Nostalgia: Remember the days when we waited with bated breath for an issue of ‘Gokulam', ‘Chandamama'or a ‘Tinkle'?
For a lot of us, children's magazines have been part and parcel of our growing up years. They were entertaining and enlightening besides being quite unforgettable. Hamsini Ravi, a communications professional, remembers the days when children's magazines were simple and uncomplicated.
She says, “When we were children, we read books and magazines without a care for class, caste and gender bias. Today there is so much of debate and discussion on this topic. As children, we saw the world in black and white, unlike kids of today, who are exposed to the grey area at such an early age.”
Sandhya Ramachandran, a student filmmaker from National Institute of Design agrees with Hamsini. She recalls, “My childhood days were spent reading ‘Gokulam', the popular children's monthly published by the Kalki Group. Thatha would buy it for his three granddaughters, and we would take turns to read it from cover to cover. Stories, poems and anecdotes filled the pages. There was ‘Appu and Kuku' — a cartoon strip about a baby elephant and a little yellow bird that I delighted in, and Anuradha Khati's engaging ‘Undir Tales' about a family of rats.”
‘Gokulam' is special to Sandhya also because it not only published her first poem, but also paid her for it. She also jokes about how she regularly wrote murder mysteries for the magazine which were all rejected! She says, “In the pre-Facebook era, ‘Gokulam' helped us make a few pen pals with whom we exchanged stamps and currencies over snail-post. A complete package, ‘Gokulam' was probably the first step I took to falling in love with the English language.”
Swaminathan Dixit also sent stories to ‘Gokulam' for the prize money and the certificate it offered. “Most kids in our school, including me, ripped off puzzles and stories from other magazines and sent them to ‘Gokulam'. We thought rip offs from a year old magazine, that too a different one, would go unnoticed,” he grins.
Swaminathan also looked forward to Champak and the special holiday edition of Tinkle. “My grandmother would insist I come with her to the temple during holidays. I would go along with her only because she would buy me a Cadbury lollipop and the latest edition of Champak afterwards,” says this software engineer.
Swaminathan also shares his experience of how he was once sent out of class because of ‘Gokulam'. “When I was in fifth standard, my science teacher told us that Mercury was the hottest planet, because it was nearest to the Sun. I had read earlier in ‘Gokulam' that Venus was actually the hottest planet. When I argued with her about this, she sent me out of class. When I took my issue of ‘Gokulam' to her the next day to prove my point, it was confiscated,” he says.
Atulaa Krishnamurthy, a student of National Law School India University, feels that the magazines she read as a child have been a huge factor in shaping her opinions. “Beside the obligatory ‘Gokulam' and ‘Tinkle', which I would read every month, my parents signed me up for various other subscriptions,” she says. “I loved ‘Children's Digest'. I remember eagerly looking forward to the abridged classics they printed in serial form. I attribute my knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology to this magazine. Then there was ‘Chandamama', which won brownie points for its fantastic design and colourful layout. My favourite part of it would have to be the Vikram Vetal series.” Atulaa also makes a mention of ‘PCM Children's Magazine' and ‘Navneet News House', a children's weekly, to which she attributes her love for crosswords.
Unlike the others, who grew up on a staple diet of ‘Gokulam' and ‘Chandamama', Sanjog Sahu started off by reading the ‘National Geographic'. “The library we had was actually an assortment of books and magazines belonging to generations of family members who had moved from our village to the cities over the years,” says Sanjog, a Young India Fellow based in Delhi.
“I was transfixed by the photographs and stories in the copies of the National Geographic that were left behind.” Sanjog also speaks of the ‘Illustrated Weekly of India'. “I was eight when I inherited some copies of the ‘Illustrated Weekly…' after my uncle passed away. A column that I particularly liked was ‘The India That You Do Not Know', especially when it contained contributions by Manoj Das.”