Between the pages

17 Nov 2007, 0221 hrs IST,Vaibhav Singh,TNN

Thus little magazines are very grand in their perspective and big in their roles. German philosopher Jurgen Habermas had once propounded the possibility of a public sphere where all intellectual minds meet to talk freely on issues of societal interest and democratic dissent against the dominating power of state.

In the process, communicative rationality is conveyed and rational speech is made possible against all violence of prejudiced judgments. Little magazines too help in constructing a public sphere which blurs the dividing line of narrative and experience and open a full new world of expression before its readers.

Almost all small towns of north India have at least one Hindi magazine. Most of them print 500 to 1,000 copies. Even if all that is published in these magazines may not be of a satisfactory standard, the magazines do allow the space to express the subconscious world of local writers. They publish literature of all genres and forms.

They discuss issues related to literature, civil liberty and those with leftist viewpoints. Most of them have a web presence too.

Varied and diverse, some of these magazines have a life due to the sheer independent efforts while some others are supported by political organizations and government institutions. Ironically, there are a few that have devious interests like massaging the interests of certain coteries and settling scores with rivals.

Samkaleen Janmat, published from Patna, has always been held in high esteem because of its role of a selfless crusader. It provides radical and intellectual content not only on literature but also about the state’s connivance with MNC capital to crush the voice of the people.

Naturally, difficulties are not strange to them. The first and foremost of which is that of raising funds. This is partly tackled by the membership campaign and collection of advertisements. Pankaj Bisht, editor of Samyantar, says that the Hindi belt is very large, spread into seven states.

Creating a distribution network is a major problem. Except for monthly magazines all other quarterly or bi-monthly magazines do not get concessions in postal delivery. If the price of a magazine is Rs 25 then it has to spend about Rs 10 on postage.

The government advertising agency, DAVP, too ignore magazines that are not monthly. Government-affiliated literary academies seldom provide any financial help. Neither do they have any plan to promote little magazines.

So how can this challenge be confronted? Says Bisht: “There are two ways out of this problem. First, the people associated with these magazines should sit down and chalk out a strategy to organise the distribution. Then we can also establish an organisation that will take up the task of sending magazines to every nook and corner of all Hindi states. Besides, we can also exert pressure on the government to assign the responsibility of distribution to its literary academies.”

Another serious problem being faced by little magazines is the diminishing space and respect for Hindi in the middle class world. Earlier, Hindi had a pan-India appeal like other languages. But globalisation has changed the fate of several things, Hindi being one of them, suffering the powerful assault of English, the language of power.

Despite this linguistic challenge, editors and readers of such magazines are unanimously defending their cause and spirit. They are the voice of sanity in our time and make it a point that creativity should be free-flowing and unbound. From cover to cover.

What is the ‘little magazine’ movement? There can be many answers to this question but a vital consensus can be drawn from the fact that little magazines are the alternative arena of creativity, voice and rebellious ideology. They are struggling for literary renaissance in a time when commercialism is gnawing all the sensibility and austerity of our life.

Hindi is the language of almost 60 crore people. Unfortunately, there is not a single magazine in the mainstream which could be called purely literary and provide an intellectual content of literary variety. Sapthahik Hindustan, Dharmyug and Sarika were some important magazines that were avidly read by the middle class.

Its literary tastes was also shaped and enhanced by these magazines. With the closure of such magazines, a vacuum descended on the Hindi literati. This abyss of absence was thankfully and ably filled by little magazines whose numbers are almost one thousand now.

There are many like Tadbhav, Hans, Samyantar, Pahal Kathadesh, Alochana, Pal-Pratipal, Naya Gyanodaya, Samkaleen Janmat and Udbhavana which are vehicles of serious literature and ideas in a rapidly changing time in which idealism and the pursuit of truth is consciously crippled by the mainstream media. Enthusiasm and literary-ideological motivation is the capital of the editors of such magazines.

One can note the fact that all the big writers like Uday Prakash, Prabha Khetan and Maitraye Pushpa among others were first published by these magazines before being picked up by multi-edition newspapers.

Little magazines are also the true mirrors of society and their interventionist role can hardly be ignored. Most of them are anti-establishment, secular, experimental, progressive and pro-oppressed.

The editor of Hans has openly declared that defying conventional norms on life, sex, language and society is the guiding principle of his magazine. In fact, in a recent interview he also said: “We are bold to the limit of obscenity and radical to the extent of a naxalite.” With a print run of 15,000 Hans is still at the top of the heap.

If in Maharastra Dalit literature was published and made known to world by little magazines, it happened in Hindi too. All the well known Dalit writers like Om prakash Valmiki, Sheoraj Singh Bechan and Mohandas Nemisrai wrote their stories and novels for magazines like Hans.

So, despite their shoestring budgets and infrastructure constraints little magazines have immensely contributed to Hindi literature. Contextual value of serious issues were keenly identified by them. The most recent instance of such a sensitive gripping is the splurge of writings on the 1857 rebellion which completed its 150th anniversary this year.

Mainstream magazines did not discuss the historical significance of the 1857 but many little magazines like Samyantar, Udbhavana, Janmat, Vartman Sahitya, Naya Path etc., brought out special issues on the subject and analysed the epoch-making uprising.

They remembered the rebellion not as a cold historical fact but as an inspiration to launch an anti-imperialist war against the new global hegemony. Apart from special issues several magazines published though-provoking special articles on 1857.

So, they generated an atmosphere in which all the socially aware writers and readers engaged in a discussion. Seasoned historians, creative writers, journalists and academicians too contributed and a gamut of literature on the uprising resurfaced


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