“I just can’t seem to get Lucknowstani off my head. Honestly I think I will start my own youth magazine also,” I was sitting behind the desk and talking animatedly with my dear roommate and close friend Priya.
“You must have said these words at least no less than twenty times in this past one month. Empty words, you are not going to start anything, I know you,” Priya in return scorned at me.
Honestly I felt very bad to hear these words. They did something to me and somewhere I felt that I don’t have an apt reply to her retort.I knew that I had to do something in real to provide a befitting answer.
That was year 2007. My engineering third year.
I got up and went outside, placed a few calls and after about an hour got back in the room.
“Tomorrow I am having the first meeting for my own magazine sharp at five. It is official, I am going to start my own magazine,” I spoke not excitedly but more firmly to represent my determination.
I expected her to scorn again but she didn’t. Something about my reaction had put her doubts to rest.
* * *
It was sheer madness. Absolute abject craziness personified.
A team had been formed of fifteen people but except for three people in it, rest all had very little to say or do. Which left me with only one option- to manage with a daily sleep three hours (at max).
I used to take two metros and one rickshaw ride twice a week to go see my publisher who would be like, “It will take some time to start the work.” He needed forty thousand in cash to print the magazine. Money was an issue. Priced at meagre ten rupees I knew my magazine would not supplant the whole stack required. Advertisements were the only natural reply.
“We have been giving advertisements in these Noida and Greater Noida plus plus. They take only five hundred rupees from us for a large ad print. We are happy with them,” not one but almost all possible businessmen we approached replied.
We begged, we smiled our most obsequious expression but all in vain. After roaming around in the sun for as much as a month and approximately five hours each day we finally received some support. A bike showroom with its cover page advertisement and some itsy bitsy more. Twenty five thousand in hand. Rest fifteen, I am not thinking for now.
“You would be semester detained this year,” came the crisp response from all my teachers. I didn’t care. I had to make it big in a different field. I wasn’t bothered what they thought and what happened to me that year. I was going a little mad, I agree.
“How much will you charge for designing?” I gasped.
“Ten thousand rupees. I have designed India Today and what not. This is also less, you people are college students so I am asking for a lot from you,” the bespectacled man spoke from behind his desk.
Corel draw 13. Yes I had to save ten thousand rupees. So I learnt how to use the software and began the whole designing process myself.
“Who will write what articles?” the meetings for editorials usually began with these questions and soon we had summed up the division.
After a whole day running from publisher to marketing to garnering advertisements, I would get to editing articles. And I never had to ‘edit’ any because I always ended up rewriting them as whole.
Almost all articles had been written by me. But being a single person owner, I knew that if I wrote my name below every piece the magazine would see doomsday. So I went ahead and scattered the articles under many names. Randomly giving credit to people who didn’t even have any idea that their names would be published. Only to give it a professional outlook. And retained the cover story and another article under my name.
Story behind cover story. The cover story was “Can we have a Michael Moore In India?”
“Madam, we have to print all the magazines by tomorrow nine in the morning. We need the cover page we don’t have that. Rest all you have sent,” publisher calls at ten in night.
Freaking out for the first time in the entire month of this enterprise, I finally broke down. I was at a friend’s apartment going through some work related to the magazine and suddenly this call arrives. For the first time I lost my confidence in everything.
“If you won’t submit we might as well skip the printing. You can take your money back,” he had finished the call on this note.We all remained quiet, no one knew what could be done in less than twelve hours.
“I have an idea,” after the hysteria got over I began to speak.
And so after about an hour we had picked up three models (my best looking college seniors) in a dilapidated maruti 800 and we were off to India Gate for a photoshoot.
“I would need to print the poster for Fahrenheit 9/11 for the picture,” I spoke sheepishly.
The car was packed with six boys and I was of course the only one sitting comfortably in the co pilot seat.
“Let’s go to Jamia side. My girlfriend is in an architecture course and the printer her side remains open all the time,” one of the boys (model) spoke.
And so approximately at about two in the night we went to this printer who from a file downloaded from the internet, printed out the poster of Michael Moore’s epic documentary.
And at three in the night the “photoshoot” got over.
* * *
Distribution. Yes how did we do that? We didn’t have money to invest in a professional distributor. So guess what we did.
We divided magazines amongst ourselves and went outside prime locations in NCR like Saket, Wave cinemas Noida, GK, etc and stood outside selling them hand to hand. That was something. We got screamed at, sometimes mocked at. Then it was a weekend so the whole college was roaming around which made things more awkward. But we sold. We sold like we had no tomorrow. And surprisingly most people appreciated our work. Plenty took our contact details to provide personal feedback.
That was the highpoint of the whole thing. To finally see in your hands a product worth ten rupees. It might sound little but to ask someone to shell out ten rupees for a magazine is a huge thing. Nobody is interested.
And that finally spelled the completion of first successful cycle of Subzero magazine.
* * *
The magazine continued for a while and then placements landed in college so almost the whole team lost interest. I was devastated when we finally accepted that it had to shut shop and for years I never spoke about it to anyone. In my resume too I underplayed the whole element though it always managed to catch people’s eyes.
And now I have finally stepped into professional writing (hopefully would see my words in print again) and I realise that it had taught me so many things. So many things about life and writing that no one can now take away from me.
It told me that if you can create something that even one person is ready to pay for, you have achieved a huge feat.