New Delhi: Whether on a train ride to one’s grandparents’ house at the start of summer vacations or at home spending afternoons lazing indoors, one companion children in India, especially those in the Hindi belt, could rely on was Nandan. The children’s magazine was a favourite with young readers right from its inception more than five decades ago.
However, as the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the media and publishing industries in India, the Hindustan Times group decided to discontinue the publication of Nandan.
Launched by India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1964, the magazine featured him on its first cover. “He passed away before the magazine could get published in the month of November, however, his photoshoot with Nandan was already done. The first edition was a tribute to India’s first Prime Minister who was a favourite with children,” Kshama Sharma, former editor of Nandan, tells ThePrint.
Modern yet still a classic
Nandan‘s appeal lay in the fact that it offered a combination of the traditional and the modern in its stories, poems, interactive columns and educational content. “There was a craze for the magazine. I read it in the ’60s and ’70s when I was a kid, and later got it for my kids during the ’80s and ’90s. It is sad that the tradition won’t continue any longer,” says 65-year-old Usha Goswami, a homemaker from Amritsar. “The ‘spot the 10 differences’ segment was first started by Nandan only. And I remember that during our time, former prime minister Morarji Desai used to answer children’s question,” she reminisces.
Sharma recalls, “I spent 37 years of my life working with Nandan. I joined as a trainee and reached the position of editor, and the journey was rewarding. We have seen Nandan grow. Although women were only a small part of the team, the whole atmosphere was very encouraging”.
Every day was exciting, she says, adding, “We used to read world literature — classics, popular children’s stories, mythological stories like those from the Panchatantra and Hitopadesha, to be included in Nandan.”
Initially, the magazine featured mostly mythological stories of sages, kings, deities and demons. Over time, the content was changed to suit the evolving readership. “I remember reading the stories of sages and sadhus, but I also remember being introduced to children’s world literature and folktales in the form of translated stories,” Rashmi Bhardwaj, a retired teacher based in Chandigarh, tells ThePrint.
“This was our prized possession. The only books we ever had apart from our syllabus books were these. Once, cleaning the school library, I found some rare and old editions of Nandan and thought that I had got hold of some precious treasure,” Bhardwaj notes.
Ayushi Deb Roy, a research scholar at IIT Delhi and avid reader, recalls how Nandan helped her develop the habit of reading. “I used to go with my dad to buy the magazine every month, that and Champak, and I think they’re a major influence on how I developed my love for reading at a young age. The stories, colouring section and jokes were really entertaining for the six- or seven-year-old me. And I really used to look forward to reading them.”
“I also liked my dad more because he used to take me to this shop that sold magazines like this and he would let me pick up the magazines I wanted to read — sometimes two, but when tight on budget, one,” she recalls.
Children’s literature taking a back seat
After more than 50 years of providing dedicated companionship and service to Indian children, the magazine was closed for printing this August. When ThePrint reached out to Nandan’s editorial team, they declined to comment, but many noted personalities from Hindi literature have expressed disappointment over the discontinuation of the magazine.
बंद होनी ही थी नंदन। लम्बा समय हुआ किसी बच्चे को पढ़ते नहीं देखा इसे। अंग्रेज़ी माध्यम से पढ़ते बच्चों को माँ बाप अंग्रेज़ी में हैरी पॉटर पढ़ते-देखते ख़ुश होते हैं। उससे टाइम मिला तो गेम हैं। और बड़े हुए तो WhatsApp।
पत्रिका बंद नहीं होगी तो और क्या होगी!
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हिंदुस्तान टाइम्स से नंदन, टाइम्स ऑफ़ इंडिया से पराग और इंद्रजाल कॉमिक्स, दिल्ली प्रेस की पत्रिका चम्पक, दक्षिण से चंदामामा, प्रकाशन विभाग की बाल भारती की स्मृतियाँ अब भी हरी हैं। कुछ में लिखा भी। एक लोटपोट थी जो मुझे कभी पसंद नहीं आई। न अमर चित्रकथा। https://t.co/CrA7JOHKq6
— Om Thanvi (@omthanvi) August 28, 2020
Due to a drastic drop in sales in the 2000s, HT Media sold Nandan to its subsidiary Hindustan Media Ventures in 2009. Kshama Sharma says it is unfortunate that children are not a priority anymore for various publication houses. “I remember reading in a UNICEF report that children are ignored because they cannot vote. I agree with that,” she rues.
“The sales started dropping after the last decade of 20th century. Many such magazines got closed. Nandan was the only children’s magazine at the national level that continued for over 55 years, that is partly because K.K. Birla, the owner of the HT Media group, had some special emotional attachment with it,” says Sharma.
“Children don’t like such content now. They are engrossed in virtual reality and video games. Their reading time has decreased. Who knows if there will be another magazine like Nandan in the future, and even if there is, if it would still be popular among kids,” muses Goswami.