The year that was

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BOOKMARK A comprehensive, yet elegant yearbook from Scholastic

Reading yearbooks was something of a ritual in childhood. Who can forget the Manorama yearbook — almost as indispensable a learning aid as the Wren and Martin, and also progressively heavier every year. As a record of the year that went by, yearbooks are often sheer heft, but they can also be elegant summaries and ready reckoners, as the Scholastic Yearbook 2013 proves.

2011 was a year full of riots, revolutions and disasters, and 2012 was no less eventful. It began with the sinking of the Costa Concordia where 30 people died and more than 60 were injured (prompting a few news channels to foolishly dub it a “real-life Titanic”), a massive power outage in India, the Olympics, violence between the Bodos and Muslims in Assam, new Presidents in India, Egypt and France, Hurricane Sandy and the re-election of Barack Obama. The yearbook tells you all this in more detail with accompanying illustrations by Priya Kurian, an independent animation filmmaker, who has been illustrating a number of children’s books and comics. “Visual breaks make information more palatable and the yearbook’s layout is geared towards breaking the tedium of the text with the help of illustrations,” explains Tina Narang, managing editor, Scholastic.

The tedium of the text is also broken by dividing it into distinct categories such as sports, entertainment, science and environment. Apart from data about the year 2012, the book also provides a timeline of India and the world, an overview of the states and countries respectively, and lists important office bearers. Naturally, such an effort couldn’t have been one person’s handiwork.

“We commission various subject experts and journalists to write for the Yearbook… and Yearbook 2013 has a particularly long line-up. There is a financial journalist with a round-up of the economy, a Supreme Court advocate on the landmark Indian court judgements, a fashion journalist on the latest from the world of fashion,” Narang adds. Some of the contributors are Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, an independent publishing consultant, Brinda Miller, director of Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Mumbai and Amrita Lahiri, a Mumbai based Kuchipudi dancer, among others.

The yearbook ends with a series of ‘top ten’ lists — of famous monuments, population densities, richest countries, and most spoken languages. The book is intended for students and general knowledge aficionados, but can the utility of the yearbook, as an object, withstand the pressures of the internet, which has arguably spawned a new kind of nerd?

“One can't deny that digital sources are more easily accessible. But are they always completely reliable? Search engines throw up a bewildering number of results. So in that sense a book is easier to refer to and perhaps more credible as well,” she says. It is also an occasion for the adult to revisit a time of life when general knowledge used to be a cottage industry operated by schools, and where information had snob value.





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