My regular magazine, Outlook, has been unavailable for the last few weeks, for some strange reason. As a compensation, hoping not to lose the money, my paperwallah has been giving me India Today instead, and this has made me very unhappy. Strange that, considering the fact that until very recently (just a few years) India Today was my preferred magazine. Yet, getting it now, I have just re-realised why I stopped reading it in the first place. It’s become a rag, descended to the level of just another glossy tabloid.
What’s more, I got something called the India Today Woman with the mag. Hoping against hope, remembering the once quality magazine that India Today used to be, I went through it, in spite of all my usual disgust of the “women’s magazines”. Sure enough, I was disappointed yet again. One, count it, one article about Lara Balsara stood out like a lonely little light among reams of nothing but shopping and beauty pages. And even the one sole article took the so-called “female” angle. It seemed to be much more about her preferences in partying, clothes and food, than about any of her achievements as one of the most promising young women in the business world.
Makes me wonder where the editorial board of the mag is coming from. What’s the rationale behind this terrible excuse for a magazine? Do they really believe that women, ALL women, are interested in only beauty and shopping and where Lara Balsara prefers to shop? Or do they think that women, ALL women, are incapable of grasping the finer, or even broader, points of a woman’s career in the business world? Or does it go deeper than that? Is this part of the larger unstated unconscious conspiracy to KEEP women interested in the shallower things of life, keeping more thought provoking topics, and fields, a male bastion?
Whatever the underlying cause, it is depressing and disappointing in the extreme, especially for a woman like me, who IS interested in, and capable of grasping, things deeper than the latest fairness treatment, and the newest “long-stay lipstick”. This is not a new problem either. It began with adolescence, when I entered a certain target demographic. I never could stand the Feminas and Women’s Eras of the world, nor their much hyped, much glossier, but equally depthless foreign brethren such as Cosmopolitan or Good Housekeeping. Nor could I stand the Filmfare, Stardust, Cine Blitz ilk, whose sole obsession was the private lives of movie stars.
What, then, was an intelligent educated Indian WOMAN, not interested in obsessing about cooking, shopping, and housekeeping, or stars stars stars, supposed to read? Thank god for magazines like The Illustrated Weekly, and Frontline. Both, at that time, were well balanced magazines, which gave me much more to think about than whether I should regret not being able to buy a Gucci or a Prada. I could get my teeth into them, ruminate, digest, think, and come away with something worthwhile. But the Weekly shut shop in the early 1990s, and Frontline became more and more highbrow and politicized, going to the opposite end of the spectrum from the fluff peddlers, and dissapeared into the rarefied realms.
For a while, there wasn’t much to fill the gap, and for people like me. Then, outlook was launched, and grew into just the right kind of magazine. Politics, current affairs, analyses, news, “women’s” pages, shopping, films, books, and much more, in a neat little package, with good writing (a huge rarity these days), usually good English (an even rarer commodity), and insightful and concise commentary. Just the thing to engage the mind without overwhelming it. After all, if I want political theory (or astrophysics for that matter) I am more than willing to pick up a book on the subject.
Now, with my dislike for even stalwarts like India Today being reconfirmed, I guess I have no option but to sit back and wait for my own Outlook to be available again. I would rather never read another magazine again in my entire life, than pick up a Femina/Women’s Era/Eve’s Weekly or a Filmfare/Cineblitz/Stardust. So, unless I want to invite more stress and frustration than I am willing to stand, I’ll just sit here and hope my paper guy finds Outlook again soon!