Interview with Mr. Krish Ashok

Krish Ashok is a popular blogger from Chennai who works as the head of Web 2.0 Innovation lab at TCS. He is a passionate open source enthusiast, an amateur Rubyist, a classical violinist and a guitarist, an amateur cellist,used to be a Radio Jockey with Chennai Live 104.8 and is now a columnist for Indian Express, where he writes a weekly column called “Globalized Gapsaa” that looks at the impact of technology on globalization and culture in a humorous vein. He also writes for Cricinfo.

When and why did you start blogging?

In the early days, I started blogging to air my half-baked views on
religion. That didn’t really work. Then I started blogging again when
I lost my wallet in Bangalore. A few posts later, I realized that it
is easier to sustain a blog that features half-baked ideas on
everything under the sun.
ps: I did find my wallet, but not due to the blog.

As a techie, what kind of work are you involved with? What are your future plans?

I head a Web 2.0 research lab for a large IT company. The job involves
understanding how large groups of people collaborate using online
tools and collectively do very smart things. So it’s rather quite
fortunate that my day job and hobbies have quite a bit of overlap
Being a blogger and a techie are two diverse and creative things. How do you manage to juggle them both so efficiently?
I don’t think being a blogger and a techie are mutually exclusive. One
does not have work in a technology company to be a techie in today’s
world. It just seems to have become the modern day equivalent of the
1970s-80s “Typing and Stenography” skills. Being techie helps me be a
better blogger, I think. It helps me figure out tools of creativity
with considerable ease (Photoshop, music production etc)

How did our blog title ‘Doing Jalsa and showing jilpa’ come into existence? Please elucidate

The title itself is a direct English translation of that song from
“Chennai 600028”. I think it captures what the blog is really about –
having fun mixing things that don’t mix and appearing all intellectual
and erudite about stuff I have not much of a clue about. Perhaps the
blog turned out that way because of the title and not the other way
round. But I get to craft the myth now 🙂

How would you explain religion in general?

Religion is a powerfully effective way to control large groups of
people. In the past, it has been used to mobilize armies, pillage,
commit genocide and do weird things with freely roaming white horses.
Organized religion is no different from any modern day corporation,
except that they don’t pay taxes and can legally indulge in false
advertising. Religion will always be around (like prostitution)
because it turns out human beings have some fundamental weaknesses in
their brains that predisposes them to believe in supernatural causes
for perfectly natural events. As a younger man, I was quite naive in
believing that a militant approach to being atheist is what is needed.
I’ve eventually settled down to simply pointing at them and laughing.
People do, at times, find immense solace in a personal faith, and
there’s no point shooting them down with sniper rifles (I still
reserve the right to laugh at anyone)

When you were a child, who/what was the major influence in shaping the non-conformist in you?

S Meenakshi (1917-2010) – paternal grandmother. Also a few teachers in
my school, Vidya Mandir.

Heard you are actively involved in the world of music. Please tell us more about this
Like any other kid with Tambrahm parents in Chennai, music was forced
down my throat like gripe water is to infants. I went through my fair
share of the Moammar Gaddafi level dictatorial violin teacher maamis
before realizing that I could be semi-decent at the violin. I
eventually did have some really good teachers (like TN Krishnan) later
and once I was in college, I was exposed to other genres of music. My
job and travels abroad helped kindle an interest in other instruments,
like guitar and cello for instance. And so that’s been the journey, in
a nutshell.

You stand true to your website header ‘Peaceful troublemaker’. How do you deal with the negative criticism?

Oh that. I needed some English name to aggregate all my other writing
(newspaper and magazine columns etc). I’ve been quite lazy there
actually. As for negative criticism, I’ll be candid. I’m not some Zen
master who can, with hi-fi fidelity, transport the voices of criticism
from one ear to the other. I suspect some of it does end up affecting
me, but I believe I don’t let is affect me too much. Random, anonymous trolling is easy to ignore, as are fallacious arguments. But one cannot be impervious to criticism. That’s just not human

Do you think blog audience these days is much more receptive of bold blogs?

As with anything, too much of anything can cause audience fatigue. If
there were too many folks writing “bold” blogs, the only thing that
will happen is the redefinition of the word “bold”. But we are still
largely a conservative country so there’s quite a lot of headroom left

Which Indian and International author is your favorite and why? Tell us what makes them different from others as a writer. Which style of writing have you liked reading the most?

Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett are my favorites as humor writers.
GRR Martin and Tolkien as fantasy authors, Asimov and Neal Stephenson
as sci-fi. Indian authors – Vikram Chandra. I also like several Indian
bloggers – Anand Ramachandran, Narendra Shenoy etc

If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be and why?

Barring my wife, I don’t see anyone doing that, and I suspect that
title will be “King Kong has gone to Hong Kong”, which is what her
GTalk status message when I had gone to HK on a work trip

What is your most satisfying thing about blogging?

Comments and stats 🙂 They give you this wonderful sense of
self-importance, that there are actually human beings who take time
out from their busy schedules to read the random stuff you put out

For popular bloggers, a book release seems to be the next big adventure. Any plans on this?

Nothing planned for now. I’m not a fan of the current way the
publishing industry works. As a Web 2.0 person, I believe that
self-publishing will eventually reach a level of maturity that will
allow any creative person to bypass a middleman like a publishing
company or a recording studio. I’ve been toying with direct-to-Kindle
or iPad apps for Jalsa  & Jilpa but nothing certain for now

Nandana Nallapu