Three years ago, we nervously clicked on a button, making JLR Explore live. Four people shared a post on their Facebook walls, which said “We are live. Do stop by.” And then, though it is said that a Facebook ‘like’ is shallow and self-indulgent, and shouldn’t mean anything, we sat staring at our screens. Many excruciating minutes later, when we received our first ‘like’, we woohoo-ed. Soon, there was the first congratulatory message. Then, the first comment on one of our stories. We cheered for each of them. Time flies – we are now many ‘likes’, many stories, and many comments old. Yet, our Whatsapp group buzzes excitedly each time a story does well. We feel happy reading the comments you leave us. Your ‘likes’ still give us a kick. We’d like to think that we are still in our honeymoon phase, at JLR Explore.
Each of our fortnightly editions involves months of planning behind-the-scenes. A complex-looking Excel document is our lifeline, where we move around categorised and colour-coded articles with the precision of an air traffic controller. Early on, we realised the importance of a large story-bank. Karthik is our chief hustler, a role he has been unwittingly roped in to play; but he gets us good results. Vijay Mohan Raj (VMR) is our energiser, sending us long emails with ideas, future plans, and even driving down from Belgaum to meet us for discussions.
All of us corner people at talks and seminars, getting them to write for us. Often, we’ve cajoled, nagged, pleaded, blackmailed, and even threatened people to give us stories, stories we thought were too interesting to not bring you. You can find our team at various cafes in South Bangalore, downing copious cups of coffee every other month, brainstorming and replenishing our story-bank with ideas. Consisting largely of techno-phobic and techno-shy members (with the exception of Radha, our tech guru), our team slowly learnt the ropes of uploading stories and using social media effectively – what blurb do we write on Facebook and Twitter? At what time should we post our stories to reach a wider audience? Do people actually read stories on weekends?
Each of us has a day job, so we work late nights, early mornings, or, surreptitiously at our desks, to ensure that JLR Explore is up and running. I now tend to read everything like an editor, and cry over punctuation and spellings; I have had to learn to quickly whack myself back into reader mode. We laugh uproariously, often while coming up with innovative titles for articles. Sometimes, we’re also at each others’ throats, because our opinions do differ occasionally; but, we’re all passionate about JLR Explore, and that’s what matters in the end, and the hatchet is buried. We’ve had fun trips together, seeking out new stories, brainstorming, or promoting the website.
To Jungle Lodges and VMR, whose baby JLR Explore is – thank you for the opportunity to be a part of one of the most fun and learning experiences of my life. And, for being large-hearted enough to allow us to take JLR Explore down paths we sometimes choose. To Karthik – All that I know about wildlife and nature, I owe it to you. Thanks for being an inspirational teacher and mentor, and for resisting the temptation to throw objects at me when I ask ignorant questions. To Radha – thanks for being my partner-in-crime, for the million laughs, and comma debates. And, for covering up for me when I’m off-the-grid. Last but not the least – at the risk of sounding cheesy, I’m going to say it – none of this would have been possible without the immense support of our contributors, and the love and encouragement from our readers. You guys are our bedrock!
PS: We still debate the exact date of our anniversary. Each of us places it somewhere between Sep 23rd 2013, when our website went live, to Dec 20th 2013, when we had JLR Explore’s formal inauguration. Using this excuse to party, we can be found celebrating all the time between September and December; if we meet you during these months, your coffee is on us!