Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is there life after death?

Well, I had to talk about it. This is the story of a magazine gone wrong. It was called India Insight.

Many people would have many different sides of the story to tell - this is my side of it. More than a year ago when I had the crazy urge to stop working as a translator and try my luck as a copywriter, I packed my bags and came to a city I thought I knew - Pune. The King in Paulo Coehlo's Alchemist says that when you set out on the way to your dreams, nature rewards you with a little success on your first step - its called beginner's luck.

So with no experience, no training in media, I ended up with the job I'd have killed for - not as Junior Copywriter in some obscure advertising company, but as subeditor for a newly launched weekly magazine with some ambitious plans to redefine journalism in India. For the first few weeks, the work was maddening - intimidating, exhausting, but oh, the feeling of holding a fresh copy of the magazine in my hands... 64 pages of honest, if a little amateurish journalism, that I helped organise, arrange into one issue packed with stories on every subject of interest from politics to films to history to sports... this was May and June 2008. India Insight was launched on May 4, I joined the tiny team on May 13. By the first week of July we got a real office - by mid-July I got help as two more sub-editors joined us. By end of July, from a team of two - me and the creative head slogging on issue after issue of the magazine - we had grown to a full-fledged editorial team of 3 sub-editors, a chief editor, a copy editor working from Delhi, and 3 assistants to the chief designer. By August, publication stopped.

I won't get into blame games here, so never mind what went wrong. Only a lot of dreams were shattered - big deal. But one issue of that magazine, dated August 8-14 2008, which was the first product of our complete team, never made it to the stands. Somewhat hurts. It also hurts, still hurts that two people among the new faces were there because of me. I told them we needed more people in this amazing new publishing house, that we had two magazines running and more in the offing, that yes it was a risk for them to quit their present jobs but that the risk was worth taking. I'm not conceited enough to think that I influenced their decision or the course of their lives, but I was the Nimittya - there's no better word for it. Had I not told them about this job, they wouldn't have quit their jobs in Bangalore.

I'm still chasing my dream. And I remain indebted to India Insight for marking my first step towards it. Journalism is what I wanted for my life and if I started late, it was only because I hadn't had the nerve before. This was my beginner's luck. This weekend, I'll be in Bangalore, watching a play by my favourite theatre group. We'd done a little story on them, in the August 8 issue - very few copies of that issue were printed, and I've managed to save one with me. I'll hopefully be able to hand it over to the group's director.

India Insight, meanwhile, lives on. After August last year, it was re-launched from Bangalore in October. And again from Pune last month, this time as a fortnightly. The publishers remain optimistic and I too wish the magazine all the success. Only hoping that this time, the still-ambitious project does not displace a lot of young people, play with their dreams and render them jobless in a month.


  1. That's tough, Dee, really tough. It's a difficult industry to break, but you can do it. When I went for my job, so did another 800 or so - everyone told me I had no chance. So it can and will happen if you want it enough.
    And you write like a dream. I'd employ you x

  2. Thanks, Stacia! So very sweet of you.

  3. well...written... its so clear why you shud be in have that sting in your writing that makes it so impressive...n after reading this, the whole India Insight fiasco doesnt look all that bad...n dont worry, you are not responsible for anyone's is not powerful enough to make it break you can put that load off you... (wink n smile). do, do write that play we talked about...i am sure it will be kick ass...

  4. Yes, I'll write that play we talked about... what was it again? (grin)