The Washington DC Bloggers Meet held in the food court of Union Station was a grand success. And if you are brushing this off as an expected statement coming from a not-so-famous blogger going gaga after meeting veteran popular bloggers, take your news straight from Greatbong himself. Even he concurs about the meet's success. In fact the first sentence is his quote. And no, this time round he is not being sarcastic!
|From left: Sunil, Ujval, Michael, Arnab, Chetan, Ravikiran, Piyush and Arzan (click to enlarge)|
The meet started at 12:00 p.m. but I got there horribly late even for someone swearing by Indian standard time. But it paid off. I got the best seat at the table. With "Happy Birthday" boy Ravikiran to my left, Michael Higgins to my right and Arnab the Greatbong bang in front of me, I
As far as reconciling online personas with real life faces go, my guess about how Ravikiran may be in person went for a complete toss. Going by the short, pithy and insightful sentences explaining serious policy issues in a dispassionate manner on his blog, I had expected him to be a very serious looking guy with a moustache who cracks Mallu jokes with an expressionless face. Apart from the bit about moustache, I was proved wrong on all other counts. He greeted me with a warm disarming smile that had no trace of any pomposity or arrogance, which many people have accused him of online. He said that his objective was to get me drunk so that I start speaking in long sentences and everyone gets to know what actually went into the making of the longest comment. We got to hear the 'You don’t come to the cartel, the cartel comes to you' explanation upon being asked about the necessary and sufficient conditions regarding its membership from one of the most prominent cartelians himself.
While in case of Ravikiran, my online perception of him had tough time conforming with reality, in Arnab's case it was exact opposite. He came across exactly as he does on his blog. Enthusiastic, funny and eager to discuss diverse topics, he is as eloquent while discussing as his writing on his blog. He talked about a range of topics, which included Mithun, his latest post on terrorism and the trolls on his blog. Ganguly posts and their responses and behavioral characteristics of his trolls, who never fail to crack me up with their inability to process sarcasm and their angry-to-the-point-of-frothing-at-the-mouth responses were also dissected.
|Michael had done a wonderful job at organisation. Beginning from the choice of the venue to minutiae like table signs, it was obvious that a lot of thought had gone into the organisation. The clinching evidence of course was Ravikiran’s birthday present. Along with a delicious cake with gold coin shaped chocolates on it, Michael had also got Ravikiran flushable wipes to reassure him that not all Americans are crazy and that the market here does offer a choice for those who are worried about America's 'toilet gap' with Japan. Michael regaled us with stories about cricket and the first match he had watched. He has blogged about it. His interest in cricket and his knowledge of the game is awe inspiring.|
The most amazing feeling was when I realized that I felt surprisingly at home amongst bloggers whom I had never met before and some of whose blogs I hadn’t even followed. I suppose just the shared experience of blogging and having followed some prominent blogs is enough to feel that connection.
|Ravikiran grinning as he shows off his birthday present|
I am thankful to Arzan for driving down to D.C. and bringing Ravikiran along with him. I had read Arzan's comments on Sepia Mutiny and loved the image of the bike as the header image on his blog. Arzan impressed me with his enthusiasm. He seemed genuinely upset with US Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) as he recounted his experiences there. He has a blog post comparing Indian Regional Transport Office (RTO) with DMV.
Seema was the sole representative from the other half ;). We discovered that both of us are alumni of the same university. She has studied International Development. Given that there were very few Indians that I met at my university during my time there, it came as a nice surprise to meet an Indian alumna and that too at a bloggers’ meet. Piyush Gupta was the political junkie at the meet. He spoke animatedly about following the due process of law, corruption and sparred with Ravikiran regarding the need for primaries in the Indian political system. You could feel his intensity and passion and desire to do something about the state of affairs in India throughout the meet.
Eswaran, who commented on Ravikiran's blog during the longest comment controversy was curious to see me and Ravikiran interacting together. He semed well-versed with all the happenings in the blogosphere and I was surprised that he did not have a blog himself. He seemed to have followed almost all the blogs I had. Him, me and Arnab got extra time to spend together as we came together by the metro. Yourfan and Yourfan2, the two famous commenters on Arnab’s blog would have reason to be jealous of Eswaran. He stays in the same apartment complex as Arnab.
Thanks Michael and Arnab for organising this event and everybody else who attended the meet. Count me in for any subsequent meets. Finally in Amit’s words, ‘fun did come’ and I had nice time flirting with her at the meet.