Friday, September 01, 2006

Treasure Box of my Early Years

This week, rummaging through a blog of Chennai based Journalist opened a small treasure box of my childhood that nourished my early days of intellectual growing. My parents didn’t let me posses this treasure box lest it would take me away from the drudgery of insipid academic books. But they had no objection of my spending all the time through this treasure box during my vacation days at my cousin’s place in Mughbhat -Thakurdwar; a Marathi quarter in the downtown of Mumbai.

The treasure box was ‘Chandoba’ – popularly known all over India as ‘Chandamama’.

A flimsy 40 odd page A5 size magazine bound together with two or three stapled pins would transport me to the world of fantasy, fiction, imagination filled with awe, curiosity, interest and entertainment. The style and narration of various stories were neatly segregated and structured in different sizes with abundant illustration in orange, blue colours. Combination of stories with backdrop of folk-fairly tales, mythological and historical incidents took me to fascinating ride in the fantasy world. After devouring one issue, I would climb on wooden stool to reach the top of dusty cupboard to fetch older issues that eluded me in the semester gone by. Once that was over, I would once again go through my favourite stories to revive the old magic. I still can recollect some of the popular themes e.g. Tale of two brothers–one gentle, benevolent and other evil –that became standard theme for many Hindi movies, A tired traveller who needed a night’s rest in a small cottage and come across a poor soul who doesn’t have anything to feed his family but looks after his guest like a god. A center story of ‘Vikram and Vetal’ became trademark of chandamama. First paragraph of this story bordering on esoteric subjects remained same forever. In my initial years, I would skip this story that shattered my innocence with skulls, ghosts, and cemetery but as the years rolled by, I looked forward to the same very story. Emergence of adolescence slowly reduced my dependence on Chandoba and got overshadowed by other magazines and periodicals like ‘Kishor’, ‘Dakshata’ and host of detective story books of ‘Baburao Arnalkar’ and other Marathi writers. But the interest that this little treasure box developed in written words and expressions continued to flourish all my life.

I was amazed to learn about the tradition of Chandamama, their initial beginning, journey through heady success days and now their struggle to be in the circulation amidst changing interest of young generation fuelled by audio video media onslaught. Bishwanth Joy has nicely depicted chandamama story in his blog “At chandamama – no one retires; how wonderful expression!!! I wish we all emulate this in our own life”

Chandamama did have an unenviable brand image but I feel this image is now rapidly fading away from public memory and may soon fear extinction unless a radical business approach is not employed by its present management . A rich tradition and goodwill over three generations will not be enough to avoid being labelled as successful historic relic of India’s post Independence print industry. I read about Chandamama’s new management mantra of taking this magazine to the rural India but I doubt if that approach can last long. Satellite TV and Internet are reducing the cultural gap existed between urbane and rural part of India and its just a matter of years, Chandamama would soon be in the same situation in rural areas as they are grappling now with urbane India.

I think they can use ‘resurgent AV media’ the same very bane that brought them to their knees, to their advantage of survival and growth. Satellite Television with influx of cartoon network and children TV channels have taken away the slot Chandamama had occupied in fertile and growing minds of children. Chandamama has amazing contents garnered over six decades. They need to address this either by teaming up with India media barons – like NDTV or Times TV by setting up a new channel ‘chandamama’ and transport all those amazing print stories into action paced audio visual ones with real or cartoon characters. With inputs from allied subjects of history, nature, science, space and geography they would have all the ingredients that can bring them in league with Cartoon Network, Pogo and others. Surrendering the company and rights to Walt Disney may be a rumour but still a viable option of longevity despite being at a risk of replacing Indian identity of simplicity, rustic flavour, mythological mystic and traditional virtues with that of technology, space odyssey , modern international names and manners.

Whatever the course of action may be, I would be happy to see this treasure box continue to lead the way to the fantasy world for coming generations.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to hear so much about a long forgotten childhood treasure.
I sincerely wish Chandamama be revived.

5:02 PM  

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