Finely Chopped turns eight

Screen shot of my first blog post

The morning started with my friend, Kashi, whatsapping me "it's the 7th of October, your blog turns 8!".

I excitedly messaged K, who had left for work, and she replied saying 'congratulations'.

She is, after all, the one who came up with the idea of starting the blog 8 years back. And named it too.

She says that she was fed up of listening to me talk to her about food all the time and suggested that I write about it instead and spare her the lectures.

That's how Finely Chopped started.

When I think of the last eight years, the feeling I am left behind is that of immense gratitude.

Very few people get an opportunity to do what they love in life. I feel lucky to be one of them. And it is all because of the blog.

When I started writing the blog, I didn't have a plan or a strategy which I was working towards. The blog was like a diary where I would write about whatever was happening in my life connected with food. And sometimes otherwise too.

I poured my heart out and would write no matter what. The joy I got out of this was amazing. On the way I made new discoveries, made amazing new friends, celebrated happy moments in our lives, remembered those who left us, had experiences that livened up my life which had fallen into a bit of a 9 to 5 rut at that time.

I never worried about SEO, Google searches, about being politically correct or being too transparent or what people would think about what I wrote. I just wrote. 

Late at night, while travelling, while waiting for K to come home, after she had gone to sleep, at times even when she was around.

The blog became the third person in our family. Our figurative child. Perhaps literally too with some creative license.

K supported me at every stage. Not minding when I took off time to write. Encouraging me to go out and have new experiences. Footing restaurant bills when I stopped working full time. Helping me by bouncing off ideas on what to do next. Pointing out the need for course corrections or edits. Sharing my joy as the blog grew.

After the first few years of blogging, people often told me that I should do something around food in my life and not stick to my market research job. 

My middle class upbringing didn't allow me to think about leaving the safety net of my corporate job though and I never gave this much thought.

Then a dream came true and I was offered a book contract. All thanks to the blog. A friend I had made through the blog, Rushina, connected me to the publisher. My blog gave them the belief that a book would be worth a shot.

This is when I realised that the time had come to take a plunge into food writing.

I took time off in early 2014 to start writing the book. Every morning I would go to Candies, the now shut Mocha Mojo, or SmokeHouseDeli, and write. I began a life which was so different from reporting to work as a market researcher every morning.

The book is still work in progress. I realised that books require patience which the instant gratification of blogging doesn't demand.

What writing the book did though was that it set me off on a new journey.

It was really tough in the beginning. Not having a fixed plan on what to do with my day. Not having a monthly salary. Those were dark days.

I then got a few brand marketing social media influencer assignments in collaboration with the blog. A magazine column happened and I wrote for the Femina. I did my food walks, The Finely Chopped Food Walks an enterprise built through the blog, regularly with people from the city and with visitors from other countries. 

None of this though made up for the security of receiving a monthly salary that I was used to and now missed.

This was really tough. Psychologically. I had all the support from K who told me to go ahead and live my dream and not worry about the money.

However, the uncertainty was unnerving.

I stuck at writing my blog. I completed the first draft of the book's manuscript and submitted it. We are working on the edits now.

I waited patiently.

Then things began to happen. I guess the universe listened to the support of all my well wishers.

EazyDiner approached me out of nowhere and I got an opportunity to work with Vir Sanghvi, someone whose work I really admire. It started with the reviews and then looking after EazyTrends and writing about food trends which is something I really enjoy.

Then the folks at India Food Network got in touch with me. I had done recipe videos with them earlier. This time I was offered their website to edit as a blank canvas. I joined as the editor at large for IFN  and suggested that we build it as a website dedicated to the world of Indian food drawing on the wealth of food writers on the web. Building the India Food Network site has been an amazing experience and the response we have received has been phenomenal.

They also suggested doing a Google hangout at IFN and that's how Adda With Kalyan came up and I realised a long standing dream of hosting a chat show. On my favourite topic, food. 

We shot our 14th episode yesterday. The team has worked very hard on it and the support I have got from the industry is overwhelming.

Here's the episode we shot last on restaurant reviewing which had Vir Sanghvi, Purva Mehra and Rahul Akerkar joining in.

I then spoke to India Food Network about launching my YouTube channel and they were most receptive. The Finely Chopped channel was launched on YouTube and another dream came true for me.

I get to do what I love best here, getting to tell stories from the world of food.

Here's latest video. On Lucky in Bandra. Would love your feedback on how to take the channel ahead.

More developments happened. Someone whom I had worked with in market research approached me to work with her as a consultant in her agency along with what I was doing with food. This allowed me to stay in touch with what I had done a for a decade and half in my life. Balancing the two worlds keeps the variety going in my life and fills up my days.

Then the column with NDTV happened which allowed me write about the food customs of India. Writing the first article on Eid taught me so much about Islam. I strongly believe that getting to know each other's cultures and beliefs is key to a more peaceful world. 

The city of Mumbai has taught me that.

Yes, I miss certain things about the early days of blogging. The ability to write spontaneously, to write continuously on a daily basis, to write without feeling judged. I miss the comments from readers that one got in the good old days. I miss a bit of the innocence especially when I go to the PR hosted restaurant and hotel events.

Perhaps I have captured a bit of that spirit in this post.

I have seen my writing change over the years. I don't know whether it is for good or bad. 

What I do know is that I am at my happiest when I am writing my blog.

Writing at various places takes time away from blogging. I often wonder how to juggle things. I write about my dining out experiences at EazyDiner, Bengali recipes at the India Food Network, food research findings on NDTV food.

The blog continues to be a personal space. This is where I write about my food memories, about people in my little world of food and this is where I share what I am doing in my other food channels. 

As I said earlier, when I think of my journey in the world of food, and where I am now from starting at ground zero, I feel a supreme sense of gratitude. 

What I treasure the most is the sense of happiness and purpose that I feel and that's been a huge change. I know that this is just the beginning of an exciting journey.

I owe so many people for where I am today. K of course for starting me off on the blog, and standing by me as I wrote, without allowing me to have a care in the world. 

My mother, my family, friends, chefs, bloggers, food writers, restaurateurs who have all been so helpful and warm to me.

My readers. Those who log in and read the blog. Those who drop in a line to say what they felt about something I had written. Those who come up and say hi to me in Candies or on the streets. 

You are the ones who keep me going.

And my practise of Nicherin Daishonin's Buddhism which taught me that 'winter always turns to spring'.

Here's to number 9.

Hopefully the book will be out by then!


Harnoor said…
Congrats...yours is a journey I relate to...and it is not an easy one. I left my cushy corporate marketing career 5 years back because the only thing that gave me professional happiness was to write about travel and food.

I honestly believe that people spend their entire lives in jobs that they dislike and yet do nothing about it. It takes a lot of introspection to find the one thing you're passionate about and a lot of guts to give up a monthly salaried career to pursue the same. I'm glad it worked out for you... you have great expression, cheers to many more accomplishments.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Thank you Harnoor. It has been a wonderful ride and each experience has fed into the next. I feel thankful for the opportunities that I have got
Alka said…
Congratulations ! Wishing you many more years of honest blogging !
There are very few people I know, who are polite yet straightforward while reviewing an eatery or restaurant ..neither singing praises for good food nor ripping off a place for a not so pleasant meal.. a very balanced person you are,when it comes to food and otherwise.I seriously enjoy reading your blog posts and articles. You are an inspiration !