 different bloggers from all over the state and beyond were expectantly awaiting the houseboat! We were relieved and happy at the sight of all the intelligentia. The sad fact was that there were just 2 female participants, and both of them ‘harboured an interest in blogging’ and weren’t even bloggers. (Shame on you female bloggers! :P) Techies themselves, my friends warmed up to their acquaintances from MobME (people like Sajith), while I tried struck up conversations with some really interesting bloggers. The Houseboat, due to some technical problems was not available until 10:45. So after an hour of wait, the sight of the magnificent, ‘two-storeyed’ beauty endeared us. The top floor of the boat, which was sponsored by Aria Holidays, was an Air conditioned conference hall and the bottom floor had four spacious ‘executive’ bedrooms. All 100 of us got inside. After a quick self introduction by all, the boat ‘toot-tooted’ and we left for our boat journey! Finally, the journey began!

Our houseboat (Image courtesy: BlogCamp team)


Clash of the SEO gurus! Prasanth & Mani (Jacob is sliced in between)


BlogCamp about to begin…


The DyNz with Binny VA


Relishing the beauty of backwaters!


The ghosts who discuss!

The first presentation was by this Canadian theoretical computer scientist whose name was too easy to pronounce! (duh! that was a PJ) This guy, a random ‘camper’, was invited onto the boat in the spur of the moment by Anand, one among the organizers. He made an interesting speech on voice recognition and demonstrated a successful voice-to-text session even despite all the noise and hubbub in the boat. He, a compulsive coder since ’87, apparently was a victim of some serious typing injury and was wearing ‘finger-braces’ in his right hand! (Made me shudder. Yes, I too have wrist pains after long typing sessions!! Eek!!)

Next, it was Mani’s turn. Mani Karthik is an SEO expert and gave an erudite and passionate speech about blog monetization. He even put some interesting SEO tips for the grabs. (Implementing a few of them has helped my blog-visitors touch a record ’56’ mark last day!). His was a purely interactive session and turned out to be one of the highlights of the day. He exceeded his purported time by a great extent thanks to a blitzkreig of questions and counter questions from geeks to laymen. He has uploaded his presentation here. Check it out. It’s cool stuff!

Mani’s geek stuff!


Mani had a LOT of listeners, indeed! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Mani’s speech was followed by a short break and a short session by a ‘politics’ blogger (Damn, I forgot his name! I’ll check his name and put it up here asap.), Sridhar Pabbisetty. It was really enlightening, again. He spoke of accountablity in politics and urged us all to write more about it, terming blogging as the ‘fifth estate’. From his T-Shirt, I could gather that he was an IIM-A Public Administration graduate. I lost his blog address too, damn! ๐Ÿ™ His blog is: http://kew2008.wordpress.com/

Oops, I almost forgot to mention Sanjjeev Balakrishnan. A popular cartoonist-blogger and an Income Tax officer, Sanjjeev *ROCKED* BlogCamp with his cartoons. The man was seated behind a desk all day, sketching cartoons of whoever approached him! In the end most of the campers got themselves sketched by him. Check out my ‘cartoon’ below. (Dad & mom were in splits at the very sight of it! Our ‘cold-war’ even cooled down, thanks to the caricature!)


Sanjjeev in action!

My caricature. ๐Ÿ˜‰


Me & my caricature!

Lunch, turned out to be the cynosure of BlogCamp along with the ambience! It was way TOO ‘ossum’! Seriously mind-blowing, pure kerala food! I ate ‘kappa’ and ‘meen curry’ for the first time in my life, followed by the usual suspects: fish fry, chicken, rice, sambhar, ‘achaar’ et al. There was even delicious ‘payasam’ as the icing to the cake. Even the ‘sayip’ found all the food too good to resist! A huge fan of the fish fry, I accidentally swallowed a rather vicious bone which got stuck somewhere in my foodpipe. Damn! Those 10 long minutes, I swear, my eyes were watering I was squriming with pain. Following tips from Binny, I gulped quite a lot of water and ‘kappa’ and after ten minutes, the damned ‘mullu’ left my foodpipe. Whew, that was quite a big relief!

Next came the long-awaited, Pradeep Somasundaram’s talk on audio blogging. Pradeep Somasundaram is the Principal of Govt. College of Applied Science, Vadakkencherry, Palakkad and a part-time playback singer. His victory in the old DD show, Meri Awaaz Suno was a shot in the arm. He has live offers from the biggest names in the industry, like YashRajFilms! His presentation, undoubtedly, was *THE* BEST presentation at BlogCamp! Apart from invaluable tips on starting an audio blog, he even let us into the nuances and secrets of the recording
industry. In a comfortably-hands-on manner; he demonstrated the working of a professional audio editing software like Nuendo. He elicited quite some guffaws while answering Nikhil‘s and Agni‘s questions. Being a part-time singer and a music enthusiast I manged to get more tips from Pradeep. Turns out that, Pradeep got offers to sing in this hotshot Telugu movie after the music director Sandeep Chowta visited his blog! Maybe I must start audio blogging once I get hosting space for myself. ๐Ÿ˜€ Pradeep concluded his speech with a rendition of the Japanese Melody, Sakura.

Pradeep Somasundaram straining his vocal cords; singing!

KeralaFarmer a.k.a. Chandrasekharan Nair, was the next speaker at BlogCamp. This man, perhaps the least educated person among the group (he has studied only till the tenth grade) was indeed the most interesting person at BlogCamp! He started blogging to depcit the anomalies in rubber trading statistics and is now one of the best-known Malayalam bloggers in the state! Apart from farming, he is an avid Linux enthusiast with a host of blogs in almost all blog-service providers. Though I had gone downstairs to catch a quick nap at one of the bedrooms and to shoot pics, the applause when I returned confirmed that his speech was a runaway success.

KeralaFarmer in action

Now, the view from the houseboat is something. I don’t have words to describe it. See for yourself!

Mind-blowing


Enjoy the beauty of the trees! Wow!


Lounging at the bottom-deck.


That’s an inner-view.


Yeah, I slept here for a while! ๐Ÿ˜›

Take my word; the next time someone gives you a party in the houseboat, make sure you don’t decline!! It’s goanna be the BIGGEST mistake you’ll make!

Kenney‘s informal, tongue-in-cheek account of his pet-topic; Campus Blogging concluded the session. He helped drive into us, the prescience of Campus blogging today, citing the example of MBCET Peerumedu. (That reminds me; Our Campus blog needs a lot of work!)

Kenney speaks on campus blogging

Kenney finally reminded us of all the contests that were open for us campers! Lots of prizes are there for grabs. The deadline is August 31st. Finally, the boat docked at the jetty and we deboarded. As the conference ended, no one had tears in their eyes. All of us were too eager to stay on in the boat for some more time; the whole houseboat ‘experience’ and the camp was SO mind-blowing.

The Campers Huddled together! (Courtesy: Kenney)

So, here are a few of the 80-odd interesting people I met at the Camp:

1) Anurag Ojha: He’s a student at the CUSAT school of Engineering. He has a striking resemblance to me (yeah, the same good looks; even the same color of eyes! :P). A hardcore techie, he surprised me by speaking kick ass Malayalam, even pronouncing ‘เดดperfectly! :-O

2) Binny VA: A simple, down-to-earth guy with cute-boy looks. But he’s an avid, passionate LAMP programmer and is the quintessential ‘self-made-man’!

3) Srijith V: I’ve been reading his blog for quite sometime. Managed to meet him, finally!

4) Kenney Jacob: Needs no more introduction! The organizer of BlogCamp. One cool guy!

5) Nikhil Narayanan: Another guy with a penchant for humor. He rocks! Totally!!

The return trip wasn’t as eventful. Prasanth was too sleepy, and we hitched an auto and a bus (in that order) to reach the railway station, where our ‘sayippu’ was roaming about aimlessly, much to our surprise. He replied tritely to Jacob’s inquiry offering help that he was off to Trivandrum. ๐Ÿ˜€ Finally, our train, (The Janshatabdi arrived) and we set off to Trivandrum. No sooner did the train start, both my friends dozed off and I was intermittently talking to and smsing Trinity (check the previous post!) to kill time. The train reached Trivandrum at 8:55 and I got a direct bus back home.

Looking back the BlogCamp was an experience in itself. Though my friends were rather appalled at the lack of technical expertise, I enjoyed the whole event. I met loads of interesting people, learned new stuff, enjoyed awesome food, and ‘relished’ the houseboat!

I’ll sure be back for the next BlogCamp! Kudos, Kenney, Anand, Aravind & Jaleel! Fantastic job!!