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I vaguely remember my first encounter with the colourful world of magazines. It took place in the neighbourhood doctor’s clinic.

While she went through the patients, the rest of us would sit waiting with our numbered, hand-scribbled chits and sicknesses, huddled in a room with a pink band running around the musty ceiling. I was the only one who reached for the pile of tattered papers on the centre table.

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Unfortunately, the most vivid memories I have of those reading sessions feature a print anomaly that has managed to survive since donkey’s years ago – Grihshobha.

The best part in that melodramatic Hindi magazine was the fiction page which told stories that were like watered-down Savita Bhabhi shenanigans. (I haven’t seen a copy of it since, but I hope they are keeping the pages spicy.)

My next encounter was with a lovely India Today publication called Teens Today (ya), which I got so hooked on to that I joined the brigade of suicidal teens who wrote frantic letters to the editor when it shut down.

Something called Teenager Today exists now. While the former published articles on what’s the craziest thing a teenager can do, this one covers things like how to make your teachers proud. I think they got their age group all wrong.

The obvious natural upgrade in my print journey in the following years was travel magazines. It was a photograph of a village in Spiti Valley, published in Outlook Traveller, that sparked an interest in me to get off my tush and travel.

All that was a long time ago though. These days I can’t help yawning at even the cover lines. How is that we have Conde Nast Traveller, National Geographic Traveller, Lonely Planet and a dozen odd in-flight magazines all trying to sell us 50 ‘offbeat’ ways to eat a paratha in Amritsar? Why don’t they also instruct us in how to tie our shoelaces before leaving home?

Speaking of home, the number of magazines focussed on interiors and architecture has grown to inhuman levels.

Perhaps because they’ve run out of creative yet sound design suggestions, they continue to convince us that we can make our apartments bigger by steering away from bright colours. What about the joy of painting a wall purple with friends on a rainy Sunday afternoon?

Seems to me that food is the only magazine segment that fulfils some of the initial purpose of enticing the reader to act upon an urge created by the pages. All those glossy, stylised shots of tiramisus never fail to work their magic.

I won’t get into literary journals here. There are several that cannot afford to pay their writers but still manage to produce excellent content, but they are dwarfed by such masterpieces like Tehelka that produce serious words and also boast editors capable of hijacking other magazines’ headlines.

Earlier this year, in May, the Audit Bureau of Circulation released data that proves that the Indian print industry has grown by 4.87% in the last decade. This new info refutes the global trend of print dying out. But my question is, how much of the currently printed word justifies the killing of a tree?

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