The writer meets four strong women who have gathered a huge fan following with their lively and interactive slice-of-life blog posts
Sharmilee Jayaprakash is working on Part 10 of a lunch box series for school children. When Padmajha Suresh Babu moved to China after marriage, she looked around for local vegetarian recipes that would liven up her meal time. Ahila paints and writes Tamil poems. They make you ponder, smile and shed a silent tear. Socially-conscious Ezhil V. writes about everyday things — the old man hawking millets he has harvested, snacks given to hungry children in Corporation schools…
These four bloggers from Coimbatore have met with great success and they share thoughts on their slice-of-life blogs.
Padmajha Suresh Babu
When her friends took down notes in the college library, Padmajha drooled over colourful cookbooks! She started her culinary journey with a rava kesari that looked and tasted terrible. Today, every single dish of hers is a resounding hit! When she moved to China in 2006 with her husband, she decided to start a blog to share vegetarian recipes. She also started a blog to document her travels in the country and abroad.
“When I lived in China, there were very few dining options for vegetarians. I visited the homes of my Chinese friends, sat down with their mothers and took down traditional vegetarian recipes that are never cooked in hotels. They are delicious.” That’s how Padmajha, 35, learnt to cook Jiucai Chao Baiye, stir-fry of garlic, chives and beancurd; Lianban huanggua, cold cucumber salad; Congyou Bailuobosi, raw radish threads with scallion oil; and a sweet soup made with lotus seeds, dates and snow fungus.
Padmajha is a trained nutritionist, so her recipes factor in health along with taste. She puts up info about pregnancy and post-delivery diets.
For regional specialties, she depends on her mother, a “wonderful cook”. Her biggest fans and guinea pigs, she says, are her family and two kids.
She blogs almost every day or at least puts up three to four posts a week. She sits up after the kids go to bed and types away.
Padmajha also puts up recipes featuring millets, herbs and flowers. She loves experimenting and substitutes meat with suitable vegetarian options, not necessarily paneer. Her heart lies in fusion cuisine and eggless baking. Her page gets more than 30,000 hits a month.
Sharmilee, 33, started blogging in 2009 as a respite from her day job in the IT industry. She was pregnant, and passionate about cooking and photography. She tentatively wrote about life and cooking.
In 2012, she decided she wanted to spend more time with her daughter Mittu, and so quit her job.
Today, Sharmilee has a huge circle of blog friends. She posts regularly on food and is currently working on Part 10 of her ‘Lunch Box’ series for children. “That’s because Mittu is all ready to go to school,” she smiles.
Sharmilee puts up three or four posts a week, about food, travel and the like. She also dabbles in photography, and uploads tempting photographs of food. Sharmilee started off with a simple point and shoot camera; now, she uses a Nikon D3100 DSLR, with a 35mm prime lens.
Her only request is that people give credit to her pictures when using them, because “I put them in after a lot of work — cooking, arranging, composing and finally editing”.
“I shoot photos in the morning and edit them. My writing depends on my daughter’s schedules,” she says.
Sharmilee’s speciality is recipes for festivals, including Friendship Day. “I write about gifting ideas, traditional dishes… the works.”
On any given day, she gets about 40,000 to 50,000 page views. Her linked Facebook page has about 2,26,994 likes.
She’s back in Coimbatore after some years, and still loves her city. “It’s slowly growing gourmet-friendly. Sometimes, it is difficult to source exotic ingredients. I hunt them down and mention where people can purchase it too.”
Blogging, she says, helps her connect with the world. “My blog friends are from different corners of the world and it’s great to interact with them.”
Ahila’s introduction in her blog calls her an engineer by training, an artist by profession and a poet by passion. It is passion that drives her eight blogs! These include www.ahilaworld.com, nilathuli.wordpress.com, my-palette.blogspot.in and aduppadi.wordpress.com. She’s also a published poet — her collections were published under the titles of Chinna Chinna Sidharalgal and Sollivittu Sel.
Ahila, 48, started blogging in 2004, initially in English and then in Tamil and English. “I never fix a language. I write in the language I think. Some issues prompt me to write only in Tamil,” she says. She also puts up essays on women in her blog. Her latest poem, an evocative ode to love, compares thoughts of a beloved to smooth pebbles that slip away from searching fingers.
Ahila says that she always enjoyed writing, though painting is her first love. The blogs, she says, are a wonderful reference library of sorts, helping her revisit thoughts and experiences.
She paints every morning and writes when she feels like. Sometimes, her verses turn into FB kavidhais. During the weekend, she updates all her blogs with photographs of paintings, recipes, experiences, essays and, of course, poems. Ahila is also deputy secretary of the Kovai Bloggers Association.
What’s the best thing about blogging? “It has opened my eyes to the world. And, allows the world a peek into mine,” she says.
Ezhil, 43, grew up in a village, Uthangarai, in Dharmapuri district. She was raised by a father who lived by the Dravidian philosophy, and grew up hearing of Periyar’s radical ideologies. Her father introduced her to the joys of the library. That was when she fell in love with the written word. She took part in a programme for student reporters for Junior Vikatan, and went up to the finals. “At some point, I realised that Periyar was only being written about as a God-hater. There’s so much more to him. That was how I started my blog in 2012,” she says. Every post gets about 10-15 comments. “I really don’t keep track of the hits,” she says.
She got married and settled down, but her social consciousness stayed alive. She volunteered with various organisations, including one that focusses on the environment and another that works with children in Government schools. She opted out of the family business and is now pursuing a Master’s in Psychology through correspondence at Bharathiar University. “My son is in college; so am I!”
In her latest essay, published in a magazine, she writes about equality in marriage. About how a couple must understand and acknowledge each other’s strengths. And, how even though they are a couple, they must allow their individual interests to thrive.
That’s the kind of writing she loves. Lines that prompt thinking, and possible societal change.