Donating Blood Is Not Enough

On the eve of my birthday in 2021, as I had resolved to do earlier that year, I walked in to a blood bank and donated blood for the first time in my life. The resolution was to do it every year around my birthday but here I walked in a day earlier just to get a feel, to enquire how to go about it and to check if at all I needed any kind of preparation or consideration. Turns out, you don’t need any kind of preparation. As long as you are healthy, have your blood pressure in the normal range (90/60-120/80), have a good haemoglobin count (12-17), and have had a decent meal 2-3 hours ago, you are good to be pricked.

After filling a long form answering detailed questions about my health, I laid back on a blood donor couch and let the phlebotomist draw blood from my left arm, thanks to the more-than-superficial availability of an artery there as compared to in the right. Take a moment to consider this. If you’ve ever donated blood or taken a blood test, the easy availability of an artery on the inside of your elbow is crucial for a smooth draw or flow. My left arm has never let a nurse down.

The needle used to draw blood for a donation is larger than the usual size of a syringe’s. That is why it took only about 15 minutes to draw 450 ml of whole blood from my body. It felt good and I quickly made another resolution: donate blood every four months. (Technically, you are fit to donate whole blood every three months.) During this process, and thanks to a brochure that one of the nurses handed me and no thanks to switching on the television and putting on a Hindi-dubbed Telugu movie even after I said no, is when I learned that there are three to four types of blood donations. Till that moment, I had no idea about this. According to the Red Cross, there are four types: whole blood, red cells, platelets, and plasma.

The difference lies in what is drawn from your body. In simple words, a whole blood donation collects everything i.e. every component of your blood as a whole. In red cells, platelets, and plasma, only the red cells, platelets, and plasma are drawn respectively. This is done using a centrifugal-driven system that first collects the whole blood, separates the desired component, and then sends the remaining components back to your body. This is why these donation processes take longer, often extending to about two to three hours.

I know it takes longer because I spent nearly that much time when I went in for a single donor platelets (SDP) donation at the same blood bank the following month. Unlike my voluntary walk-in the first time, this one came in as a response to a request. (Apparently, you can donate platelets every week.) Last time, the phlebotomist had educated me about blood donation, its different types, and how the Covid-19 pandemic has reduced the number of blood donation camps and donors willing to walk in. I hence agreed to add my name to their registry so that they could call me in case of an emergency requirement. So, when the guy called me for an SDP, I couldn’t refuse. I like to see blood donation as a selfless act. My left arm was ready once again. I donated 500 ml of blood platelets that day.

Only, SDP is both a time-consuming and physically-demanding exercise. Not only does it take two to three hours, but it also gives you cramps, gives you tingles in your lips, and bores the heck out of you even if there’s a Hindi-dubbed Telugu movie playing on a screen. The equipment that does the magic has a very low error margin but it’s not zero. Although it troubled me a little, I had a more critical issue to worry about.

After the SDP drawing, my left arm was incredibly sore for over a week. This troubled me more than anything that year because it also affected my work, and I ended up deciding not to accept SDP donation requests henceforth. The phlebotomist called a few times after that but I politely refused, giving both the reason of the sore arm and my schedule. Yet, he persisted.

Owing to my resolution of donating blood every four months, I decided to say yes to him when he called me around four months after my maiden donation. I was not willing to make an SDP donation and offered to make whole blood instead. There was something in his reply that made me say yes anyway. We scheduled for the following day.

This is where it gets interesting. After the preparation (they make you pop a calcium tablet to avoid cramps), I lied back on the couch and we started the process, again with my left arm playing the courageous warrior. Only this time, either the machine malfunctioned or my left arm let us down or both. I am still not sure what happened because 20 minutes into the process, I developed a bulge around the pricked area. To avoid aborting lest we lose the already collected platelets, we moved the needle to the right arm. The same thing happened and we had to abort the procedure, wasting an entire collection kit in the process. About 200 ml platelets were collected.

On the ride back home, I began thinking about the series of events that led to this incident. All was fine after that first one. I was happy, my arms were happy, my body was happily regenerating blood, and my donated blood was making at least two other people happy. Trouble started with the second donation, the SDP donation. Not to even mention what happened the third time. That day, the bulge flattened immediately after I left the blood bank. But it left a bluish mark slightly below the pierced area, which then took its own sweet time to disappear. I didn’t have a sore arm that third time but it did give me a sore feeling. Add to that the cold response of the phlebotomist just before I agreed for the SDP donation, and I realize that donating blood is sometimes not enough. It doesn’t take much time for a voluntary blood donor to become a commodity, regardless of how altruistic the deed may be.

“Whole blood is fine. You can do it anytime, but we need platelet(s) for an emergency requirement.” That is what I fell for that day. I later confirmed with that guy about SDP vs whole blood. I think you know the answer. And it’s technically true because an SDP donation can serve about four patients suffering from diseases like cancer and dengue. Whereas, a whole blood donation has a very low volume of usable platelets. It can only be used for a single transfusion on a maximum of two patients. Ask any phlebotomist and I’m certain they’ll tell you that an SDP donation is more important than a whole blood one.

But my quandary stems from the fact that once you have made an SDP donation at a blood bank, that blood bank will only expect SDP from you thereon. If you want to continue donating whole blood, go to another blood bank. And that is what I plan to do from next month.

Thoughts On My First Trip Outside India

It was a meaningless obsession to travel abroad that perhaps emanated from my declining partiality to India and the years-long struggle to renew my passport that preceded my eventual maiden international trip last week. I remember saying to myself during my school days how I would prefer to travel to all the then 35 (now 36) states and union territories in India first before venturing out. This when my friends bragged about their trips outside India before I even had my passport issued in 2008. Yet when I finally flew to Male in the Maldives last week, I had visited about only a dozen of those.

Maybe that summarizes my loyalty and political leaning. Or I have figured out that life is truly short and age is catching up. I call it a meaningless obsession because if I were a true traveller, the destination wouldn’t matter. I should have been happy with the back-to-back visits to Goa in August and September, my hallmark fever accompanying me in the second. Yet, there sat the empty passport and bam came the decision of flying outside India. Maybe it was my most impulsive decision ever.

I flew to Male with some close friends on a sunny afternoon and landed in about three hours. It was pleasant and exciting because it was the first time I flew on an international flight, immediately followed by a domestic one. We joked how in a span of 12 hours, we flew, and rode in a bus, motorboat, cab, and a buggy car. We rented bikes only the following day or the ‘types of transport’ joke would have been more quotable.

It was like any other trip for me, with some notable differences. I paid a bomb and had to justify the price for the experience I was getting. The view that the country (Asia’s smallest) provided, coupled with the luxury that our resort (Kandima Maldives) offered satisfied a major chunk of that justification. The direct-to-sea dive entrance from our villas was the second-best feature. Unlimited Mediterranean food, handling of dollar notes that I had only seen in movies, watching dolphins, and spotting baby sharks crowded the rest of the list.

At least on two occasions, I didn’t have my passport on me, which I feel is the most notable difference. I strive to be handsfree and pocket-free all the time, so the passport-on-your-person-always requisite troubled me. Thankfully, the only thing I misplaced, and therefore, lost was my $2 cap. Did I tell you I dealt in dollars?

I observed a lot of other things on the trip. Hearing different accents of English is a special kind of pleasure, hospitality is non-intrusive, and medical care is expensive. Some things that you don’t experience or get to see/hear in India.

The most redeeming quality of the trip was that I never felt lost. Being miles away from home, none of the places I was in felt alien to me. I feel like it was the quality I was looking for all these years. Something that has been sporadic in my domestic trips, especially those to southern India. Is that enough reason to make more such trips? I believe so.

A DHC-6 Twin Otter
Some paraphernalia from the maiden trip

Professional Update: I Joined Western Union

Western Union

On 17 May I joined Western Union as an editor. Here I focus on polishing customer experience (CX) content so as to improve readability and eventually reduce customer care reports. It’s been overwhelming, what with the WFH mandate, but I am still having a blast.

This means that next time you remit funds to another country and use WU, give me a good old hat tip.

My decision to move from Performics India – where I spent nearly six years – was difficult to make but change feels good. I quit the agency hopefully leaving a tiny mark. But I also have to hand it out to Publicis for the Pub Fit health initiative that really got me going and made me take control of my health. Since February, I have lost about six kilograms and become more active. I haven’t visited my doctor since November. It’s a big deal for me.

Now at Western Union, my writing and editing skills are under constant test. There is a lot to unlearn and learn, especially with the user experience (UX) aspect, which is slightly new to me. The technical aspect of the content also requires some training, which is why I have been inactive here.

More on my LinkedIn profile.

How I Developed My Writing

I often get asked this question by non-writers. And, if solicited, I usually end up giving them a few common tips (like read every day and write every day) that I am sure anyone could give them. But ever since I moved to an editor role at work (since then I have jumped ship), I have been asking this question myself. How did I develop my writing?

In school and college, I used to struggle to speak in English and I still do today. I am not diagnosed with speech impairment but I do stutter, repeat words, and sometimes unintentionally mispronounce words while talking. But during those same years, I somehow involuntarily improved my English writing skills. I began writing for myself in 2010 (the blog was hosted on WordPress but is now lost) and thankfully, by the time I managed to make a living out of it, I was good enough.

Thinking back, this natural flair of writing came from three distinct things that I repeatedly did during my initial years as a freelance writer (between 2010 and 2015). At least that is what I believe. Here they are in no order of significance.

3 Ways I Improved My Writing

I would like to note that these are not actionable tips that will make you a better writer overnight, in a month, or even in a year. They are merely additional activities that you can engage yourself in in the hope of improving your vocabulary, finding inspiration, or gaining a unique writing style.

If you are looking to improve your writing, doing one or more of these three activities – along with what you are already doing – will help.

I Edited Wikipedia

Editing English Wikipedia articles helped me hone my web copyediting skills, along with a formal introduction into syntax, semantics, punctuation, and linguistics. It is where I first encountered the Oxford comma. My prolific contribution between 2015 and 2017 taught me brevity (an important skill for an editor), how to summarise large blocks of text, and fact-checking. Slowly I began learning the art of Wikipedia editing, reading tutorials and guides available within the open-source platform.

As I continued editing, my interactions with other editors helped me further. Between these interactions with editors living across the globe, I learned the distinct usage of sentence and title cases. Years later I would use that wisdom to create brand/content guidelines for an American multinational.

But more than writing and editing, Wikipedia editing taught me the arts of referencing and web research. In Wikipedia, I learned about good web references, how to find them, factors that influence them, and how to use them to improve a write-up. This is more than just differentiating between a personal website (like this website) and an authoritative international news resource like The New York Times, Reuters, or Snopes. In a world overwhelmed with fake news, this is a critical skill for writers and journalists.

I also learned about the shady PR and SEO practices employed by websites to push their content as authoritative and verifiable. I learned that The Indian Express is considered a reliable source but The Daily Mail is not. Although this slants to the neighbouring field of journalism, this knowledge definitely adds to the writing skills, especially when you are writing for the web. It taught me that Google does not index everything about a given topic, and for that reason, it is lazy and therefore careless to depend only on the monopolistic search engine when you are researching online.

I believe that a full read of the English Wikipedia’s Manual of Style will give you enough tips to improve your writing if you already are a decent writer. Now that may give you something overnight. Although the MoS is strictly a style guide used for Wikipedia articles, it will give you a lot of insights into how such style guides (AP Style, for example) actually work and why they matter. This is not something that you learn naturally or through a curriculum, at least in India. Think of it as the next step after reading Strunk and White.

Wikipedia also introduced me to the MediaWiki language, a part of the engine that Wikimedia projects are developed on. It’s an open-source wiki software that was created for Wikipedia, and then later got adopted by several other projects, including many of those by the Wikimedia Foundation. I like to see MediaWiki as a cross between a coding language and English writing. When you edit a Wikipedia article, you need to keep an eye on both the texts as well as the symbols. It is when they come together that you learn a thing or two more about online publishing.

Unfortunately, due to my association with my former agency, I got involved in some actions that are frowned upon on Wikipedia. Essentially using the platform for PR purposes on behalf of my clients. And by the time I realized it, it was too late. I completely stopped editing in May 2017.

How to Start with Wikipedia Editing?

Starting is easy, but it’s the staying that takes effort. My advice to you would be: go to Wikipedia and just start editing. Don’t worry about making mistakes and edit articles of topics that you have a fair idea about or are interested in. In any case, don’t go with the sole aim of improving your writing. Wikipedia editing should be seen as volunteer work, sort of like giving back to the world.

Also, just a word of caution: it gets addictive once you get a hang of it. It’s a rabbit hole.

I Play Video Games

When I was in school and mad about video games, a friend gave me his CD of a game called Prisoner of War. I was from a household where personal allowance and generosity didn’t go together, so the very little I received was spent on maintaining my bicycle. I don’t remember ever buying a video game; it was always borrowing from my wealthier (or street-smart) friends who knew a thing or two about piracy.

Handing me the CD, my friend told me that I should keep my speakers on, and if possible, on high volume. “The characters speak a lot and they speak softly,” he said. Eager to play the game (the eagerness was more because I wanted to see if my system could play it as mine was an entry-level desktop computer running Windows XP), I rushed back home and installed it. It would go on to become one of my favourite video games of all time.

Story-driven video games like Prisoner of War, the Hitman series, the Max Payne series, and the Grand Theft Auto series have influenced my writing in more than one way. If the conversations between Agent 47 (the titular character in the Hitman series) and his agent gave me new words to learn, it was the exposure to international languages and various dialects of English in the GTA series. For example, it was in GTA I first learned about the word ‘cojones’ (meaning a man’s testicles) and that it can also be used as a cuss word. Other notable games include Firewatch, Bully, and Counter-Strike.

Video games are also the reason why I am a big fan of idioms and comical phrases. Idioms like ‘missing the wood for the trees’, ‘does the Pope shit in the woods?’, and ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ were all learned from video games. I would then find these phrases in other pop culture avenues like books, movies, web and TV shows, and music videos, which made it easier for me to retain them and use in my own writing.

I have to admit that although I don’t regularly use a majority of my amassed vocabulary, the knowledge does help me make better sense of the world. I have benefited a lot from this in actual conversations I have had in my professional life.

I still play video games when I get time but not as often as I would want to. A lack of time and resources is the main reason, though I still find myself attracted to them. The last games I played were Among Us, Hitman Absolution, GTA IV, and Saints Row the Third.

How to Start with Video Games?

Choose a video game with a story. Any open-world game is a good bet because you can then expect a lot of dialogues and cut scenes. Opt for video games on a desktop machine or consoles like Xbox and PlayStation because a bigger screen will facilitate the learning better. Mobile games are not recommended.

Make sure you don’t skip the introduction, cut scenes, and subtitles. Reading the dialogues and the backstory is what really matters.

I Read Print Newspapers

This is more common than the above two influences among writers. But I added it anyway to stress on the need to consume print media. I might look like a newspaper advocating print news to maintain my business, but let me tell you why I think it is better than online news portals.

For one, printed newspapers do not have fragmented information. If a story is reported, the paper is likely to cover the entire thing, usually in a single column. At best, it would be continued on another page. In news websites, it’s a pain to navigate through the content (what with breaks and paywalls). I have to constantly look at ads and be at the receiving end of their user-hostile website or pay up to consume the news. Print newspapers carry a lot of advertisements too but they are not as annoying or obstructive. Plus, I have already paid for the paper, so it does not slap me with clickbait or tell me how much Rahul from Lucknow earns playing rummy.

But my point is not the convenience or lack of obstruction. It is the access to columns written by smart people. I have been reading articles written by authors such as Santosh Desai, Jug Suraiya, Manu Joseph, Aravinda Anantharaman, Amulya Gopalakrishnan for years. And each of them has contributed to the way I write today. I have also learned concepts associated with journalism such as anchor piece (in a newspaper), writing a headline, brevity, and fact-checking from newspapers. This is why I spend more than an hour every day sifting through Mint and TOI (few thoughts on those who sell these newspapers). The Saturday (Mint Lounge) and Sunday editions of those papers respectively are a treasure trove of information, and contain tips and hacks and knowledge about everything under and over the world roof.

It is in Mumbai Mirror (at least when it ran daily) that I learned my share of sex-related information (to an extent from Dr Mahinder Watsa), which would go on to help me moderate an online community later. Why flossing may not have the intended benefits, why I should maybe wear two masks to avoid getting covid infected, why I should invest in emerging markets, how hybrid work culture is about to be unleashed, what an NFT is, and what is the overall makeup of my country at a given point are examples of things I have learned and continue to learn from reliable print media. The facts that they are printed and circulated nationally and come with a prepaid subscription perhaps add to the authenticity of the reportage. It’s far easier to read and take in the information and better to rely on news organizations that you have relied on for decades than to use Google as your director. With the high number of so-called online news outlets cropping up, it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. (See what I mean about idioms?)

Looks like this point came out as a critique of online news outlets rather than an advocacy of print newspaper. But you get the idea. Even during the pandemic, I opted for the digital versions of the newspapers and avoided online platforms. I got rid of Inshorts soon after I began depending on it for my daily news diet, because of its opinionated snippets and insufficiency. I also avoided reading news articles that I found on social media and instead depended on occasional purchase of magazines such as The Caravan, The Economist, Economic Times Wealth, Outlook Money, TIME, Fortune, Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, and WIRED. To state the obvious, avoid broadcast news and 24-hour news channels like the plague.


One last piece of advice: it took me years to transfer the good chunks of my experience editing Wikipedia, playing video games, and reading print news into my writing. And it will perhaps take you the same amount of time to develop your writing the way you want it to be. Don’t expect overnight improvement and you will be all right.

10 Essential Blogging Questions Answered

In 2019, after Google killed its social networking platform, blogger Jon Sullivan wondered how many old-school bloggers were still having at it. He could only think of Jason Kottke and Les Jenkins. But then tens of comments followed, pointing him to several pre-2002 blogs still active in the world wide web. Those are some of the oldest blogs in the world. Reminding us that blogging is nearly as old as the Internet (not really).

Today, blogging is a lot more than simple logging of personal information. Some bloggers like Kottke make a living out of it while others use it to drive a business. Some others just do it for the passion.

Whatever may be your objective, having a clear idea about the basics of blogging is important. Whether you are a new blogger or someone just trying to figure it all out, this article will give you some direction.

Answers to 10 of the Most Essential Blogging Questions

This is a list of ten of the most essential blogging questions and their answers. Based on my own blogging experience since 2010. The questions are in random order but you may use the index to navigate.

What are some good sources of royalty-free images?

Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Search, Unsplash, Flickr, and Pixabay are my go-to sources for royalty-free images. You can depend on most of the images found on these websites for personal use.

None of them is perfect but I usually get what I want when I search across them. The key is to use specific long-tail keywords and synonyms to search. Even though most images here are free, you should double-check the license information before using. Sometimes I use TinyEye to do a reverse image search just to be sure, especially if my requirement qualifies as commercial use.

In the case that I don’t get what I want, I make a last-ditch attempt on Google Images. Just select the appropriate ‘usage rights’ option and search away.

Are you allowed to use other people’s images?

It depends on the license of those images. If a person has clicked a photo and uploaded it on Facebook, you may not be allowed to use it. This is because the person owns the copyright of that photo. When you use it, you are essentially doing so without their permission. In case the person tells you (in written form) that you are allowed to use it, go right ahead.

Take another example of an image you found on Reddit. Are you allowed to replicate it? Again, it depends on who owns that photo. How did it appear on Reddit? Who posted it? Did the poster own it or was it ‘borrowed’ from somewhere else?

Image copyright (and general copyright rules) are complex and ambiguous. As a rule of thumb, you should never use any image that you find on the Internet by chance. Always investigate the original source. Check out the sources listed in answer #1 for access to unlimited free stock and public domain images.

Here are some use cases for a better understanding:

  • An image you found on Twitter? You can’t use it
  • An image your brother clicked on their phone and sent you on WhatsApp? You may use it if he gives you formal permission
  • An image shared by a news organization on its website? You can’t use it
  • An image you found on a Wikipedia article? You may use it but do check the license information

Am I allowed to use and re-write other people’s content?

Similar to the answer above, it depends on the license of that piece of content. In most cases, you are not allowed to use and re-write other people’s content because of the assumed ownership of that content by the author. Even though most bloggers choose to not explicitly mention copyright information in their blogs, it is not a good practice to use and/or re-write other people’s content. You can quote sentences but not use them in verbatim, which may lead to plagiarism (copied content) and copyright infringement. Read more about the basics of copyright in this 1998 primer published by Betsy Rosenblatt for Harvard Law School.

If you want to use another blogger’s content, you may ask them over an email or via Twitter. If your need is connected to a commercial purpose, chances are that you may be denied the rights.

For example, all the content published on Wikipedia is available to use by anyone under a Creative Commons license. This means you can replicate, rephrase, and rewrite it in any form that you want. But you will be solely responsible for the output that you then produce.

Some bloggers freely allow their content to be used while others mention it in their footers that it may not be a good idea to do so.

The Oatmeal comic copyright footer image
Copyright info of theoatmeal.com

As a tip, anything that has a Creative Commons license allows you to use it to some extent. Read more about this license here.

Why is having your own .com domain name important?

When I moved my blog from WordPress.com to my own domain, I was driving on the need to have a short address (i.e. the URL). Something that I could easily say and type and what others could easily understand and consider.

For example, ‘nairtejas.wordpress.com’ is a long address. It takes more time to type in. So, I bought ‘nairtejas.com’ and set up my blog there. I also mapped the old address to the new domain so that all traffic and the so-called SEO juice could be redirected there.

The new address is not only on brand but also easy to say, remember (it is a compound of my last name and first name), and type in. More than anything, it gives my blog a unique identity. Since then, I have successfully managed to buy tejasnair.com.

What are things to factor in when registering a domain name?

When I was finalizing my domain name, I asked myself the following questions:

  • Is it short and easy to say?
  • Does it reflect who I am or my blog’s mission?
  • Does it read out fine? Will my readers make fun of it?

The next thing to do is to check if your selected domain name is available with a registrar or not. If not, look for a related name. I used my legal name as my domain name to make it easier for people to search for me and my website.

Some more tips on that front:

  • Always check the history of the domain. Was it registered before? By whom and when? And why? (Use the Wayback Machine to investigate)
  • Prefer .com suffix (TLD) because it is easier to remember and universally accepted. Sure, nairtej.as and nairtejas.blog are fancy, but they defeat the purpose. (If you would like, buy those domains and redirect them to your main address)
  • Avoid paying premium rates for a domain name

If anything seems amiss, reconsider and opt for an alternative.

What’s a pen name? What are the pros and cons of writing with a pen name?

A pen name is a pseudonym or an alternative name that some people use to write or blog under. This is mostly to avoid attributing the content or the blog to the original author. In the world of blogging, a pen name is used to avoid attracting attention or keep things anonymous. Today, people use pen names on social media and other platforms to avoid trolling, bullying, and even serious cybercrimes such as stalking, hate crimes, and rape threats.

The pros and cons of a pen name are subjective. For example, if you want other people (like strangers on the Internet) to find your blog articles, a pen name wouldn’t help. It may help if you introduce yourself with the pen name in the first place. But, in cases where you are blogging about a controversial topic or are acting as a whistleblower, a pen name can be extremely helpful. This is why online journalists prefer it. Blogging platform Medium.com is a great place to do such anonymous blogging.

Don’t confuse a pen name with an Internet username. For example, Jon Sullivan blogs at jonsullivan.com, but he uses ‘y6y6y6’ as his MetaFilter username. That is not his pen name.

A popular example of a pen name is Robert Galbraith, which is used by J. K. Rowling who was not happy when the world found out.

What’s the difference between hosting a blog using WordPress.com and self-hosting a blog using WordPress?

The difference is in the hosting provider.

When you host a blog using WordPress.com, the platform manages the hosting and other elements. For example, the address is usually ‘your-blog-name.wordpress.com’, similar to the example I gave above. There are obvious limitations here. WordPress can run ads on it, you cannot install plugins, there are customization limitations, it provides limited memory, and the inability to monetize your blog. This is a great place for beginner bloggers to start because you can simply focus on blogging; everything else is taken care of by WordPress.

That is also why serious bloggers prefer to self-host. Here you purchase a domain and server hosting, install WordPress the CMS on it, and manage it on your own. Everything from publishing and updating the software to renewing the hosting is on you. But the benefits clearly outmatch the cons. It’s been nearly two years since I moved to my own domain and despite the maintenance costs it just keeps me occupied and passionate about blogging and publishing.

In other words, when you host a website on your own using a third-party provider like NameCheap, GoDaddy, Bluehost, or CynderHost, WordPress is just a content management system (CMS) that you use to write and publish your content through. When you host via WordPress.com, it is just a blogging platform like Substack, Tumblr, and Blogger.

Why pay for blog hosting?

Because the benefits of hosting your own blog on your own domain outweigh the benefits of using a freely hosted site. When you host your own blog, you get to:

  • Customize your blog
  • Monetize your blog
  • Build your blog as an authority in your niche (e.g.: horse riding)
  • Brand it and promote yourself

For a few thousand rupees (few ten dollars) a year, you can enjoy complete control of your own creation. It’s a different personal feeling, one that makes blogging an even more attractive vocation.

What are some of the best WordPress plugins to use? And why?

This is a snapshot of all the plugins that I use to improve my blog. I think some of them are really good and universally accepted and can be called the best. But, again, this is subjective.

A screenshot of my WordPress Plugins dashboard

Some critical plugins that I depend on and why:

  • Akismet – a great tool by Automattic (which owns WordPress) to counteract spam; free for personal use
  • PageSpeed Ninja – used to optimize the pages of my blog to improve its load speed. Since speed is a critical factor for search engines to rank my content and since I am not technically capable of making HTML/CSS tweaks myself, I use and recommend this highly
  • UpdraftPlus Free – for taking periodic backups so that I don’t lose my data in case of a hack or a cyber attack (which is possible if you have a shared hosting)
  • Yoast SEO – a popular SEO facilitator, it allows you to optimize your content for search engines. A great tool for beginners

What are some beginner SEO tips?

As a marketer myself, here are four of my best SEO tips for beginners:

  • Create two titles: one as your article heading and other as your page title. Use primary keywords differently across these to improve your rankings
  • Instead of linking to Wikipedia, link to a relevant and high-quality reference found in that Wikipedia article
  • When linking internally, focus on relevance rather than on keywords. For examples, check the opening paragraph of this article
  • If a keyword you are writing on is grammatically incorrect, use it in a grammatically correct form. Never compromise on grammar, punctuation, or spelling for an exact match

Like I said, blogging is not just logging of simple information anymore. It is an enterprise in itself. And I hope these answers help you kickstart your own blogging journey.

On Acquiring “tejasnair.com”

It was a wait of over five years. Before I registered nairtejas.com in 2017, the plan was to set up my website on tejasnair.com. It was my first and only choice – the classic ‘first name, last name’ domain name with the Internet’s most popular TLD suffix. Unfortunately, some guy in Singapore had registered tejasnair.com under his name. Not sure when exactly he bought it but WHOIS data showed me that he had been renewing it every two years. And the only reason for doing something like that is domain flipping. I never contacted him because I wanted to keep my expenses to the minimum. (Here’s my Support page if you are feeling generous today.) Spending a huge amount on the domain was never part of the plan.

Yet, last day, after the long wait, I managed to purchase the domain which would hopefully continue to be the address of my personal website till the end. Do note that it currently only redirects to nairtejas.com as I will need some time before I can fully migrate.

It’s a good feeling, especially because it was a chance acquisition. I was renewing my primary domain on 25 March on GoDaddy when the registrar, for the only helpful thing it has done since I hired it in 2017, suggested tejasnair.com as an option. I quickly checked its availability, and there it was, available for about 600 rupees. My immediate reaction was to buy it from GoDaddy but then I decided to purchase it from Namecheap, which has better customer support. After my recent attempts to use CynderHost – which gifted me a lifetime hosting plan after I won a blogging competition organized by r/blogging – I had decided to completely move to a reliable provider. I chose Namecheap because I have experience working with it. I have registered perfowits.com, my pet project at Performics India, with it. It not only cost me less (than what GoDaddy had listed it in) but also quickly allowed me to redirect it to this website. Within 10 minutes, I had acquired tejasnair.com. And I had a better day that day than I had planned it to be.

A few things will change on this website now but I will keep you posted. TN.

The Delayed Pain of Selling a Car

I sold my first and only car last day to Cars24. It was something that I had been considering for nearly a year after having owned it since 2016. There were quite a few problems with it, which together was the primary reason I decided to sell. It was also attached to a recent failure I experienced, which only aggravated my desire to do so. I was the only one in my family who had no concerns about selling it because of my views against materialism, so the process of selling it – driving it to the store, getting it inspected, sealing the deal, and taking out my personal effects from it for the last time – all flowed like a river going downstream. I was happy to sell it and with the price that I was getting for it. Yet as I returned home car-less that evening, a flurry of emotions stunned me. I suddenly started feeling nostalgic, and as I shared the news with my family and friends, flashbacks of my trips in it overwhelmed me to a point that I felt a slight pain. Not body pain but a feeling of loss. It was something that I had never experienced before (in similar circumstances) even though I considered the decision a financially intelligent one. It was also one of the strongest crowding of feelings I have felt this year, which is why I am writing this piece today.

I am not ashamed to admit that buying the car in the first place was a mistake. It was an old Hyundai hatchback owned by a family friend. He had decided to sell it, so we decided to buy it. I only realized the mistake a year later when I started taking my finances seriously. I hadn’t taken into consideration the recurring costs of washing it and renewing its insurance. Nor did I know that maintaining a used car is double the work; plus, you should avoid dealing with a friend or a relative because you cannot negotiate enough. Owning a car is worse than deciding to buy a house on mortgage. But that October noon four years ago, I bought the hatchback home.

I owned a similar car / credit Wikimedia

Since then we have driven it several locations in the state. But that is not the point of this article. The idea is to highlight the aftermath of its sale.

A relative attributed the idea of “suddenly not owning a car after having owned one for years” to an emotional tug. While I know that sounds a bit elitist and I don’t agree with it, selling my car did fluster me a little. It was a calculated move, all right – I drove it less than 10,000 kilometres in those four years and we are in a pandemic right now – and I know I wouldn’t need it any more than when I had it.

The second reason why I sold it was the constant anxiety it gave me. Will I get a parking space where I go, will the clutch misbehave, will I get asked to pull over by a cop, will I get involved in an accident or a road rage, will I get challaned for an offence committed by mistake, will the car break down in the middle of a toll queue (it has happened once), and all sorts of questions involved with owning and using a car. Some of these have to do with the fact that it was a six-year-old heavily used car when I bought it. Others are because of my obsessive requirement to avoid friction and confrontation. Another major contributor of my anxiety was the lack of an owned parking spot in my housing society. I used to park outside my society on the main road, which required me to check on it every once in a while even though our security guy did a decent job. The issue of ethicality aside, parking on the main road created this loop in my head – that something could happen to the car, so I will need to check on it regularly. It troubled me.

I consider myself a decent driver and I like driving, but being behind the wheel of my car did not always give me pleasure. The anxiety often activated itself while driving, especially during long drives, and it troubled me for four years. Even when I was not driving.

I feel it partly has to do with the responsibility of owning a car, which is as big as keeping a day job. You can take a leave from job but you have to come back to it eventually. Just like with a car; you can’t leave it idle for long or it will start costing you dearly, starting with the battery draining, then the tires going bust, and so on. And I don’t make that comparison lightly because the levels of attention that you need to give to both of them are near equal. The only difference is that they form a loop when you keep them side by side. Money comes from one and a part of it goes directly to the other. There’s no abruption. A perfect example of a liability.

Despite all that, the pain showed itself that day and it confused me a little. I was happy to have sold my car because it meant less troubles in life. Yet, the cavity that it left behind became difficult to fill. And I actively try to avoid pain in life, which is how I see it as, a journey where you try as much as you can to avoid pain and suffering. While I have no plans to fill that void anytime soon, it has made me wonder my real relationship with it. Was there something more than just a driver-car relationship? Or am I just attributing the memories I have while we used it to being overtly personal?

I really don’t know. But I know that it’s going to take me a few more days of routine life to keep the nostalgia away. Sure, it will crop up in future during dinner time or when we travel next. And I am confident that I will turn that nostalgia into an enjoyable collection of the good times we had with it. TN.