10 years of Cutting the Chai: A decade of moulding the digital clay

2005 – it seems like so long a time ago (in fact, it is). Only birds tweeted back then and Facebook was ‘Thefacebook’ confined to a few elite US colleges. BlackBerry defined the smartphone. I was at my first job and one summer morning – on May 29, 2005 to be precise – signed up for my first blog and posted the first of many inconsequential posts.

It was like that first puff of a cigarette – the incertain beginning of a long addiction. Only that this was unlikely to kill me (I have meanwhile, quit smoking and also posted a post about that).

10 years of Cutting the Chai

Though the posts on the blog have become few and far between, I still post to scratch that itch. An itch I don’t want to go away.

Over the years many people have asked me, one question, “What’s your blog about?” And I always had this one-word reply, “Me!”

As someone who has been fascinated with the Internet ever since he typed in the magical characters “http://” on Internet Explorer 4’s address bar (only to be told that manual insertion of the http:// wasn’t really necessary), I see this website of mine as a virtual extension of the self. A variant of my self over which I have more control than the real me, one which I can mould it the way I want to. Cutting the Chai is digital clay.

This blog hasn’t been much about writing (primarily because I am not much of a writer) but more about sharing and experimenting (learnings from which I regularly apply to my day job as an Internet content and product person).

Cutting the Chai is, actually, cutting the chai (for the uninitiated, chai is tea). A verb, not a noun.

For me a glass of steaming-milky-syrupy tea is best served cut. One-by-two or two-by-three, it embodies the spirit of sharing and camaraderie (and more significantly a resource crunch).

Cutting the Chai is about sharing. I share my thoughts, ideas and whatever else interests me – from advertisements (vintage, sexy, random) to tech tips.

Tuffs shoes ad featuring Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman

The controversial Tuffs shoes ad from 1995 featuring Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman.

This isn’t a thematic blog, as the categories reveal (though the vintage ads get most noticed).

This blog began back in May 2005 as Mindless Musings of an Unmindful Mind on Google’s Blogger. A year later I had enough of the alliteration and changed the title to a more pretentious Cutting the Chai. In June 2010, had enough of Blogger and moved the blog to its own domain powered by the wonderful WordPress.

A peep into the archives tells me that this is the 1,016th post in 10 years. That’s an average of two posts a week. And averages can be deceiving. In the last three months, before this post, there has been only one post. In the early days of the blog, there were many months with more than a post a day.

Cutting the Chai has changed over the years and so have I. Switched jobs and moved to more demanding roles professionally and on the personal front became a husband and a father. The order of precedence has been altered.

Cutting the Chai has had its share of glory. Some of it before Facebook and Twitter rushed in to overpower our one-to-many communication systems. The blog was first noticed internationally because of that exhaustive post on Indian condoms that many websites in India and around the world linked to bringing huge traffic to the nascent website (pity the site didn’t carry any advertising then).

Condom bike

The World’s First Condom Bike built by K Sudhakar of Sudha Cars, Hyderabad. Pictured here sitting atop his condom bike (wonder if the material used is the same) on November 28, 2002.

Whether it was a rant against Apple’s attitude towards India or when Microsoft decided that Indians shouldn’t be searching for sex, the referral traffic continued to flow in.

Apple and India

Apple and India

Advertising is one of my many unrealised dreams. This let me to hunt for classic Indian advertisements on the World Wide Web, but in the mid 2000s, I found very little success in my online hunts. This gap in demand and supply led to the creation of the Vintage Indian Ads section and it has been the main ingredient in this brew of a blog. Today a small smile escapes my lips when I found many of the vintage ads that I laboriously scanned from old magazines collected from second-hand shops and collections from around the country, published without credit on many of today’s popular viral, buzzing and trending websites and social networks. This is the truth of the Web. No one cares about who was first, what matters is who brought it to you.

Zeenat Aman in a 1970 Air-India advertisement

Zeenat Aman as the classic Indian dark-haired beauty in 1970 Air India ad

The failed artist in me seeks succour in the Unofficial Google Doodles. The Google doodles are easily the most seen works of art in the world today but then there are many things that Google doesn’t and wouldn’t doodle about. This is another (imaginary) demand-supply gap that Cutting the Chai attempts to bridge.

Manmohan Singh’s 80th birthday unofficial Google doodle

Manmohan Singh’s 80th birthday unofficial Google doodle

So long, Hindustan Ambassador. An unofficial (and animated) Google doodle

So long, Hindustan Ambassador. An unofficial (and animated) Google doodle

Telangana statehood: Unofficial Google doodle

Telangana statehood: Unofficial Google doodle

India Public Domain Movie Project logoThis blog has also provided the base for many ambitious, albeit shelved, projects. The India Public Domain Movie Project was something I had long wanted to do, but YouTube’s flawed copyright policies set a rat amongst the celluloid. DOBMW.com was envisioned as the Directory of Official Bollywood Movie Websites, but with social networking spreading its net producers almost stopped making official movie websites. I had also set up a URL-shortening service cut.tc for Cutting the Chai, but the domain name registrar was charging a bomb when it came up for renewal. This along with other issues with the .tc TLD ensured that the URL shortener had a short life.

The filmi keeda in me also manages to crawl its way into the HTML. All this has resulted in what we call in Bangla joga khichuri. But I like the taste of it.

100 years of Indian cinema: The big Bollywood poster collage. To explore this collage of 782 Bollywood posters use the on-screen controls or drag and move or double click

One thing I loved the most about this decade-long blogging experience is the solitude. I made and managed most aspects – from tweaking the code or firing up the Photoshop to creating the content (obviously) – all alone. Just like the way I make my tea. No one else allowed in the kitchen while the tea pot is on the stove.

Anniversaries are often an excuse to do something out of the ordinary. And to celebrate Cutting the Chai’s 10th, I have also thought of some. It will (for a while) cease to be a solitary blogging experience. Other things will be served as and when I manage to cook them.

It is unlikely that you would come back here looking for fresh content, so I would like to take this opportunity to point you to the many ways in which you can remained tuned to what’s happening here at Cutting the Chai. You could Like the site on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed or sign up for email alerts. I promise an irregular dose of cutting chais.

The evolution of Cutting the Chai

  • Ivo

    Congratulations ! Its takes a lot of effort in todays times to have a blog up and running for a decade !

    • Thanks! Though the blog has lost some steam, the hope of keeping it going on remains.