Thursday, February 5, 2015

So Vogue is “Magazine of the Year”!!

How many of us have heard of the Ellies awards (interestingly named after elephant shaped trophies) being given every year in America. Not many I guess in India. At least not as many who know about the Oscars and Emmy. So, when some random browsing on the internet landed me on the page of American Society of Magazine Editors (who sponsors this award), it was a pleasant surprise. So, at least there is some institution which recognizes the worth of printed words somewhere, somehow. But the next moment, this ephemeral satisfaction was gone. Vogue has been chosen the magazine of the year (2015)! There was a boring unanimity in the shocked response across the board. Is it not the same magazine which unabashedly promotes fur and anorexic models? And what is there to read except looking at photoshopped models in their weird haute couture and giving a blank stare. 

Whatever be the responses, I was thrilled by the fact that Americans still have some institution to show their solidarity with magazines and I started wondering if there is a corresponding arrangement here in India! Perhaps we don’t have. And my immediate proposition was: can’t we handover the charge of awarding our poor magazines to one of those multiple award dispensers who are too enthusiastic to honour the pampered Bollywood fraternity. Come January and every second guy appears to organize glamorous extravagant Nights for our much derided yet exalted Bollywood industry where awards are fixed just like our cricket matches!

My-magazine-awards-in-india Google search threw obscure printweek India awards which was entirely off the mark for my intended search. I was just expecting that there must be some wannabe Indian version of this award in India just like The Caravan is that of The Newyorker.
In an age which is witnessing growing apathy towards reading in general, it is heartening to see people recognized for their contribution towards the promotion of magazines. Mode of entertainment has seen a topsy-turvy. Who knew just few years back that WhatsApp would be so much claiming and shaping our life for better or worse? The emergence of “10 most wonderful shits to worry about” format of articles has also perhaps contributed to less of reading and more of couch potato type instant impatient entertainment where we have more to look at .gif images with oversimplified generic pronouncements well tailored to make us agree while our attention is divided between silly pictures and ping of WhatsApp.

These awards, however much rigged and fixed it may be, act as a guide to fish best piece of writings from the ocean of worthless ones and saves our labour which we can put into use by reading the already chosen ones. There may be probable dangers in this approach though. In already chosen piece of write-ups, we may miss out on equally deserving but somehow not awarded works. But, let us have faith in the judgment of the jury of these awards. Won’t it be worth spending our time in relishing some of the best pieces rather than puzzling over what to read and what to ignore. Anyways, who stops us to have a look at those works which have failed to impress the jury! We cannot give award to everyone anyways.

At a time when reading is on the wane in USA, there are still a number of quality magazines being published there. More importantly, they influence and shape the public discourse. Does this proliferation of magazines because of America being a rich nation and full of resources and can afford to publish these many magazines despite their untenable circulation. May be this is one of the factors but it needs a deeper introspection to analyze the reasons of existence/survival of so many quality magazines in a single country.

So which are the other countries which have such award? Not many and this may be matter of dubious relief for us, but if looked holistically, it is not a good trend. Almost every country worth its name will have some kind of award for its film fraternity, so why this generousness is not extended to the wordsmiths of magazines? If not for any other reason, Canada and America must be congratulated for felicitating their magazines which I guess must be one important factor in making this industry flourish there.

I crave for a magazine like the Newyorker or Granta in my country too. Perhaps that’s the reason as well that Jhumpa lahiris, Upamanyu Chatterjis and Hari Kunzrus prefer sending their write-ups to The Newyorker and Granta than a desi magazine. So even if I am not elated at Vogue being declared magazine of the year, I m glad that there is something called “magazine of the year”! More power to them.