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I haven't done this before. But I could really use your help. (Also inside: links to latest work and confusion.)

Sanjana Ramachandran
Sanjana Ramachandran
Two years into the pandemic, I still have a question I’ve had since the beginning. But I also have some new information now, and all 103 of you to help me. Please?

I just can't stop thinking about this...
How best can I create on the internet?
Like many people right after the pandemic began, I was suddenly in a position to think about who I really was, how I even got there, and where I wanted to go next.
We have all re-evaluated life a few times in the last two years.
Everything we knew about how the world worked changed. Many of us reinvented ourselves, or what was an already-fluctuating-sense-of-selves pre-pandemic.
I know I did.
In March 2020—overnight—I started feeling the most acute existential crisis I’d ever felt in recent times, which, given how 2019 was going, was probably the previous day. Sometimes it’s crazy to pause and think about how much life and the world and you have just kept on changing over the last…seven, eight years? There’s been no respite. I wonder if you, like me, have felt your sense of self, time, and reality just distend, as you realized it is all just one big flux, and now, you too, instead of grasping, are just “going with the flow”, playing your part in the unfolding symphony of the universe and all space-time?
Or is that just me?
Anyway, I’m here today to ask for help. It’s a question I’ve always had of the Web2.0, but this time I’m going to just ask out loud: Who and what do you want me to be?
I started calling myself @ramachandranesk when I began to use social media in earnest again in 2019. There was, like I said, too much life before that. I was also reading a lot of Kafka then, and things felt Kafkaesque. There was the CAA, NRC, my job at an MNC. I wrote a piece about how terrible it can feel to be trapped in bureaucracy, especially if it is meant to be justice, especially for women and minorities in India. I don’t know if any of you read it, but my friend Ronak did. He later gifted me a book titled Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash, which I feel guilty about not having read yet. Ronak writes a personal, exploratory newsletter called Random Access Memory, which you should check out if you haven’t already.
Trying to create a full, “true” version of myself through digital abstractions, my general state of mind then, and my fandom together led me to conclude that there could never be a “real me” online, just approximations that amount to a “like me”; hence @ramachandranesk.
It’s a lot of thought, I know, for someone who now…after over two years of trying to put herself “out there” in a way that feels “authentic”…has…
  • 1424 followers on Twitter, up from around 300? I don’t tweet much, certainly not 12 times a day; more like 2 or 3, if at all.
  • 6392 followers on LinkedIn. Somehow wildly popular over there, I don’t even know what number I started at.
  • 1512 followers on Instagram. Just people I know from school and college and by dint of being a girl. I made a few comedy sketches right after the pandemic started, and sometimes use Instagram as a place to be “purposely bad”, as if to subvert its exaltation of lifestyle and aspiration. This is also my “strategy” to avoid confronting the fact that I may not be that good if I really tried.
  • 103 of you who are on this newsletter now…
I know these don’t look like impressive numbers because they are not, but it did take a significant amount of work to get even here—as much as I could do while being, like I said, “authentic” and also, again, having a lot of life going on. I wrote some essays that people have enjoyed, and built up a marketing business that pays more than any job I’ve had before, which is saying something, I think. All this while navigating a few—"job changes" doesn’t begin to cover it, so let’s call it—"extreme life situations" or “peak existence” or “world max pro plus”. This is, perhaps, common to our times. More about that in my book, which I’m going to tell you about soon.
So can you help me figure out what I should invest in, as a creator, so that both of us are happy? I am asking you to be my audience, please—let’s make it official, if it isn’t already? Tell me what more you’d like to see from me, and if you’d like to support me in return.
There are a couple of ways forward, but don’t feel limited by them. Here is some context also to get us started:
  • Writing: I’m now published in The Caravan, ThePrint, VICE, Rest of World, FiftyTwo, The Quint, The Ken, and “other leading publications”, as I announce in some bios and parts of the internet. I’ve written about culture, tech, business, politics, society and life in India. I only want these lists to grow. Two of my stories were submitted for awards—nothing more happened—but I am simply amazed and grateful that that is something I can even say. Here are some particularly nice things that people have said about my writing (“I loveeee it” makes me feel like a rockstar), which also make me feel like I am on the right track.
  • Book: I was selected for the South Asia Speaks literary fellowship earlier this year, and have since been working on my first book, Famous Last Questions. It is a collection of essays about life in contemporary Indian society, how millennials have come of age and everything changed in the last thirty years. It will explore why and how the way we are by looking at identity, religion, caste, gender, family, age, technology, the internet, consumerism and capitalism, history and culture, philosophy, psychology, and how these affect our selfhood. It is also the story of my life. I am extremely nervous and excited, and even working on it feels surreal. So it is good that we are talking about it all now.
  • Screenplay: I wrote two screenplays right after the first lockdown, but nothing has come of them yet. I’ve tried pitching them to a few places, but it has been difficult. If you know better ways or anyone who wants to make a feature film, LET’S TALK.
Decisions? I have a leg (or more) in each of the following and want to know how you feel to decide what to go ahead with/drop.
  1. Podcast: I’m working on a show with a producer about how India’s industries have shaped its consciousness through their ads, brand wars, all the business models, economics, and cultural know-how that goes into selling. Does this sound interesting and amazing to you? I like the idea because it combines several things I’d want to do next in my storytelling: employ a personal touch, humour, interesting connections and explorations of psychology, business, India, etc. to geek out to.
  2. Newsletter: Based on these tweets I was tagged in about Indian spoons and fake restaurants, people seem to think of me as a writer who starts with an interesting, even absurd, question about our world, and then goes down a rabbit hole to answer it. What do you think of a weekly newsletter (again via a publisher) that makes a theme out of this, some cross of WaitButWhy x PlanetMoney x Cybernaut x Garbage Day? What if it was called “Internet Wonderlands”, or “Better Questions”, or a better name than these?
  3. Videos! I have always felt drawn to this medium and form too, but there is so much scope here. One could make sketches or video essays or monologue-rants and so much more. There was talk with an edtech startup about making info-humourous explainer videos about India’s startup world. I also made this short Instagram video for FiftyTwo about one of the stories I wrote for them. People said I should be on camera a lot more, and I’d like to agree.
  4. More essays: One genre that has always drawn me to writing is a kind of personal, revealing, humorous storytelling, themed around the pitfalls and frailties of human life. I have been eyeing websites like Longreads to write these, and also my own newsletter/website, of course. I also want to write more reported long-form non-fiction, like The Namesakes and Restricted Code. So if you have any ideas and subjects you think would benefit from my gaze, please tell me.
I know I’ve just shared a lot. But it is easy for you to respond: Just reply with a # from the above projects, whatever excites you the most? Of course, feel free to add free-range and long-form thoughts and encouragement about what I am doing and how hard it must all be and how much the world is a much better place for me even trying to combine artistic fulfilment and late-stage capitalism. Go on.
Thank you for your time,
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Sanjana Ramachandran
Sanjana Ramachandran @ramachandranesk

longish essays on life that should really be in a diary instead

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