Thursday, August 8, 2013

The serpentine lanes of Ber Sarai

With its front end facing old JNU campus and the middle-section sharing a wall with IIT – Ber Sarai hits you
Ber Sarai - sharing its wall with IIT
swiftly as a place teeming with students either studying for various competitive exams or those who are just loitering around, studying a bit, hoping a lot and amidst all this living in a congested locality that offers more than you can imagine – usually, the prevailing room-rent here would appear pretty cheap if you compare it with other places in South-Delhi. And, mind it, Ber Sarai is not only in South-Delhi but it is not far away from all those happening places or so called posh areas, which demonstrate the hi-fi spirit of Delhi. Be it awe-inspiring babes or roads adorned with greenery – you have access to all because you are in Ber Sarai.

Ber Sarai Market
My first visit to Ber Sarai happened almost 6 years ago, when a friend of mine invited me to his place. Though, things have changed a lot since then, but that friend still lives in Ber Sarai – a love-affair that would last so long that it would ultimately make the modern lovers of this generation bow their heads in sheer reverence for this fellow. The busy lanes of Ber Sarai are always crowded with people – comprising of students, locals and those who do brisk business in this swarming but alive place – full of hopes, dreams, rambles, chats and above all books. Once you get down at Ber Sarai bus stand, the very first thing or building that captures your attention is Kerala Café.

The Kerala Cafe of Ber Sarai
It’s not any other café and there is a legend behind it. Anyone truly immersed in the love of Ber Sarai would tell you a story behind the legend that in 80s’ or 90s’ a South-Indian guy could not make a cut to JNU and that disgruntled fellow swore to make a mark – though not in JNU but yes not far away from it. So, he started this food joint (Kerala Café) and now this place offers more than what a studious JNU student can ask for – too much to make your taste-buds salivate. For any book reader or a student who cannot afford first-hand books, Ber Sarai offers the much needed relief or requisite happiness. You ask for it and they will have it – not literature stuff, but yes Engineering, Medical, Law – all those heavy-loaded or epic-promising fields, meant for those, who can smolder the most precious time of their lives in studying.

IES Made Easy - Ber Sarai has become synonymous with this institute
Once you enter this congested place, there is a lot to look forward to or experience. From makeshift food-joints to saloons, Ber Sarai does not suffocate you with too many offerings in a little space, but it literally embraces you in its big-heart. Talk to anyone and you would find that the spirit of Delhi or as they say Delhi belongs to those who have big hearts – resonates strongly here with these people. Yes, the house rents have gone up over the years, but Ber Sarai comes forth as one of the most reasonable and worthwhile options for students, who can experience the hi-fi spirit of Delhi by taking a quick bus ride to Vasant Kunj Mall or explore the nuance of South-Delhi by visiting the nearby Malls and check out the real Mall – South Delhi babes (Well, it’s a compliment not a bland or cocky statement). Besides students and its diverse variety of food, Ber Sarai has its own protagonists or a group of special people, who have nothing that can be called ordinary. These days, there is only one guy left, but I heard a lot of stories about those fellows, who might be called as madmen but for students and thinking mortals like us – they chose to live their lives on their own terms and found solace in the streets of Ber Sarai. As many say about these fellows that most of them came to study in IIT or JNU but found their true endeavor or zeal for life in Ber Sarai – a place for all!

The famous Jawahar Book Centre of Ber Sarai
You just need to find Jawahar Book Depot and stay there for a while and you might notice a man writing placards or just standing and exchanging glances with the onlookers. I don’t know his real name, but as my Friend said, many know him as Ramanand – a man, barely in his 50s. At times, he stands on the little erected structures (I don’t know what they call them) in the middle of the market-place, which were actually built to beautify the overall ambience of the place, but now serve as chairs for students and make-shift vendors of Momos and Chaat. First time when I saw Ramanand, I noticed his black beard and piercing eyes, we chatted a bit with him, as he inquired whether we were students from JNU or IIT and then went about with his business. The beard has turned gray now and he looks a bit feeble these days, but yes that spark in those eyes is still there to probe you to the core.   After every few days, Ramanand stands on one of those erected structures and delivers a speech – not many students look at him, when he speaks, but yes most of the time, he talks about politics and all those, who have made this country hell – well, we all complain in random about all this and that, only Ramanand does it in open and often. For me Ber Sarai expounds the true sense of freedom, a journey through the memory lane – and above all a place that gives me hope. Believe it, you can get it by just looking at the faces of those students, who like thousands others have chosen Ber Sarai as a temporary home to study and succeed.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The curse of being a Content Writer

50 paisa per word or 30 paisa per word – how much? How many keywords in a 300 words article and how many articles in a day? So, what about the quality? Sir/Mam - If you want fresh or quality content then at least pay 50 paisa per word! Sometimes the conversation or online discussion between a Content Writer and his client goes like this.

Those who pore over the Internet trends would agree that everyday thousands and thousands of websites are coming up. So you got it all sorted and backed it up with those big dreams, aspirations and diligent thinking, but what about the content? Designing will play its part but in the end its words that will define the heart and soul of your website – a bit of exaggeration, but if you are that serious then!

In India, there is a huge army of writers to do that. Getting a website these days might have become a lot easier or convenient, but times have not changed a bit for Content Writers. I remember back in 2006, it was the same situation and damn it, after all these years, things have not changed or moved a bit for Content Writers. To see your idea or website on the Internet, automatically gives you that sense of pride and a lot of fancies or dreams get attached to that. Yes, we can make it big like others did! But, as Google has put it straightway – Content is the King! You start searching for those, who can make you big. So, first of all you need those who can show you the numbers and assure you that you will not get lost in this ocean of websites. Here is a hesitant account of the way things work or move with a snail’s pace for a content writer these days – well, it has been always the same case!

SEO Lords and the world of Keywords: Yes, SEO guys rule! They can show you the numbers. No matter how they do it, but you will get listed and your website will come on the first page of Google-Search – some of the popular one liners associated with new websites and SEOs. It is always a scary situation when a content writer faces an SEO – loaded with so many tools and data that a Content Writer does not even think much, when it comes to having a coherent conversation with these Web Evangelists. During those meetings, when these SEOs explain the requirements to these Writers, they simply dictate. So, its 3 keywords in a 150 words article or paragraph. Well, a writer has to fill those up because that is the best way to get traffic. Undoubtedly, keywords are important to get traffic or disseminate the important information about your website, but things become a lot complicated when it’s all about stuffing them even if the content appears senseless or bland. It hurts a Content Writer, but who cares! Google would show the popular keywords based upon the way things get searched on the Internet. So, if someone is searching for a good camera phone, the most popular keywords might come like this – Cheap and best camera phone, popular and cheap camera phone, best and cheap camera phone. So, even if they don’t make any sense at times, a Content Writer has to stuff them between those carefully woven lines and that might leave a reader in a kind of yank, but Keywords have to be there whether they make sense or not. So, many times the overall effort or thinking behind the content gets screwed because of these Keywords.

Writers or Manipulators: Internet has certainly empowered the world in many ways. And, most importantly Google has become God for these writers, who search for the content on many websites and then the process of writing begins – the way it should be. Not a trick but something that a Content Writer has to do on a regular basis - make a few quick changes in sentences, search for Synonyms on Dictionary.Com and get the content ready. Whether it’s about three keywords or five keywords, these writers will do that for you. They are ready to write because in the end its words that get counted. And, likewise mostly the SEOs come on the fore to authenticate the content – they only check the keywords actually.

Cheap, Cheap, Cheap: Even though they attach great sentiments to their websites and want to make it big. Yes, they want to earn money from these websites, but when it comes to Content – they want it cheap. No, I am not blaming them because they know that it is pretty easy to write at least 5 articles of 300 words in a day, when you can manipulate. Yes, SEO guys get handsomely paid because they can show you numbers, latest Google tools and a lot of stats jargon. Usually, the owners of websites want to see the big picture and for them writers are just fillers or a cheap support system.

Stigma, come on anyone can write English these days: Yes, well they don’t get paid much. They are often considered those, who could not do anything special and became Content Writers. But, the worst thing is that in the end they are robbed off their self-respect. For example, in an office where you have programmers or people who do coding (actually the REAL WORK) or designers or Product Managers (Thinkers) – a Content Writer does not stand a chance to make his presence felt. During those quirky office arguments, whenever he tries to assert his opinion to highlight the value of his profession, others get united and say in unison that anyone can write English these days. Come on – you get it all from Google and add synonyms only. So, after writing 10 articles in a day, when you feel a bit good about your work, they pin you down and show you - your place.

The Judges, their verdicts and whims: Here comes another interesting facet of this profession. Content Writers are forced to manipulate and compromise the overall quality of the content, with deadlines hanging over their heads like swords and the money associated with Words. But, damn it – they are judged by those, who don’t want to know much about writing but yes they like their websites to earn millions for them because they can see the future and believe in the big-picture (a term shamelessly abused by Management Gurus). So, even if you have summed up some original content, many times it will be judged by those, who can do it just because they own the website or have enough dough to start a company or those who know how to get quick hits for a website.

Career Growth! Damn it you can only write: So, you can write! Great! But, what about SEO? Can you get me good traffic? What about numbers? Can you get me numbers? How many hits in a day? Well, these are some of the most obvious questions which a Content Writer faces during Interviews. Yes, writing only is not a skill. Especially in a country like India, where every year thousands of new graduates are coming up to get jobs. So, if you have a degree in Journalism or mass communication and could not get a job in a Media House or News Channel or anything that could be labeled as a big Brand – Content Writing is there for you. Yes, everyone needs content and there is no shortage of work. This one fact screws up your career and you find yourself jostling to catch a breath in a place cluttered with too many rats.

Sucking Interviews: Well, as mentioned above, your writing skills do not matter much if you are a content writer – or just a content writer! But, the most hilarious part is that usually those who take your interviews are SEOs. The Lords of the Internet, who can get those numbers and usually become apple of their boss’ eyes. So, when they take your interview, they will never ever ask any rational question related to writing. The most obvious questions would be – how many articles can you write in a day? Do you know anything about Meta keywords? And, if you give some decent replies, they will come up with that ultimate weapon – so are you aware about the latest tools in SEO, launched by Google a few days ago. Well, you are screwed. Just say that Sir, if you would guide me then only I can do better like you and there is a strong possibility that you would get a job.