Deciding a theme

Every media product needs a structure to exist. It means there needs to be a bunch of building blocks as well as some soft fabric to put together something that is sturdy enough to hold value. It must add some value to the life of the consumer, irrespective of whether or not it has a monetary value.

When creating your own magazine, it is important to have a theme you can stick to for the duration of multiple editions. It will help you create a wholesome product that makes sense. It is the basic foundation of what you will build in the days to come.

While deciding the theme of the magazine, there are three things you should keep in mind:

Be clear about the theme of your magazine: What do you want to talk about? To whom and for how long? Why are you planning to make one?

Sorting the distribution channel: It is important for you to think of the logistics from Day 1. Can you afford to print the magazine or would you prefer a digital version? This clarity will help you shape the magazine.

Do not depend on verbal communication: Write it all down and document all the basics in a space that is accessible to everyone in the team as well as potential reads/consumers.

You might find yourself in an infinite loop while trying to figure these basics. It is, thus, important to keep a deadline that must be adhered to strictly. Give yourself a month at max and then start working on whatever half-baked plan you come up with.

It is completely fine to be clueless in the beginning. You can build as you go. Just remember: You are doing this to learn and thus making mistakes is a key part of the process. Don’t be afraid to make some on the way.

Follow this blog for more in the Let’s Make A Magazine series.

The Dark Holds No Terrors by Shashi Deshpande

Trigger Warning: Abuse, Trauma

I don’t remember the last time I read a book this quickly, within a week! The writing is so beautiful that I simply couldn’t put it down and yet, the sentences so brutal, I had to pause and halt to catch my breath every few pages. It stirred in me emotions I didn’t know I had, depths of fears I had never traversed this blatantly before.

On the surface, it’s a story of an unloved child that grows up to be a woman who is repeatedly brutalised by the father of her children. The only man who had ever made her feel loved. Becoming like her mother was a fear she grappled with all her life, only to realise there were bits and pieces of her she couldn’t hide from. They were within her.

It’s a melancholic story that shreds your heart and makes you wonder of all things wrong, patriarchal and sexist. It hits you where it hurts, hard. It also dwells heavily on unresolved mental health issues and the importance of conversations sans facade. It’s a tale of a battered child, teen, woman. She grows into a strong person. The cost, however, is only hers to bear.

If you can tackle the trauma it holds, it’s a book that must absolutely be read.

I write for a living…

I write for a living but seldom do my words make me feel something. I think it’s a lot to do with overdoing something. The essence is killed in excess. When you keep writing and editing all day long, you tend to forget how every sentence comes with its baggage of words crafted together for a purpose and is meant to move people towards varied interpretations. Even as you write with reason and push people towards adding a new dimension to the way they see the world, you lose track of what the process does to you. For you, words seemingly come easy but somehow they start to lose meaning along the way.

The joy you felt when you saw your first sentence where algorithms couldn’t find an error starts to feel distant. Seeing your name against your words starts feeling like a result of a chore instead of an indulgence. The rush of feeling the air beneath your wings on being paid for your words goes missing. It’s your bread and butter now, not just something you have steadily grown to be passionate about.

In times like these, perhaps out of desperation, I start seeking (more) meaningful work. I try to write something that is not meant to help me earn a living. I read more and try to tug and push at the horizons of my words. I tussle with them, as I did years ago, making the tough ones fall in line and befriend me. Oddly, it helps me stay being this person who is forever on the lookout for better, more words to come her way.

And, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Baby steps out of bed

It took me about six months to gain enough confidence (and fight off a million fears in my head) to walk about a quarter of a kilometre outside my house, to a nearby grocery store. Before this major feat, I had only gone to the one opposite my place, a handful time in all these months. My online purchases have gone up, multi-folds.

Prior to the pandemic wreaking havoc for the world over, I was someone who travelled at least four hours to and fro office. There was a considerable amount of walking. The work from home and lockdown scenarios have rendered me into someone who lives in the periphery of a bed. I am now trying to change that, to a certain degree. 

Leisurely walks, about an hour or two every week are slowly becoming my baby steps out of bed. On one hand, I am glad about the progress. On the other, I don’t quite like the world outside the brick walls I have grown accustomed to. I hate the weird heaviness in the air I can feel so prominently around me. And, how it stems from suspicion, fear and an emptiness in my heart.

Partly because I am still trying hard to get used to having a mask on my face and how it changes the way I breathe and partly because I have lost all my stamina, I have become extremely slow at walking. I can go for about half an hour and have to then wait a while to be able to get my breathing in place to walk ahead. Empty bus stops are my respite.

When for the general good, health and safety, I am someone who likes precautions and rules. Hence, I have easily embraced masks as essential. Doesn’t mean I have to like them! I hate the stuffy feeling that comes with wearing a mask. However, it’s funny how I also like the anonymity a mask can help you get. I like the idea of walking about without bumping into a familiar face I don’t wish to talk to. It’s liberating to have this choice without being rude. Six months of practical isolation and this is still true!

So that’s that about me. Are you trying to walk again, too? Good luck with your baby steps!

Media kids and magazines

As a media student, you are expected to sharpen your skills in three main domains: writing, editing and designing. Linguistic skills are, of course, a big asset that must not be ignored. My assertion is that if a media student were to work on a college magazine (preferably a print version that’s supported with digital assets), they would be able to get better at the aforementioned skills. It would also help them understand the logistical constraints of creating a media product, within deadlines.

If one were to look from an academic perspective, the experience is bound to help them understand the subjects enough to score marks. After all, isn’t a practical suppose to get your better at theory?

While pursing my post-grad degree from the Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Mumbai, I had worked on The Revolver and it was just about the best thing I did in my entire two years of (officially) being a student there. It helped me learn a plethora of skills, making me a slightly more employable, if not by a great margin, media person.

In this blog, I will be detailing my experiences and lessons from the process. You are welcome to be a part of the journey!

I know how to make that!

I have had plenty culinary misadventures over the years. Kitchen hasn’t been the most welcoming of spaces for me. However, the one good thing that has happened to me this pandemic is that I have learnt a considerable amount of cooking. It’s not just the basics, no! I can make the rather fancier dishes too. Pizza, momos and the sort!

There is something extremely rewarding about cooking a meal. To be able to create something from scratch, something that is tangible enough to experience and consume. It’s a wonderful feeling, especially for someone who has been stuck at home for months, with the internet (read: social media) being her sole (just being honest) window to the world.

A few days ago as I was scrolling through e-commerce websites, I came across a banana bread priced at about Rs 130. My first thought at browsing through was that I could just buy bananas at Rs 30 and make it home. I know a lot goes into the bread and it would probably cost me much more. However, the feeling of knowing that I can make it, and a rather tasty version at it, was way more satisfying than I can ever put into words.

To soak pulses, measure heat and spices, and move spatulas over ingredients turns them into something edible. What sorcery! I love how I can say it about a variety of food items now — including banana bread thanks to Hebbar’s Kitchen — I know how to make that!

Why can’t 2021 begin already?

Every so often a word gets stuck in my head and I use it over and over again. It’s usually something that comes with the baggage of negative connotation. For the last few weeks, actually months, it’s been fatigue. It’s this crazy feeling of being stuck. The ongoing pandemic doesn’t help matters much. Clearly. Every day, every moment feels like a battle against it.

It’s overwhelming. It’s tiring. It’s fatigue.

The online dictionary defines fatire as extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.

As someone who has been dealing with it for a while now, all I can really say is that it’s this feeling of being on a carousel and finding it difficult to get off. It’s when no matter what you do, nothing seems productive enough. There is this constant feeling of being tired and at the same time feeling like you have not done enough to rightly feel so.

It comes in waves, I have realised.

Initially, there is hope. Working in pyjamas from bed? Isn’t this what the dreams are made of?

Then, hope starts to taper off as the reward on the other side starts to feel bleak. You soon realise the ocean between now and the other side is too vast and you can’t gauge its depth. Everything starts getting real. Surreal.

Death tolls stop scaring you. You start spending on small indulgences. Is this the new normal, you wonder? Is this something worth getting to know?

Wasn’t this supposed to feel better? Why doesn’t it feel easier? Why am I still tired? Why is the shore still so still far away? Why do I still feel tired?

Why can’t 2021 begin already?

What is it about romcoms?

For as long as I can remember, I have loved watching romcoms. They often have cliché storylines and similar characters. They almost always portray heterosexual relationships and come layered with insane amounts of intimacy, in varied forms. There are conversations and monologues, fights and breakups, travel and makeup. I especially love the ones set in high school settings. Love them! Why? Well, for a number of reasons. For one, they are always full of hope.

Is there really any better place to find hope than in the world of someone who is in love? I don’t think so. Young love is where everything is possible and the possibilities are endless. You can be anything and everything. Heartbreaks happen and they come with tough lessons but you always know there would be a happy ending.

If I look at them with the lens I keep reserved for watching and critiquing serious content, they would probably all feel stupid. But that’s the thing! When I am hunting for a romcom, the real world is one that I wish to escape. I don’t care if the story makes sense or if there is any logic in what’s unfurling in front of my eyes. I am looking to enter a world where I don’t have to do any work. Where I am free to sit back and laugh and cry. Where I can feel emotions, intensely, without letting them be my own.

Not that it’s all mindless stuff. I have learnt A LOT of lessons about life and relationships from such movies. There is always a takeaway and I love it.

The curious thing is that I feel like watching such movies when something is off about/in my real life. It’s a coping mechanism of sorts. Escapism 101, indeed. Whenever I think of this phenomenon, I recall a Set Max TVC promoting Dil Se South. It details key aspects of movies made in Southern parts of India and what makes them a good watch for someone grappling with the frustrations of daily life.

I love watching and sharing this TVC from time to time for I feel it details a key viewership pattern — Escapism is perhaps one of the most important reasons why people consume audio-visual content. To me, it’s the most relatable form of content consumption. For leisure. To go away in a distant world. Of romcoms. A guilty pleasure. What’s yours?

Trying to read

There is something about losing myself in the abyss of words, thousands at a time, that I absolutely love. I love to read. But here’s the thing. On most days, I can’t read. Even though I love the activity, sometimes I just find myself incapable of flipping through the pages, poring over the words.

Sometimes I go back to something I have read before. The comfort of familiarity is soothing. However, it’s only the light reads. Maybe a love story or maybe one with dollops of magic. (Ah Aha!)

I thought maybe e-books would make my life easier. There are so many of them and I spend so much time on my phone anyway. But they didn’t. I am always too distracted to do justice to this beautiful book I bought, in all its Kindle glory. I guess I am old school that way. Not that I haven’t read e-books before. But it feels like a different lifetime.

One before the pandemic hit me. One before life started to get real. One before I started to feel like an adult.

Now, I try. And I try hard. On most days, I am able to do justice to the concept of trying hard. Even if not to the concept of actually trying hard. There is a difference you see. Between the idea of an act and well, the act.

I guess, like all things tough, and ones I need to get around to be able to survive this thing called life, I will have to put in the effort. To read. For real. And not be this person who spends too much time trying to read.

Watching Shakuntala Devi and wondering…

Ever since I first saw the teaser, I knew I had to absolutely watch Shakuntala Devi. Not sure if it were the pretty sarees or the persona of Vidya Balan or both together — I mean did you not see Tumhari Sulu? — but I was hooked. The social media creatives where the legend’s original picture morphs into Balan’s character in the movie were particularly interesting. In an indirect way, the movie was claiming (read: screaming) authenticity, reeling people in.

I was among the many the charm worked on.

The movie was a rollecoaster for me. After watching a movie, I often complain about the portrayal of women and how it needs to be better. Shakuntala Devi was like a breath of fresh air for me in this regard. It left me satisfied in a puddle of joyous tears. The way they portray the complex relationship between a mother and a daughter, especially in the era the narrative was set in and the way a mother’s guilt creeps into the narrative and takes control of her life, is perhaps what makes it a surreal experience.

The way they put forth the idea of children looking at their parents as mere parents and not persons or adults is perhaps one of the biggest strengths of this storytelling. While there isn’t enough to unpack for people who have complicated memories of their parents and the baggage of childhood trauma, the narrative makes you think and does a good job at it.

After watching the movie, I decided to surf the internet a bit. It was a short venture for two factors quickly pissed me off pretty bad. For one, her Wikipedia page is too short and to the point. Why are we do bad at documenting the lives of women? Second, I came across a tweet criticising how the movie concentrated too much on her relationship with her daughter and too little on her professional journey. I don’t remember the name, just that it was from a blue tick account.

Why was the second point triggering for me? I firmly believe a person’s personal life plays a major role in deciding the course of their professional paths. Everything is related. In the case of women, the factor seems to be more prominent, especially when it comes to their children. You can’t separate the two spheres. The story shall forever be incomplete without talking about a person’s support system. If they were out there, who was taking care of their children? The fact that we don’t talk about this way in regards to men is a matter worth contemplating.

Devi is a free-spirited girl who isn’t afraid of anyone. In the childhood sequence where we see her interacting with her mother, the latter attempts to dip her into the hues of patriarchy, unsuccessfully. It tells us about the role elder women play in introducing young girls to sexism, passing it on, normalising it in the process.

Two particular scenes from the movie will probably always stay with me. One, where Devi’s elder sister feels at odd with the concept of a ‘badi aurat’ because that isn’t something that exists. The scene screams into the void, driving our attention to the importance of representation. It is important for young girls to see women in all spheres of life to be able to visualise themselves there.

The second scene being the one where a conversation plays out between Shakuntala and her husband, Paritosh. She is feeling the pinch of letting her career take a backseat as she entered the realm of motherhood. When she tells Paritosh about the chaos in her head, he reassures her of the fact that their child has two parents and he would step up on days she has to step out for her professional growth. It was a conversation worth witnessing on screen in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, when there are simply too many articles about how hard the economic crisis will hit women and their careers. I feel Paritosh is a man worth looking up to.

While I love almost everything about the movie, the one thing I didn’t is that they did not pay enough attention to explain what went wrong between Shakuntala and Paritosh. The fallout of their relationship feels too superficial. In one scene we see a super understanding Paritosh and in the next, an angry wounded man. We see a clash of egos, nothing more. The nuances of their relationship don’t get enough space to unfold.

Overall, the movie’s a must watch. Shakuntala Devi was way ahead of her time but this movie is perfectly timed — we need such portrayals of women in 2020. We need representation of women who are smart and aren’t made to feel bad about it. Unabashed and proud.