The Indiblogger meet had been announced almost a month earlier, and was to be held on the 20th of Feb. I had signed up for the meet pretty early, and it was heartening to see the number of potential attendees swell up as the day for the meet approached.
I am one of those people who have this bad habit of punctuality, and keeping up with it, I reached the venue a good 15 minutes before noon. I knew that the Five Little Indians were to play near the end of the day’s proceedings, and I could hear them jamming from outside the auditorium as they set up their rig. I went in through what I suppose was the wrong entrance, thus having to hop, skip and jump over the wires and the apparatus strewn about, and hopefully not subjected to too many looks of consternation.
The Hall was mostly empty, with barely fifteen twenty people there other than the Indiblogger team, all decked up in their finery of Indiblogger Tees. I went and registered (it was fun watching the names and updates come up on the screen projected on the wall) and found myself a quiet corner to sit, not quite sure what to do or what was happening around me. I spent my time watching people come in, register, walk up to a huge marquee/banner thingy kept there by the IB team and spraypaint all over it. After a point of time even I couldn’t resist the pull of graffiti.
A few minutes later walked in somebody who looked vaguely familiar. On a hunch I went up to speak to her, and it turned out that she WAS one of my seniors from school. Well, the familiar face of Debosmita immediately updated my status from lost puppy to at-peace-with-myself.
Within ten minutes or so, more and more people had started trickling in, and the band, by then done setting up their stuff, packed up their instruments and went off to do whatever it is bands do in when not playing music, thus leaving the auditorium in relative silence and people like me (who basically knew nobody and so were listening to the band jam with full attention) at a loss as to what came next. A lot of people seemed to know each other already and I could see clusters forming all round. By then the IB team had decided that they better get things rolling soon, so Anoop took the mic, called us to order, and steamrolled through the first three bits in their agenda in three minutes flat.
Then came the thirty seconds of fame, where all the bloggers were given half a minute (of Bengali Standard Time) to speak about themselves and their blogs, our names being displayed at random on the screen. Well, I shall (very tactfully) not go into any further details about this (mostly because I stumbled and bumbled through the whole thing). Let me sum it up by saying that there were a lot of laughs as the bloggers introduced themselves and everybody was treated to liberal doses of applause.
Right after that, the The Akshay Patra Foundation was introduced to us, the main sponsors of the meet, and we were given a presentation and a talk about how the Foundation was doing a really amazing job with their mid day meal scheme in 8 states across the country. The final bit in that presentation was a (slightly long) recording of a speech given by Narayan Murthy, where he spoke at length about why the Foundations work was so important and their vision for the future.
Anyway, lets skip to the lunch bit. It was then that people actually got talking. Sumptuous quantities of good food helped, of course. A few of the Indiblogger people could be heard talking about how much they wanted to have proper Bengali food. The food court was quite palatial and snippets of conversation floated about everywhere along with the aroma of the food till we were shooed back into the auditorium where we found chart paper and sketch pens lying on all chairs. Rakesh and I deduced that they were (for some yet unfathomed reason) for hanging about our necks, though Animesh was sure his wouldn’t go over his head. The IB team shortly confirmed my suspicions and told us to hang the charts behind our backs and go around and get commented on, the real world equivalent of blogging. in a way. This was really reminiscent of school, and for the next 30-40 mins there were yellow-yellow-dirty fellows (and the occasional person in white) walking about commenting and getting commented upon. It broke what little ice remained between the people present.
We literally had to be forced back to our seats, and then a lottery was conducted with the charts to find lucky winners, though they weren’t awarded any prizes as far as I could see. The meet was then entering its final phases and the bloggers divided themselves into groups and one spent time discussing the technical aspects of blogging on one hand while the other group discussed about blogging for social issues.
A third group secretly separated themselves from the rest, and we, in the true spirit of Bangaliana sat around a round table and indulged in full fledged adda. I remember Kuntal, Rakesh, Aritry and Deborshi being there, and we were joined from time to time by Addy and Vineet who not only kept us entertained but also told us a lot about the whole Indiblogger experience. It was total unadulterated fun till Anoop told us to wind up, which included moving all chairs and tables to make way for the band.
6 o’ clock and the performance over, we slowly made our way out, collecting our Indiblogger Tees, shaking hands and taking numbers and URLs.
The Indiblogger team had put a lot of effort into this meet, and it was picture perfect. All of us had an absolute blast, and I look forward to more such meets in the near future.