Romance with literature lives - Bengali magazines, popularly called the li'l mag club, are still in circulation, though in small numbers

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By M. GANGULY in Ranchi
  • Published 23.09.07

Ranchi, Sept. 23: It is an old habit that refuses to die. Or may be it is the influence of a long-lasting aesthetic romance with literature.

Those who were once involved in bringing out Bengali magazines from Jharkhand cannot stop doing so. Despite all odds, they continue to bring out issue after issue, howsoever irregular it may be.

Like elsewhere, Bengalis of this state have also started publishing such “li’l mags” from various places and this tradition has continued since the past three decades, when there was a spurt in this activity.

This presented the community with an army of poets and writers and scores of little magazines. Certainly all were not poets, few were, as Jibananada Das had once remarked. Similarly, all were not good magazines either.

As expected, fighting the odds such as dearth of good writers and poets, lack of patronage and even absence of a good printing press forced many magazines to wind up after a couple of issues.

But a few surely made their presence felt.

Kaurab and Kalimati from Jamshedpur and Padakshep from Ranchi were such magazines. Mahut of Ranchi also became a regular magazine until a few years ago, though it entered the arena at a later stage. All these became widely known in the “li’l mag” circle but have become irregular now.

Kalimati, however, is still going strong. With its 89th issue printed last month, the magazine has entered into its 29th year of print in Jamshedpur.

Kaurab, the most prominent among these magazines, has gone hi-tech and launched its own website. It is selling magazines and books and even taking orders online.

Padakshep, that was published for over a quarter of a century from Ranchi shifted its base to Calcutta, when its protagonist Samir Basu shifted there. After his death, some of the old associates still bring out the magazine from Calcutta.

“Though only once a year, we are trying to publish the magazines by the next book fair here,” said Bandana Basu over the phone from Calcutta.

Mahut, that started nearly 12 years ago, also became irregular and due to various engagements of its members cannot bring out more than an annual issue. “The next one will come out within a week or so,” said Arunangshu Banerjee, one of the editors.

On the other hand Kalimati has been fairly regular. When asked how easy it was to manage the task, Kajal Sen, the editor, said, unlike previously, they don’t have to support it themselves anymore. “We have reached a break-even stage,” he added, sounding happy.

They have some annual subscribers while many copies are also sold locally through personal contacts. Besides, some organisations also help by releasing ads, though it is not enough, he explained.

Kalimati has also started publishing books regularly and has brought out over 25 titles in recent times.

“We enjoy the readership more. We send many copies to those who care for literature,” Sen added, while explaining the reason behind the magazine’s reputation.

For his contribution towards the little magazines movement, Sen was awarded by Doorer Kheya, a Kanpur-based magazine. He also received the Umashashi Award instituted by Tara Shankar Sahitya Parishad, Calcutta.

Though Sen has given preference to writers of the state while publishing books, he is not in favour of compromising with quality. Therefore in Kalimati, good contributions from everyone — local and outsiders, young and old are welcomed.

The latest issue includes two essays on the works of late Lila Majumdar and Benoy Majumdar, besides other short stories and poems.

With the younger generation of the community mostly opting for English medium schools, the patronage has certainly diminished but Sen is trying his best to keep the tradition going and to bring out a rich Bengali magazine from Jharkhand.

The li’l mags have created a mark on their own and its admirers would want the tradition to continue for as long as possible.