We would get magazines in our house aplenty. Some my father would buy, some he would borrow from his college library. But when I was a kid, there were two magazines I looked forward to. Parag and Nandan. Lotpot happened when I was a little older, Chandamama (of “Vaitaaal and Vikram” fame) was too kiddish and Bal Bharati from the government publication house was too propaganda-ish.
There were some interesting “adult” publications as well. There was this “Dharmyug” which I would read only for its comic strip “Cartoon Kona Dhabbooji” by Abid Surti. Or for its occasional Cricket special, aka “Kriket Vishank”. In those times in the publishing world there was no formula more magical than having a cricket special. Ask Khushwant Singh, the then editor of the venerable “The Illustrated Weekly of India” from the same stable as Paraag and Dharmyug, and Dharmyug, the Bennet Coleman Group. Add to this another magazine from its stable, Dinman, off which I learnt the Urdu language. I have written about this earlier on my blog.
Nandan was more oriented towards “raja-and rani stories”, while Parag was a “modern-day” one. Nandan had stories about Raja Krishnadeva Raya’s courtier, Tenali Raman, while Parag had stories rooted in the then current times. Like the stories about Dadaji and Nanaji by Avatar Singh and the very poignant stories by Vidwan K. Narayanan. Avtar Singh was a sardar as his occasional pics in the mag confirmed while Vidwan K. Narayanan was a Tamilian as was evident from the address appended at the end of the story….“Gandhari Amma Koil Road..” A dead giveaway! It is a pity that both these writers died when they were young.
Parag had this cartoon strip called called “Chhotu-Lambu”, which was more often than not very hilarious!
There was a time in my pre-teens when Parag declared itself a magazine for the teens. And they began publishing articles which probed the lives of the teenagers. For example, a monthly story on the teenagers of the small town India. The series was called “Nagar mein ghoomta aainaa.” Or even stupid teenagerish stories. It was a task then to wrest the magazine away from the hands of my elder brother or sister who were both teenagers and hence had the power to shoo me off saying, “This mag. is not for kids, you go and read Nandan, Chandamama etc.”
I remember the mags would cost no more than sixty paise. Till the Indo-Pak war happened and a two paise “refugee relief” cess happened on all consumer products, including those consumed by kids, We now needed to pay sixty-two paise for our mags.
Over time- and I do not quite remember when- I grew out of my favourite magazines and dived straight into “adult” stuff like Mayapuri, Satyakatha, Manohar Kahaniyan. I thought I had had grown into an adult.
And now, when I think back, I wish I had the Parags and Nanadans close to me my bedside reading supply!