Campus Diaries is an online platform where students share tales, gossip and crib. The writer takes in the excitement of Story Hacklive, their first event in Coimbatore

All of us have our favourite addas in college. Here, we meet our best friends, debate campus politics, share hot gossip and crib about canteen food. Now, imagine a bigger adda where you can read similar stories of your peers from all over the country. Campusdiaries.com is one such space.

The website, designed like a social networking site, shares stories of mean wardens, colourful accounts of campus fests, adventurous travel tales and human interest features. “We target writers between 16 and 30; our youngest writer is 16,” says Sonic Prabhudesai, co-founder and head of business and operations, Campus Diaries.

They also bring out a monthly magazine by the same name. A content curator chooses the 20 best online write-ups for publication here. The magazine, priced at Rs.50, is circulated to around 250 campuses in 15 cities. It is also available in bookstores.

The group also conducts an event, Story Hacklive, where budding writers from a particular city can give space to their creativity. “We have held the event in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune, Kolkata, Guwahati, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Pune. It is our way of introducing ourselves to students and bringing them all under one roof,” says Sonic.

Last Sunday, the event came to Coimbatore. The Campus Diaries’ team came across Manian Karthick of Sri Krishna College of Engineering and Technology during his internship. “I was recruited as zonal head. By October, we started work here,” he says.

Karthick just needed a series of Whatsapp and Facebook messages to connect with his friends from other colleges. Now, a strong team of community managers takes care of the Coimbatore chapter. The Singapore International Hotel in Gandhipuram mills with Campus Diaries’ volunteers sporting black tees, students fiercely debating on numerology, and budding film makers walking around lugging their cameras. City band N2 renders Cold Play’s ‘Viva La Vida’. Aspiring writers churn out stories as they munch over a sandwich or two. The inaugural edition of Story Hacklive Coimbatore is in progress.

Angst on a pie chart

The session begins with volunteers asking participants to put down an idea on paper. The slips are shuffled and the participants are asked to choose one. Aashish Gundesha, a student, draws ‘Identity crisis’. He decides to express the angst through a pie chart! “I feel images reach people faster. I will draw instead of writing,” he says.

Rachel Mathews, a design student of D J Academy of Design says events such as these are a great opportunity to interact with students from other city colleges. “You realise you feel strongly about the same issues. And, it’s surprising how quickly we bond.”

Poorva Raghunathan of Kumaraguru College of Technology agrees. “I have always wanted to do something creative. When Karthick needed help, I immediately volunteered.” In one corner, aspiring photographer Krishna Aravinda makes a video of a student who shares her feedback about the event. “The organisers have asked me to make a short clipping. I love this. I have always wanted to make films.”

The live exposure is really special, says Busaina Ahmadshah, an IT professional. “You talk to people and that fuels your imagination. It is better than sitting isolated in a room waiting for the creative juices to flow.”

How it all began

Sumit Saurav, an engineering student at Manipal University tried publishing a few stories in the college magazine. They were rejected. He and his college mate Raj Chourasia decided to start an online space where people could tell stories. “We wanted to create a free space for students. There was Facebook, but how many end up reading your stories?” asks Raj. Sonic, who had finished his course at BMS Institute of Technology, Bangalore, was ready to fly to the U.S, when he heard of Sumit and Raj’s idea.

“I was excited. I was looking to take up some entrepreneurial activity. Things fell into place and I was on board,” he says. Soon, Shashank Shekhar, an IIT graduate joined them.

What started as a simple website with three pages, has now evolved into a rich database with contributions from over 12,000 professionals and students from across the country. Campus Diaries has also teamed up with Tedx Gateway, Ink Live, schools and NGOs.

“We aim to become the biggest magazine and online content community. We want to build an ecosystem that can sustain this story-telling atmosphere and encourage budding writers,” says Sonic.