The solitary life of a food blogger. IFBA ’23 Best Blog Awards

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Nimki sat by me while I edited this post

The solitary life of a writer

Late afternoon/ early evening is my favourite time to write. I had woken up from an afternoon nap, feeling fresh for the first time in the day today. I went to my desk and switched on the laptop. My desk looks out onto a big window which in turn looks onto trees which are framed by the blue skies. Our apartment is not on a very high floor. Which means that one does not look down onto the trees from high above. Instead, it feels that the trees in front of it and the room are of one continuum. For music, there is the natural chirping of birds. Quietening down, as the sun begins to set and the rich blue skies begin to take a grey tinge. I forgot to tell you that the birds are not my only neighbours when I write. Squirrels run up and down the trees ahead of me. Our sons often give me company too. Settle on the window sill in front of me. Staring at the skies. Grooming themselves. Or just snoozing with their tails swishing langurously. Tails? Yes, by ‘sons’ I meant our two cats, Baby Loaf and little Nimki. Today is a rare day when they did not turn up by my side. They must be sleeping in a corner somewhere as cats tend to. 

In case you are wondering if I work out of a hill station, let me surprise you by saying that this is Mumbai that I am talking about. The suburb of Bandra to be precise. It is called the ‘Queen of the Suburbs,’ and was once a charming, sleepy hamlet. It has gotten crowded over the years. Its roads are overflowing with traffic. Its old cottages have been bulldozed with skyscrapers taking their place. Commerce has multiplied manifold and this applies to restaurants too. We are lucky to live in a corner of Bandra which is a tad far from the madding crowd.

Before you wish for the life that I have, I must point out that it’s not smooth sailing all the way. Man is a social animal and this applies to work too. Not having someone to discuss things at work can be lonely for a writer like me who works out of home. One is assailed by self-doubt. Is what I do good enough, or relevant enough, I ask myself. People seem to be doing so much if one goes by their social media feeds. Is one just slacking? I am lucky to have K in my life who points out that the self-doubt that I have is unwarranted. Yet, one seeks external gratification. I am pretty sure that I am not the only one who thinks this way.

A vote of confidence

With the IFBA 23 awards and with K who is 
the wind beneath my wings

This is why I am filled with so much gratitude for what happened in the 7th edition of the IFBA Awards which was held last Friday at The Club, Andheri. FBAI, run by Salloni and Sameer Malkani, was the pioneer in initiating food blogger awards in India. The fact that they are in the 7th edition, talks of great commitment and passion and they deserve a big round of applause to that. This year was a major deviation from the past. They called it the ‘Content Creator’s Awards,’ not the ‘Food Bloggers Awards.’ A reflection of how the world of social media has changed over the years. It’s the era of Reels and Shorts: with long-form blogs, Twitter and even Facebook losing their primacy.

You would be happy to know that FinelyChopped won the award for the best general food blog! I have been fortunate enough to have been a 7-time winner at the IFBA awards. Last year was for the best podcast. There is some fantastic talent out there with fresh new bloggers coming in.  I feel grateful to be in the consideration still.

The joy of blogging

Blogging was an escape from the daily rigours of life at the start for me. It was a digital diary where I documented my life with food as an anchor. I used to work in market research then. It’s been 16 years since I started blogging. The excitement and joy that it gave me is still the same. I love to share stories from my life. Stories about what I eat, the people I meet, the places I eat at, the food I cook, people who cook for me. 

I am not sure if I am a good example for those starting out. I am not very ‘focused’ as a writer. I write from my heart. I do not follow a posting schedule. I do not follow trends. I love everything about food. Hopefully, the joy I feel in writing is infectious and is what connects my readers to me. And what is a writer without readers?

On staying relevant

One can’t be like an ostrich with its head in the sand. I have embraced new social media platforms. Moved from just writing long-form blog posts and columns to publishing photograph-based content (Instagram), video content (Reels, YouTube) and then audio. Yet, I have tried to do it my way. Even if this meant having a sluggish follower count.

I think that two things have worked for me. The first is having a distinctive voice. I am a diarist at heart. My stories might or might not interest all, but no one else, nor AI, can replicate them! Some have told me that they connect most with the stories that I share about my grandmother, my mother and mother-in-law, and our cats. I feel happy when I hear this even if this is not strictly food content.

The second is being consistent. I have blogged continuously for 16 years without a break. The only reason for this, as I said earlier, is because I love it. There are new food writers today whose work I look up to. They write articles that are fabulous in terms of research, perspective and information. I try not to get overwhelmed by the brilliant work that they put out. I try to improve on what I do instead. That is under my control. Not what’s happening around me.

I can’t thank you enough FBAI, judges and sponsors of #IFBA 23, the sponsors and all behind it. The award was a much-needed moral booster.

There was another award that I got that night and that was a big surprise for me. This was for ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Indian Culinary Industry.’ I can’t even begin to say what this means to me. Telling stories about the food of our country to the world, especially from media dark areas such as street food, small businesses, home chefs and women entrepreneurs, gives me a high. I have tried to share what I know about our food through my blog, my columns, my videos and my book, The Travelling Belly. My food walks have been my attempt to introduce my adopted city of Mumbai to people through its food.

Things have changed since the time that I began. Today you have young content creators doing a great job in covering street food joints across the country. Then there are the big names in the industry who are setting up collectives and forums to promote Indian food. This makes me wonder if there’s any value to what I do. This is why the award means so much to me.

The Home Chef Studio

With Raveena Taurani. Mentor of the social 
media talk at the Home Chef Studio

There’s more that happened last week that partially addressed a question that I often ask myself. Do I take life too easy?

We had the Home Chef Studio event at the UpperCrust Food and Wine Show. This is an event jointly conducted by UpperCrust and FinelyChopped. 

The run-up to the event includes planning the event flow and identifying judges and mentors. Getting contestants for the home chef cook-offs. And sponsors. 

One is on one’s feet through the day of the event which is held outdoors under the blazing December sun. It’s physically as well as mentally draining. I could not do it without the support of the hard-working team at UpperCrust. This was the third edition of the HomeChef Studio and I am relieved that it went off well. 

A small voice whispered to me as I headed home exhausted but happy: don’t be so hard on yourself. You are not as much of a slacker as you think yourself to be.

Why am I sharing this with you? Some of it might make me sound vain. Some of it exposes my vulnerability.

I share this because I would be more than happy if what I have written helps someone. Thank you for reading.

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