Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dear Magazine, I am not sorry we broke up



The newspaper is dying a slow death, but not in India. For many households it’s still the perfect accompaniment with morning tea even though the many reports of horrific rapes and killings fill you with sorrow and disgust at the same time. Every member of the family has a favourite page. During my teen-angsty days ‘the middle’ mostly witty accounts of personal anecdotes, was my favourite. My Dad stuck to the sports page and Mom would devour very inch of the paper. When the ‘middle’ was removed, I shed lonely tears on its demise. Unfortunately, there was no social media where I could call for a candlelight vigil.

These days I spend most time on the editorial page. In this age of constant explosion of news that’s breaking the Internet every few minutes, you need a learned and well-informed pen to help you make sense of the chaos and cacophony that passes off as news.

As in any middle class home where a household item has nine lives before its expiry, the newspaper too enacts many roles with ease. After it has fulfilled its purpose of informing and sending ripples of outrage down our spine, it quietly takes on the humble job of lining shelves in cupboards and cleaning windows. The ones that escape this ordeal hand meekly surrender themselves to the local raddiwala who defies inflation and offers lesser and lesser money for the same pile.

As I hand over the stack of rustling newspapers to its new custodian, I can’t help but notice the few odd magazines cutting a lonely picture. I carefully avert my eyes from their accusing glances. They believe I have forsaken them for a new lover and they are right.

Damn you, online distractions!

The fact is, we did have a passionate love affair for decades. They were my besties after a long, tiring day, my before bed companion, the secret behind my know-all attitude. I remember how excited RayMan was when I trundled home with Cosmopolitan and 110 ways to make your man sigh in bed. I read them all, giggled, rolled my eyes and then promptly forgot all the tips. And my man let out a loud sigh.

It was through Illustrated Weekly I discovered great artists and their work. My Maa’s Bangla magazine with its agony aunt column where youngsters would share incestuous, forbidden and supremely weird but exciting tales of love and longing stoked my desire to learn the language. Magazines were a one stop shop for stories, opinion pieces, satire and how to use onion juice to rejuvenate your hair.


During its achhe dins they were the stars of the educated class whose only source of entertainment was Doordarshan. A proud heap under the centre table of the living room, ‘The National Geographic’ placed strategically on the top. In fact, my favourite family friends were the ones with an enviable collection of magazines. Every time we would visit the family, I would pick up a bunch, look for an empty room and spend a blissful hour or two in their company. If not magazines, there were always comics.

A train journey would be incomplete without the customary stash of film magazines - stories created from nothing, making us believe we were getting a sneak peek into the dark lives of messed up superstars. Yet we lapped it all up. I remember how excited I would be when Baba would come home with those mags and how much will-power I had to exercise not to read them all before we got on the train.

These days when I go the salon and see the familiar bunch of glossies that made my heart beat faster lying on a table next to me, I don’t feel a thing! Nope, not even the customary curiosity how my ex is doing without me. 


When did the disenchantment start? Was it boredom or predictability that killed the relationship? And it seems I am not alone. People at large have stopped buying magazines. With social media WhatsApp groups and Netflix eating into our leisure time, nobody has time for magazines anymore. Serious readers prefer a long time commitment and would rather cosy up with a book.

Who wants to wait a fortnight to read an in-depth analysis of yet another political move when it has already been done to death by several newspaper columns, panel discussions and lengthy Facebook posts! And nobody cares which film star slept with whom.

Plus there’s no dearth of quality writing from all over the world you get to read online without having to pay a dime. For tips on Rapunzel hair, how to make daal that doesn’t look like custard there’s always WhatsApp and Facebook groups.

I recently joined a group dedicated to curly haired women, and all they talk about is how many hours and money they spend on haircare for perfectly natural curls. And just like my Cosmo days, I roll my eyes, giggle and forget all the tips I read the moment I logout.

The medium may have changed, but the feeling hasn’t.

Dear magazine, it was good while it lasted but now I don't miss you at all.





34 comments:

  1. We used to get The Illustrated Weekly, Filmfare and Stardust. Then moved on to India Today and The Outlook. Now social media provides all news and in depth analysis. Yet, I need my daily newspaper. My son doesn't read papers at all. It's all on his phone. So, yes, magazines are dying a slow but sure death.

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    1. The newspaper will soon go the magazine way. For our generation its a habit we refuse to give up.

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  2. Alas the future is online. Once my subscription to most of the magazines expired I never renewed it. Sill as a wanna be travel writer, I feel awesome when my article is published in a a magazine. But I do feel the newspaper will be around for a long time and some very niche magazines may actually grow.For there is no greater joy than flipping the pages of a new magazine as you smell the fresh ink.

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    1. These days I am more of a magazine flipper. Used to buy Newsweek when Tina Brown was the editor. Now it's just online. My loss entirely.

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  3. People you just forgot to mention readers digest...amazing combination of small stories...with some odd pages in between...safari was natgeo for us at that time....and ias success stories magazine....with essays...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True, it was an integral part of our growing up years.

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  4. Worth reading as usual ! I was big fan of TAHLAKA magazine but not able to read these days !

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    Replies
    1. Times change and so does the medium.

      Delete
  5. Hi Purba - Yet another A-mazing and equally A-musing story on our erstwhile black & white companion.

    I remember the good old days association with this newspaper( don't tag me a senior citizen though). The rush to get hands on d paper as the 1st reader, flipping the crispy pages and pleasure seeing others waiting for their turn. The day was simply made!!!. And then the adds ons started.. The city based supplements were like one stop local guide to all movies, events, eat outs and discounts. Not to forget the thick Sunday Matrimonials which was an overview of all religions, caste, sub caste, sub sub caste caste that exist in secular India and adding "Caste no Bar" line was a sign of open Cosmo mind. I always thot it meant that if from same caste u will not be taken to Bar. The weekly forecast told u of the goods days and indirectly good nights too( interpreted as per convenience and happy for whole week). From the entry to house till exit it was utilised. The bundle of old newspapers was a bundle of joy as the money we got from Kabadiwala ended as additional pocket money.Over the time our black and white buddy changed color and its content but still cudn keep pace with the speed of digital. It's post reading utility has been replaced by modern day alternatives. No more papering cupboards, bubble wraps for safe packing and even this traitor bhajiyawala has thermocol bowls..... The time is not FAR that our favorite morning aide Akhbaar is hamare Aakh ke Bahar.

    The other status determination objects were Magazines. U cud tell the literacy level, financal condition, profession, hobbies all by jus a glance at the magazine being read. The variety ranged from Grihashobha/Mayapuri to Cosmopolitan/ Filmfare. These too are now surviving at mercy of Govt of India( jus like our fav airlines) and are only found either in Airport stalls or Govt offices Libraries. All the erstwhile spicy monthly basis bollywood updates are now served with Tadka on daily basis... Sad that we can't carry them during travel
    anymore since the smart ph refuses to leave our hand and magazines only add to the limited at permissible luggage weight. So the day here also is not far that our fav Magazine is only heard but not seen.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. "Traitor bhajiyawala" hahahahaha. Give me my chaat on'shaal pataaa' anyday and my chai in a khullar.

      Travel during my younger days was a journey. We made friends, sampled station specialties from different states. My parents never carried packed meals from home but it was enchanting to see your co-passengers fish out full-fledged feasts from their tiffin carriers.

      And of course the magazines and trashy novels we bought from the stations.

      Delete
  6. I feel exactly the same way as you Purba, when it comes to reading magazines! Till last year I was a subscriber of the Lonely Planet and The Readers Digest. Unfortunately, I got tired of following up as the frequent pilferage which was too much to bear! I gave up reading printed news papers from New Year and I feel more cheerful without the breaking news of a ghastly rape, a con, heist, murder and it keeps me happy for the rest of the day:) I have better choices via net to read lovely articles on Pocket and news is never a problem. Loved your article like any other time.

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    1. The Internet is a fascinating space and has changed the way we live and think but it has gobbled up so many good things as well.

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  7. This post took me on such a nostalgic trip. Magazines were such a part of my growing up years. Illustrated Weekly was a favourite along with others like Dharmyug and Saptahik Hindustan, not sure if anyone has even heard of those. And shopping at railway stations for Filmfare or Femina was such a treat. I loved the 'middles' too. I used to cut and file them for re-reading. I think I might still have some tucked away somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Every generation has different set of memories and that's what makes us so unique.

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  8. Our magazine consumption certainly has gone down a lot. As you rightly pointed out, news magazines have completely lost their market. Who needs to read India Today, Outlook etc. with old opinion pieces when they have been discussed to death online. But there are some magazines I still read like Reader's Digest, Nat Geo, Lonely Planet etc. I have a library membership which includes magazines, perhaps that's why.

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    1. I used to love Newsweek but they don't print anymore.

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  9. Ahh the simpler times ! What would I not give up to relive those days ?

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    1. I like the current days too. The quality of content has definitely gone up.

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  10. You remind me of what the Spoonboy told Neo (in Matrix): "Do not try and bend the spoon, that's impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth...there is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself."
    Having said that, no one can take away the joy (or virtue) of following a favourite middle or a comic strip at the middle or bottom of a broadsheet or a weekly magazine. Sadly, the medium itself has vanished like the oceans from the Mars. Little do we realise what we have lost with those periodicals for ever —patience, allegiance, bondage and contentment. We have become gluttonous to the point of being criminals. Despite arming myself with cutting edge mobiles, tablets, notebooks, PCs and even a Kindle, I find myself returning to the printed world again and again. But then I am running away with a pointless contention from your cogent post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. even your meanderings are better articulated

      Delete
  11. I came here for backlinks, neways I always enjoy reading you. Now backlink please.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I don't do backlinks, Pallav. I am the old-fashioned type who doesn't care for SEO.

      But thank you for reading.

      Delete
  12. Surprisingly, novels are still going good. Infact, improving inspite of Kindle doing rounds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Surprisingly, these days we have as many authors as readers.

      Delete
  13. Reminds Every Thursday I think use to buy the magazine SUN and every two weeks another called JETSET. although i must say the content was secondary I use to more interested in the Posters that use to come, my bedroom had not a inch of space where a poster was not pasted, maybe i was mad.

    these days not the same the last time i bought a magazine was perhaps more than a decade .. I am sure not since i came to uk.

    Bikram's

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Times change so that we can reminisce about the old ones.

      Delete
  14. Yes. Agreed that we have much easier access and better content. But reading your post strangely made me miss Gokulam and Champak.
    We've become such an 'instant' generation. It is certainly enhanced life. But sometimes I wonder if our virtue of patience has taken a beating .. BTW, I switched to kindle 3 years back and swear by it! I have certainly read much more than I would have otherwise!

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    1. I love my kindle especially because I get my brand new book within minutes.

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  15. Although it's a tad embarrassing to say so, I think I've stopped reading books for the same reason. Google Baba ki jai ho!

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    1. Not as avid a reader of books like I was say a decade back, but I still read.

      Delete
  16. I need my newspaper in the morning. I..um..start with the..um..comics first. The day is not the same if it is not delivered, plus it is a lot cheaper than dropping a phone down the loo. But you are right about the magazines, especially the ones that deal with news and current affairs. Who wants to read a week old content (or a day old content) when your phone starts beeping with news updates. We still subscribe to a few but its not the same as the past when a magazine was all that you had and it needed to be savoured till the very end over the course of a week. Though I still like waiting at the barbers or the doctors hoping that my appointment will be late as I go through the gossip rags.

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    1. These days newspaper especially the weekend issues are more like magazines with articles on art, cinema and literature.

      So, why waste money?

      Delete
  17. Very nice post. I merely stumbled upon your journal and wished to mention that I even have extremely enjoyed browsing your weblog posts. finally I’ll be subscribing on your feed and that i am hoping you write once more terribly soon!

    ReplyDelete

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