November 12, 2007

The Flower in the Desert

This is perhaps the most difficult post in this blog till date. Not because it discusses anything world-changing but because this post is about something that once defined who I was; who I would become. This post is about a magazine.

Today afternoon, as I spent a lonely Diwali, a knock on the door delivered a courier to me from a village in Rajasthan. Inside it was my college, packed in the form of a magazine – Cactus Flower 2007. Once it was a tradition for the person holding the post to send a copy to the previous Chief Editors if they had been acquainted. But then things had changed and it was really a pleasant afternoon surprise. Unexpected calls and unexpected couriers often cheer you up.

Quite a few things in BITS had required a large part of my time and attention. But none matched the passion that a magazine had instilled in me. I still remember the day I took over the responsibility, green-horned and untested. It was a terrifying night; never had been a Chief Editor been from the Second Year. Yet, I knew this was my destiny and this would be my nemesis. I had inherited a magazine steeped in controversy, a magazine falling foul of both the administration and the Students’ Union. What followed was a year of scrounging, saving every penny to plough it back into the magazine, fighting tooth and nail for retaining its autonomy. All along I had just one conviction. A magazine is a mirror to the world that we live in and it must stay true to itself. I had to take a lot of decisions that under other circumstances I would not have taken. I imposed strict self-censorship. I let go of my dreams to have an all colour magazine to keep the budgets under control. I lost my temper and fought with the person who perhaps had designed the best cover for any magazine in the world ever, as a result of which our months of effort over summer holidays at his house and over the phone never saw the light of the day. (It was a time when I had to sacrifice quality for equality and every single day I have wondered if the decision was correct) I, for perhaps the only time in my life, kept my dreams under reins.

I had always believed that the Editors of Yesteryears spoke to me through their magazines and it was an old order, facing the tests of time. I was the last torch-bearer. And that made me more responsible towards the cause. I knew a change would be inevitable, hollow idealism would give away to practicalities and just to ensure that one day a new order would come up, my main task would be to keep the hope alive.

Thus was born Cactus Flower, 2003.

Whether the magazine I created, with one of the most dedicated teams I have ever worked with, was any good is perhaps of little consequence to you. What matters is that it rooted out criticism. The magazine was safe and my task was done.

Since then, the magazine became like a stranger to me. The winds of change blew everywhere. I was there like the old willow facing the winds and offering shade to whoever wanted to rest. But then the world was speeding past.

In my final semester at college, the winds of change continued to blow. But this time I felt a fresh breeze of hope. The people coming in had the zeal I had found missing in myself at that point of time, people ready to take on any challenges. One of them would become Chief Editor, Cactus Flower three years down the line.

As I opened the pages of this edition of our magazine, my mind travelled back ages to see Auro, Saha, Magdum and myself waiting breathlessly at the printer to have our first glimpse of the magazine. Shaking off memories, I read through the magazine, page by page, line by line, word by word. I have always believed that the quality of content reflects the age that we live in rather than the capability of the Editor. Where the Editor can make a difference is in its presentation and in delivering the main objective of the Magazine – making it a storehouse of the aspirations of the entire student community. And then it struck me.

The old order was back, in a new avatar. The man behind CF 2007 could any day have donned the hat of an Editor, even in the Brilliant 90s. I could see myself as a BITSian in each of its pages; I could feel as the Editor what he felt as he worked on his drafts late into the night. I could see the unabashed way in which he asserted himself in each of the pages, I could see his scrutiny on every word and I think I know exactly the errors he would come across a year or so from now and hate himself for having overlooked them before the blueprint was finalized.

I could sense myself making CF all over again.

Why is CF 2007 so special to me? I think it’s because it tells me of the immense talent in BITSians that still lingers on. It tells me that the Editor is proud again, proud of being the Editor. This pride reflects in his work, for this pride is borne out of love for a magazine, for an ideal, for a concept. CF is once again unapologetic, it is no longer scared to spell out what the students feel, without resorting to symbolism, without subtlety meant to safeguard ones back against administration. It is contemporary, yet it upholds all ideals that a great magazine must have. It makes the same ‘mistakes’ that makes a magazine, a magazine for everyone and not a Kubrick movie for the ‘elite’. CF 2007, it showcases the dreams that I had reined in 4 long years back.

Mr. Chief Editor Sir, I, Madhurjya Banerjee would have considered myself honoured if I had brought out this baby of yours.

As perhaps the last believer of an era gone by, I bow to the Cactus Flower Team, 2007, for having strengthened my conviction that what’s true is eternal. It just keeps coming back to us in new forms. They say some flowers in Rajasthan bloom every four years. Today, I saw a Flower bloom again.

I think this is what is called The Circle of Life.


Ojas said...

Very, very Nice.

I can imagine how honoured you must have felt after receiving that copy of CF2007. You deserve it. I remember my first introduction to CF in PD's room sometime in early days of our first year. He was cleaning his crate and gave an old copy of CF off to me. I read it. And I was impressed. Ever since CF just produced quality stuff.

When I look back today, I regret not contributing at all. I remember you had expected me to contribute a bit. But what the heck.. maybe that was the reason CF maintained its quality ;-)

I re-read the entire CF2k3 before writing this comment. Super talented contributors, and I am happy that I personally knew most of them. Here's to you and your team [insert a bow here]

Btw, Magdum has a blog, if you didnt know. Though as of now, it has the kind of stuff that one must expect from him initially. Here --

Can I find CF2007 online??

Immense Nostalgia Comes :)

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

@ Ojas - You not contributing to the CF was one of my biggest failures at convincing people :-)

Ojas said...

Some lazy ass not turning up for something does not necessarily mean a failure.

CJ said...

big big smile from me after reading the post. and when i thought the smile couldn't get any bigger i read the comment above me :D

Ojas said...


But then we did see glimpses of CJ every now and then in CFs, didn't we?