14 September 2005

Retrospective Series : Part 3 : Waxed Paper Magazines

Thumbing through this month's National Geographic magazine, I soak in the marvellous images that jump out from every single page of this wonderful work of art. Yes it is a work of art to me because of many reasons. Growing up in India, in the mid to late 80s, magazines like the National Geographic were unheard of. At least to a middle class family like mine, based in a small town in the hinterland. Most magazines I had seen were made of regular newspaper grade material, with dry mono color images. The occasional color image was dot matrixed and was nothing great to write about. Those were the heydays of the indo soviet collaboration and the days of misha. Misha was a soviet import, a children's magazine that probably was an amalgamation of reader's digest, tinkle and amar chitra katha, all rolled into one. Misha was printed on glossy waxed paper and had a touch and feel that was ethereal. I got to read them from a neighbour who got them from a shop keeper who bought and sold old magazines. I remember the first time I actually lay my hands on a book printed entirely on waxed glossy paper. A Indo-Soviet fair was in town and my dad one evening returned home with a hand full of books. The books ranged from history of the world to the wonders of astronomy. The astronomy book especially, had amazing pictures and a smell that felt so 'foreign'. Even though I never read all of those books completely, I cherished having them even if I only flipped through the pages to see all the pictures. Twenty years later, my dad and I living in two corners of the world get to read the same National Geographic magazine. The same glossy prints, the same foreign smell. Twenty years of technology and information revolutions have finally made our planet as equitable as it has ever been.
That is why I consider the National Geographic a piece of art. Yes it portrays nature, yes it does wonderful philanthropic work as a society, but my personal reason tops the list of why I cherish the magazine. To this day, whenever I buy a new book, I smell it because it instantly brings back childhood memories. I have had people make wierd faces at me for doing that in the middle of a book store, but hey, what do they know!

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