For that one unknown reader

When I first met Krishna Prasad aka Chithan and discussed The Wagon Magazine, the first thing I told him was that running a literary magazine was a fool’s errand, a thankless job at best. First, you would scramble for funds and when you fail to find any help whatsoever, you would put in your savings — a disastrous investment. Then you would run from pillar to post for subscriptions but would find no takers. They wouldn’t mind a free copy, though. But for subscription, they would stop taking your call. Even the authors you have published, they would be happy with their glory and their free contributor’s copies without bothering to ask how really you are running this little venture! We, of course, argued; agreed to disagree and that’s how we became friends. And of course, those days I was a bitter aspiring author trying to sell my book to a big-time publisher and failing miserably. I am still a failed author, but not bitter anymore. I have just killed my dream and I am happier for it. Oh, I still write, but not to publish. As I helped Prasad put together this issue of The Wagon Magazine, I am still convinced that running a literary magazine is a thankless job. I agreed to help Prasad because he believes in this venture and I am there to support my friend, even if the quest is foolhardy.

Then, as I was preparing the final document for press, I remembered me, as a 13-year-old boy with unreasonable greed for reading. The only place that could sustain this greed was the small district library in a small district town in Assam. I still remember how one day I found some tattered old copies of Soviet Land magazine in Assamese and copies of The Illustrated Weekly of India and Reader’s Digest in English in a corner of the reading room. I still remember the joy of holding the old copies and devouring them day after day. It was as if those copies were printed just for me and no one else.

Later, in my first year as an Eng Lit student at the University of Pune, I had the same sense of discovering hidden treasure when I found some old copies of Chandrabhaga and Kavya Bharati magazines under a chair in my teacher’s cabin. As if those copies were waiting just for me to be picked up and read.

Reading is a dead art now. There are other things, more interesting and important, vying for our time and attention. Yet, as I write this, I cannot help but be optimistic. Perhaps some of Prasad’s optimism has rubbed off. Despite everything else, perhaps there’s one single reader somewhere in the world who will someday find this copy of The Wagon Magazine and imagine that this was printed just for him and no one else.

If there is this reader, if there is even the slightest possibility that this reader, this one reader with all-encompassing greed for reading, then I would happily concede to agree, yes, this is not a pointless exercise; it has a meaning, a need even. And it’s worth the trouble.

This issue of The Wagon Magazine is dedicated to this reader, waiting somewhere, for this copy. Read.