It’s exhausting, just to think that we’ve completed a century in terms of the monthly issues of Varta, in a little less than nine years. Varta’s predecessor Pravartak came out 13 times in about the same time period numerically, but in quite a different time period socially.

Of course, it’s a grand moment! But it’s also a moment of exhaustion. When I upload this piece, it’ll be like breasting the finish tape of a marathon. A mental and an emotional marathon, and a physical one because writing and editing are as much perspiration as inspiration.

It’s a tiredness that mingles with quiet satisfaction, like melted chocolate on a warm cake. Yes, that’s a hint at a party in the making. Organizationally, there’ll be celebrations offline and online, banners and posts on social media, a new editorial team to be announced, new bookmarks perhaps to mark the milestone.

There’ll be some looking back, at not just the stories published in the webzine, but also the impact they’ve had on the lives of their creators and the readers. And then within the larger universe of contributors to the webzine, I have an unabashed special corner for the Varta Community Reporters in my mind. See here, here and here too.

I’m happy at a personal level, at having been able to do at least some of what I set out to do, and at having taken along many others with me. In fact, it’d be pompous of me to forget that the others too took me along with them on their journeys. One of the outcomes of these collective journeys has been Varta as you see it today. I hope my fellow contributors to Varta will also take this occasion to share their thoughts.

The change of plans right at the start (Varta was first thought of as a print publication), doubts and arguments within the Varta team, even break-ups and patch-ups with contributors – all have been worth the while. The outcome has also been in terms of providing continuity to the work started with Pravartak, a thread that’s survived through the times. So far, at least.

This is a daytime mid-shot photograph of a magazine kiosk on a pavement in Ballygunge Phanri in South Kolkata. The kiosk owner is seated next to a display of a large number of publications spread out on a wooden platform placed on the tiled pavement. Getting on in years, with grey hair and moustache, the owner looks at the camera with a slight smile. He is dressed in a humble pair of ‘kurta’ and pants, and sits with his arms folded. There are more publications placed around him, some of them hung on wires behind him. There are also a few stationery items like gel pens hung on a wall behind the owner. Just above the stationery is a small wooden frame hung on the wall with the idol of a god placed inside it. Close to the frame, three lemons strung together also hang from the wall. Another neighbouring kiosk, which is closed, some old sheets of tin covering a building wall, and a few customers at a nearby stall can be seen in the background. The photograph is tinged with a blue hue because of the sunlight shining through a tarpaulin sheet above the kiosk. The sheet itself is not visible in the photograph. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

The photograph above is of a kiosk at Ballygunge Phanri, not far from my residence in South Kolkata. This kiosk and its owner too have survived. One evening, in the summer of 1987, they would’ve witnessed an excited college-goer pouring over a copy of the now defunct Career & Competition Times.

The college-goer had won a For and Against debate contest on economic development issues published in the magazine (and a tidy sum of Rs.50 to go with it). That was the very first time he’d contributed a writing to the magazine. The thrill of that moment, at least a fraction of it, has also survived through the years. This seems like a good time to relish it again.

Read Varta@50 Says Thank You! ­– the editorial published when Varta completed 50 issues in October 2017 – Editor.

Main graphic credit: Arkadeepra Purkayastha