Thursday, October 20, 2016

eye candy

Typical Thursday morning at work, when my boss marches out of his office, magazine in hand. The magazine is a popular Indian monthly that publishes business news peppered with feature articles about sundry things. He brandishes it at us, pointing almost triumphantly at the cover.

The cover is mostly white space, stamped with three words in a bold, emphatic red font: WAR OR TRADE

A sly smile plays across the boss’s face. “I think they came up with the cover story a little too late to actually design a cover,” he says. We chuckle. It’s a weak attempt at making a statement, of course, given that the whole idea of a magazine cover is to draw the eye and get the potential buyer/reader intrigued enough to pick it up.

But this reminds me suddenly and inexplicably of a beloved children’s magazine that totally nailed it when it came to covers.

It was called 'Shuktara', in fact, it is still published under the same name, although its covers have witnessed a sea change. It hailed from the land of little magazines, and was a favourite among Bengali kids long before the likes of 'Anandamela' (another popular Bengali children’s magazine, first published in 1975) came into being.

Shuktara has been around since my mom was a kid, maybe ever longer than that, I’m a bit sketchy on the details. What I do want to draw your attention to is the fact that Shuktara had a kickass cover idea from the start. Put a comic on the cover!

Kids lapped it up. Why wouldn’t they? It gave them a little peek at what the rest of the magazine had in store. Often this was riveting stories about brave adventurers in khaki shorts who undertook all sorts of perilous journeys and encountered dinosaurs and such. Kids love that stuff.

Exhibit A:
Photo: The Comic Book in India Project

Lurid and irresistible. The title of the comic is 'Dragon-er thhaba' or 'Dragon's Paw' Although that is a T-Rex, as far as i can tell). Aren’t you just dying to know what becomes of adventurer and dinosaur? I sure am.

Anyway, as I said before, the covers have since undergone a major design change, in what is probably an attempt to bring the magazine ‘up to date’. Here’s one of the more recent ‘Sharodiya’ or festive edition’ covers:

In my opinion, the new covers suck. They’re generic and pretty badly illustrated. Considering that Anandamela has been doing similar covers for years, and vastly better illustrated ones, at that, these are as weak as ‘WAR OR TRADE’. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The patriot

I've held out from making this post for as long as I could. Or from making any post, for that matter.
All around me, people have been ranting and raving about everything from the beef ban to the roast ban, and the latest update on that, the furor over a PJ a comedian posted on his Snapchat.

I am in awe of these proceedings. Literally rendered speechless by the monumental insignificance of most things people have decided to obsess over lately. But mostly, the reason I haven't made a post or so much as a rousing comment is that I am a pacifist.
'Non-confrontational' is, in fact, my middle name.
Now, I admit that that's a much less cool middle name than say 'Trouble', but what to do? That's how I roll.
Or, more appropriately, given my age and disposition, that's how I take a couple of puffs and pass, when someone else rolls.

Anyway, as you, my too intelligent and often patronizing reader, have guessed, this post is about other, more important things. I actually have a point to make!! I know, right?

A point about patriotism, to be specific.
So, here's the thing... I used to be an extremely patriotic child.
Reared on a fodder of films ranging from 'Saat Hindustani' to 'Gadar- Ek prem katha', my devotion for my nation knew no bounds.
I idolized our freedom fighters, insisted that everyone stand up when the national anthem was so much as hummed, and felt 'proud to be an Indian' every single day.
Now, you might think that I was disillusioned when I migrated to another country or, you know, gained some perspective as I grew up, but nooope!
That's not even close to how I reached (cynical) enlightenment.

Here's what really happened...
I studied Indian history.

That's it. That's all, folks. That's all it took.
Suddenly, all my glorified ideas about heroism and sacrifice came crashing down.
At 15, I realized that our 'freedom struggle' was a political war, more than anything else.

As much as there were patriotic heroes, with their youthful passion and their rose-tinted glasses firmly in place (and I count everyone from Bhagat Singh to Birsa Munda among them), there were also the shrewd politicians, the Nehrus, Gandhis and Jinnahs, who were planning their empires, lining up their pawns.

I read about the freedom struggle, and I saw that it was really a negotiation between two sets of powerful people: the empire that was waning, and the 'democracy' that was rising, but both represented solely by their 'leaders'. Not their warriors.

This newfound patriotism is the disease of a nation fed on nationalist propaganda. This is a nation that did not study its own history. Because if they did, they would realize that this 'patriotism' is a sham.
Its an elaborate and fairly riveting story fed to us by clever marketing geniuses, who knew that their empires would only survive if the people believed that they were heroes who liberated them. Not cowards who struck a bargain with their oppressors.
Because, at the end of the day, many of our 'heroes' resembled our oppressors more than they resembled us. Many of our leaders still do.

Welcome to the animal farm, where some animals are inevitably more equal than others. Especially cows.

Bharat mata ki jai.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

twice removed

These days and nights that you spend so far away from your home away from home, they must break your heart.

How lonely it must be to return, time and again, to a luxuriously sterile space that is anything but yours. Where everything reverts to being exactly as it was, every time you leave.

I can almost see you, sprawled in your usual disheveled way, on fresh, too-white sheets. I can see you watch the rain fall over a strange city, while the city you call home puts on the colours of spring.

Sleep eludes you. Peace is even harder to come by.

But remember, even in exile, that everything that you long for is exactly where you left it. And that yearning makes homecoming that much sweeter.