Why Ashok Banker chose to go offline

Well I had posted earlier on how Ashok Banker’s presence gave readers like us an opportunity to connect directly. He recently commented on the post:

My joining Twitter was not as a means of ’social networking’ but simply an experiment in a new form of writing. As you probably saw during the brief time I spent Twittering, I was more interested in the technical challenges posed by the limitation of 140 characters, rather than networking. The same applied to blogging and other online means of communication and self-expression.

Due to the attention focussed on my microblogging and blogging, I’ve since chosen to go completely offline. I’ve shut down my blog, Twitter feed, Friendfeed, etc, and am going offline indefinitely. Just thought you should know since it now makes this blogpost irrelevant!

I was dismayed and commented back:

that’s a radical decision you’ve taken, however for your many fans who feel connected to you thanks to these media I hope indefinite does not mean ‘never’

And he (I can only guess it was him) responded:

Hey Gautam, well, that’s the problem. There shouldn’t be writers and fans, we’re all writers on such platforms and should be all equal. The moment there are writers and ‘names’, it’s a failure of the system. I’m sorry but after seeing the way most bloggers shamelessly abuse the medium to promote themselves and their work instead of genuinely writing something worthwhile, I realized that blogging and microblogging have also become tools to crass commercialism. The only way out for people who genuinely want to write and not merely self-promote is to remain unknown and invisible. Hence my deletion of my blog and my presence from all other social networking sites. If and when I do resume, it will be anonymously and the moment I have ‘fans’ or a ‘name’ that means its time to stop or move on again.

I just feel very strongly about these issues. In protest, I’m not using my name here.

I take my hat off to Ashok to stick so much to his principles, but I think he’s missing an essential point here. When we participate in social media – we are not primarily writers. Writing is an act of love for most of us, but we have different day jobs. However Ashok Banker will always be known as a writer primarily of the Ramayana series. It’ll be interesting to see if and when he comes back online in an anonymous avatar – whether people react differently to him – or whether his quality of writing will stand out without the weight of his reputation.

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About Gautam

Gautam is a HR professional interested in how emerging technologies are impacting work, careers and organizations.

Posted on July 22, 2008, in books, online, thought provoking and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I’m happy that “i found my thoughts in words” by Mr. Ashok Banker.

    Honestly, I didn’t knew him, until now.
    But, now he have stated, exactly what me and my dad used to talk each other.
    I really didn’t knew how to present those.
    Hey, I’m not equalling myself with him or anyone.

    When i started blogging, I was lost in “Getting Your Blog Noticed”, “Drive a rush of traffic to your blog”, “Make money in mintues” and that type of things.

    I had some vision inside me and I did things according to it. Most other bloggers, try their best to promote themselves on the web. There’s nothing wrong in self-promotion. But, don’t use the web only for that, plz.

    “I believe in a mutual community.”
    Whenever i say this, MOM reminds me that “money too is an important aspect of life”.
    Yeah, I know, but, i just wanted to say that “life is not money”.

    As Harish said:
    “Anything that cannot be commercialized would die”.
    Isn’t the situation of “”everyone else is most welcome to continue aping the western model of war-based marketing and violent-aggressive self-promotion.”” lead us to that situation where, “Anything that cannot be commercialized would die”. ??

    Right now, I’m inspired in a way, that I’ve never got inspired anytime before, anywhere, by anyone.

  2. Update: After four days of consideration, I’ve decided to continue with my online presence, not because I’ve changed my mind about commercializing people and writing but because being online is as valid a way of staying in touch with the people I know as using a telephone or meeting people at a restaurant or cinema hall.

    I appreciate your doubts about the practicality of surviving without commercialization–and Harish isn’t wrong to be perplexed either. What I’m questioning is the western model of commercialization. It’s similar to using a pacifist approach (ahimsa, vegetarianism, etc) towards life as against an aggressive, violent, conquistador approach as is done in the west. The vegetarian pacifist also lives, often quite well, and even prospers, but he does so on his own terms. The aggressive marketing-driven person is often frustrated and miserable yet keeps going because he believes that there is no other way of doing things.

    I am looking for alternative ways to succeed, not to avoid success altogether. To earn a good living–I already earn extremely well, by any standard–and continue earning well, but without compromising or ‘whoring’ or succumbing to the mindless media-hype and self-branding mania of some authors and writers today.

    There is always another way to do things, and if an Indian can’t find and show that way, then who will? Meanwhile, everyone else is most welcome to continue aping the western model of war-based marketing and violent-aggressive self-promotion. Until and unless I can find a better alternative (and I do believe I am working towards it, one small step at a time) I would rather go hungry at the feast than ‘dharam brasht’ if you get my meaning.

  3. Having read all of the 6 books in Ramayana series I am fan of Mr. Banker. I am unable to understand his issue though.. Anything that cannot be commercialized will die..

  4. Ok Ashok… I will take your suggestion and ignore this comment.

    As they say – sab maya hai.

  5. Gautam,

    I could argue that a few years ago I was known primarily for my columns, before that for my scripts, before that for my crime fiction, and so on…in fact, there was a time when I was known for each of those things to such an extent that people assumed that I would ‘always’ be known primarily as a crime novelist/columnist/scriptwriter (take your pick).

    Right now, it’s writer of the Ramayana series. I hate to bust your crystal ball and point out that you have no clue what I’m working on next, or whether it will outshine my Ramayana series over time or not (just as my Ramayana series itself outshone my columns which outshone my scripts which outshone my crime fiction, and so on), but your underlying point is still valid.

    There’s no point coming back online in an anonymous avatar. The only true solution is to stop writing online–or stop writing permanently. In a sense, that is the question I have been wrestling with these past few years, and the reason why I haven’t published a new book despite having five completed and knowing that any one has a market value of a considerable amount in advances as well as sizable readership worldwide eager to read my next work. I think in all honesty the only way to truly stick to my principles in this case is not to publish at all.

    That’s the decision I’ve made for my online writing. You can visit my blog at http://ashokbanker.com and see for yourself. Not just a 404 error, it’s a total white out. That’s how serious I am about protesting the celebritization of writers and abuse of online media.

    My suggestion to you would be to ignore this comment and stop writing about me as well. Who says there was ever a writer named Ashok Banker? Have you ever met him? Can you prove he exists? I say he’s a pseudonym for a person who never existed! :~)

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