Do you remember GrihShobha, Sarita, Sakhi, GrehLakshmi, Meri Saheli the local Hindi magazines and comics. Do you remember your mother subscribing to it, waiting eagerly every fortnight for the latest edition. If not your mother, you would have definitely seen your aunts or neighbor aunties subscribing to it. They were symbols of being a good house wife (this word was used before the birth of more sophisticated term Home Maker), mother and wife.
The latest designs of knit sweaters, cooking recipes, beauty tips, home cures, cleaning ideas. These ideas were simple yet brilliant, born over time and self-tested by thousands of housewives, how to use toothpaste to clean rusted brass items, how to add vinegar in your shampoo to make hair soft, quick ways to garnish food and make it presentable for the guests, seven ways to use wasted food, old bread and spoilt curd. These were the tricks of the trade every house wife needed to be successful, for a happy healthy household, intelligent children and a loving husband who worshipped your cooking, cleaning and caring. There was also relationship advise from Behanji (Sister) the quintessential Agony Aunt on how to manage your husband, take care of aging parents, keeping your in-laws happy and make a conflict free home. At times there were social messages on family values, health, wellness and family planning, the growing voice of a rising middle class of the 80s and 90s.
There were simple romantic stories of young love, marriage or family problems. There were written soap operas which had fortnightly episodes with each edition. There were special editions on festivals like Diwali, Holi, Navratras, Xmas, with special recipes of sweets, cakes and goodies, and what to wear on these special occasions, and the traditions and celebrations across the world. In between there was Holiday special with pictures of Switzerland, London, America possible only in dreams but our very own local hill stations like Shimla, Koofri, Manali, Massouri, Nainital which the middle class could afford. The housewives showed these pictures to their children and husbands and started keeping some money from their household savings to plan that special family holiday. This brings me to the write ups on being a smart wife with financial planning and saving tips. The covers carried decent pictures of good looking well-bred women, as a true representation of Bhartia Nari (Indian Woman) with occasional filmy heroines or models gracing the covers. And believe me when I say it hasn't changed really over the decades. It was for the women, of the women, and I am sure it was by the women. The content was definitely Auntish (meant for Aunties).
My mother would quote something from her GrihShobha or, Sarita at times to her friends on phone or kitty parties and this way the ladies shared their collective wisdom. When she tried sharing with us or our father, she found an uninterested audience. Although I enjoyed the cartoons at the back page like Chachi, Pati-Patni, etc with jokes on housewives or quarrelling married couples. I enjoyed them seemingly so similar to what happened in our house.
But these were neat magazines for good families, but there were other magazines too for other types of audience. One of such magazine was Manohar Kahaniyan. Whenever my mother and aunty who stayed in the upstairs house had to go somewhere, my mother would leave me at her place. Aunty had a much younger daughter so we hardly talked. My excuse of studying always worked for me, I could get out of going with mom to kitty parties (although it back fired when she didn't take me to a party for the same reason), or try to talk to neighboring aunty's daughter. I stuck to one room with my books in front of me but reading one of aunty' s magazine Manohar Kahaniyan lying around.
Their racy covers are indeed very inviting even for a 11 year old me. An ugly lady model in modern tight clothes (bought from Delhi local bazaar) armed with a sensual look, which husband wouldn't stare (tempted to pick) this magazine and which wife wouldn't notice her husband staring and then try to figure what's so tempting in that woman. The content was even more scandalous with steamy love affairs, illicit relationships, murder and criminal investigations. Each story perked up with steamy dialogues and rendezvous of illicit kinds.
Anyways aunty's husband was a lawyer so he probably talked crimes all day and this could very well be his professional publication. And I wasn't complaining because I had a good time reading these, they fueled my imagination and hormones equally. As teens all of us have had stolen hours of steamy lusty literature or visuals. I didn't read Mills and Boons but I filled my quota with a totally off beat pulp work. My mother will freak out if I tell her this, even now when I am way about the adult age limit. You say they are NOT fit for children at all. But I have read them and I just turned out fine. So, what the Noise! A 80s child with North Indian middle class bringing up, will identify with what I say.
Sadly, my mother stopped scribing to her GrihShobha and Sarita when we grew up possibly Hindi magazines and books don't help your Speaking and written English which was the gentleman's language. If you have to send your children to Convents and English medium then you have to try talking to them in English at home. It was around that time that our subscriptions of Hindi newspaper Punjab Kesari and Mummy's Hindi magazines were cancelled.
For years I have missed them but I never realized it. So that day when I saw the promo of Mastram in the newspaper, I remembered the magazine Manohar Kahaniyan and I knew I had to subscribe it. And I did, if you want to subscribe it too, you can do it online on DelhiPress.
These magazines do their best in the service of our language Hindi. Where the Indian authors are shifting to English writing and reading, there are these magazines which still have preserved and persevered the publishing of our language. Pulp fiction is an essential part of any culture and literature. It's like TV reality shows, more spicy, exciting and intriguing free from any rules of grammar, literature and critics. They address basic needs of any society and sometimes show the ugly side too. My final words…
Something we read in the privacy of our toilets, both men and women, and toilet literature is something no one can live without.
(Image source: comic-guy.blogspot.in; onlinemagazineshub.net; onlinemagazinesspot.blogspot.in)