My problem with Outlook is that I’m addicted to it. And like all addictions which are bad, I develop withdrawal symptoms if I don’t get my weekly fix of left-wing liberalism coupled with large dollops of masala sex and mirchi violence. If one adds to all these mouth-watering ingredients generous doses of conspiracy theory, sensational gossip and eyeball-popping exaggeration, what more can a reader like me want over a weekend to escape from pressing household chores and parental responsibilities?
That’s precisely the problem. I got wild with my newspaper vendor—a fast-dying breed— because he’d often give me the magazine a day late. I just couldn’t stand being asked innocently if I had read so-and-so’s mind-boggling piece in the latest issue of Outlook and then feign ignorance. So I told my vendor to forget it. I’d trudge down every Saturday evening or Sunday morning to pick up my copy from our favourite neighbourhood stationery store. Then the worldwide web changed it all and the net became an integral part of our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined. But before that, my world had changed when I found a copy of the weekly with my then to-be wife. (She later acknowledged that the gadget that came with the annual subscription had done the trick.) Ever since Sunday passed away, I took refuge in the pages of my favourite rag/mag ignoring impressive circulation claims of competing periodicals. The Week was always a bit too south-of-the-Vindhyas for an eastern-northerner like me. Having worked for nearly three years in what was allegedly India’s leading non-daily publication, I started finding India Today too consumerist, elitist, right-wing and fluffy for my taste-buds. Open tried to be different for a while, that is, till dyed-in-the-wool Hindutva wordsmiths started dominating the discourse. I still do occasionally pick up these magazines, if not for anything else but to compare their content with my favourite product made out of dead trees. That’s why I crib because Outlook seems to be shrinking in size. And, just in case some of you haven’t guessed by now, yours truly pretends to be a professional hack who thinks his livelihood and the education of his children are dependent on his ability to consume copious volumes of information and peruse through a wide range of opinions on every topic under the sun. Which is why I wildly claim to all those who still believe me that I’ve read almost every other word that has been printed on the glazed newsprint used by Outlook. A disclaimer is due. I have occasionally been published by this weekly, in English, Hindi and also in its special Bangla Puja edition. On a few occasions, what I thought were absolutely brilliant story ideas were summarily rejected by some half-witted editors of this esteemed publication. But I felt truly privileged on a particular day when an article of mine printed in Outlook came back to me wrapped around a bunch of peanuts. That was when I finally believed that I had paid my dues to society, lived up to my late father’s expectations and what’s more, upheld my fundamental right as a free citizen of India as enshrined in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.