posted by bishan samaddar
On Sunday, February 18, 2007, Kalam launched its annual literary magazine ‘Khola Baksho’ (Open Box). The run-up to the event had seen all of us really tense. The copies of the magazine did not arrive till about a few hours before the launch. After seven months of gestation, and quite a few days of labour, we were all really anxious to see the magazine, to hold it in our hands and stare at it like a precious little thing we all created. Two nights before the launch, our printer (and eternal saviour) Ronnie had warned me that the images used in the magazine had been scanned at dangerously low resolution, and would most likely look pretty bad once printed. Thus, my expectations were, sadly enough, quite low.
At noon, when Uma, our Design Editor, walked in, I could feel that she too was as tense. And then the copies of the magazine arrived. I tore open the packet, held the thing out, and sighed. It looked exactly like what I had thought it would look. I ran to Uma, and she was elated. She quickly flipped through the pages and screamed: “But this looks great!” It sure does! Pooja arrived at that moment, and she too was ecstatic to see the magazine! One by one the Youth Staff members started pouring in. There were a few (almost glaring) errors on the pages of the magazine, and we immediately got to correcting them. The event-flow for the evening was also planned. Mrityunjoy had interesting suggestions, which were unanimously accepted.
By the time we all reached the site of the event, the stage had already been constructed. But the background was looking a little blank and uninspiring. Bina and Sudeshna got to work at once, and soon the black stage was scintillating with alphabets cut out of paper, a symbol of Kalam’s essential association with the written word. The young poets who would read the poems had started to arrive. Soon it was 5 p.m. and the chairs had filled up with a diverse crowd. The Press had started to arrive by the dozens, much to the beaming satisfaction of Arundhati, our PR coordinator. I was having to run around from one mediaperson to the other. Anindya Chattopadhyay, a youth icon in himself, and member of Chandrabindu, the famous Bangla Band, had agreed to officially launch the magazine, and also conduct an informal tête-à-tête on stage with the published poets and the young editors of Khola Baksho.
Once he arrived, we started the show (although about 15 minutes late). Mrityunjoy was the MC. A box had been created with a copy of the magazine sealed inside, and Anindya had to forcefully tear through the box to pull out the magazine. Once it was done, once everybody had had a quick look at the inaugural issue of Khola Baksho, the young poets were given the stage one by one. A series of very smart presentations followed. Some of these young boys and girls were getting on to a stage for the first time, but that was never evident. They were bursting with confidence and pride as they read their own poems out to a crowd of more than a hundred people. In the interaction that followed, Anindya posed interesting questions at the young poets, who were eager and forthcoming with their answers.
Abhijit Lodh said that his poetry was like love, a constant companion in life. Rahul Goswami spoke of the “boiling blood” inside him and other young people that often expresses itself through poems and songs. Prakash Upadhyay was extremely happy to be on stage in front of the public, and said that he really wanted to be a Radio Jockey when he grows up. Monika Ghosh said that Khola Baksho has made a difference in her life because it has given her a platform that no other entity so far had. Priyanka Gayen expressed her confidence that Open Box will always be open for people like her whose voice doesn’t get any attention anywhere else.
On behalf of the Kalam Youth Staff, who were also called upon the stage by Anindya, Nargis spoke of the challenges faced by us in the production of this magazine, and announced assuredly, assuringly, that we will be progressively professional in the act of bringing out this yearly magazine. The event ended, as planned, at 6:30 p.m. It had passed off well. People had been buying the magazine like mad, and we had run out of all the copies we had. The weather had been fine, with no hint of rain. The young poets were happy. The Youth Staff were happy. We were all pretty relieved. It hadn’t been easy. After tearing through the box that contained the inaugural issue of Khola Baksho, Anindya Chattopadhyay had symbolically said, “It’s not easy opening boxes”. Well, we know.