It is well known that Bengalis have a weakness for literary magazines. Although I am not sure how much of this weakness can be attributed to their thirst for literature versus their thirst to see their name in print, but I am quite sure that if someone accounted for the huge number of Bengali magazines that are published around the world, the number would surely find a spot in the Guinness book of world records. There hardly exists any Bengali who has not been involved with the publication of a magazine in their lifetime. These magazines, also known as little magazines, often serve as the launching pad for many a literary stalwart. They challenge the establishment of big publishing houses and their glossy publications and offer their readers an alternative to the beaten path. They represent the dreams and aspirations of the Bengali youth. Unfortunately, most of these magazines are short lived and they whither away after few issues. In this country too, I have come across many such Bengali magazines which offered the readers a taste of their culture in print or in electronic form. Unfortunately they too did not last long. The primary reasons for their untimely death are lack of funds, lack of focus and lack of business acumen.
Recently another Bengali magazine has surfaced from Ohio, named Du-Kool, which roughly translates to, “two banks” of a river. The name suggests that the magazine would like to serve as a bridge between the Bengalis of the east and the west. If you leaf through the pages, you’ll find that a good balance of writers from the east and the west well justifies the claim. But the mission of the magazine is more than just serving as a link. It wants to be the key literary platform for the global Bengali. It wants to connect the Bengalis all around the world and become a truly “Bengali” magazine rather than a magazine from Bengal.
The full color, glossy heavy stock appearance of the magazine may initially give you the impression of a Durga Puja souvenir, but once you glance through some of the pages, you’ll realize that this is not an amateur effort at all. The layout, the organization, the illustrations, all demonstrate that a great deal of thought and planning goes into each issue. The magazine contains all the typical sections one would expect. A serialized novel, couple of short stories, poems, essays on interesting topics like teen issues or college admissions, interviews of well known personalities, Bengali recipes, glamor shots of models in colorful sarees, etc. A section in English caters to our second generation kids who would like to get involved. The stories, poems, essays are all of very high quality and contributed by some of the major names of Bengali literature. The editorial team of Prabir Das and Sarbari Gupta seems to be very picky about what they publish.
But the main challenge of such a magazine is to find a way to sustain itself. It not only requires a dedicated and focussed team of individuals who would be willing contribute a significant portion of their time to the cause, but also a steady source of funds to keep the engine running. The logistics involved in soliciting articles and stories, screening them, printing, distribution – all takes a huge amount of time and money. Currently Du-Kool seems to be mostly funded by annual subscription and few advertisements. This along with the high mailing cost makes the annual subscription fee to be quite steep. The publication team is working on this issue and promises to bring down the cost of subscription once they can work out the mailing issues and get their advertisement department up and running. The team is also launching an electronic e-Reader version of the magazine which can be subscribed at significantly lower cost.
But whatever strategy the Du-Kool editors and publishers may come up with, a magazine cannot survive without the support of its writers and readers. I’d like to request all global Bengali writers to send your works to Du-Kool. Du-Kool even pays a token honorarium to the author for each work they publish. Not too many magazines do that these days. And to the readers of quality Bengali literature, I’d like to request you to support this effort by becoming a subscriber of Du-Kool. By subscribing you are not only giving yourself an opportunity to read good work in Bengali, but also contributing to this effort of keeping Bengali language and literature alive and prospering in this world. We can at least do this much for our mother tongue. The website of Du-Kool is http://du-kool.com.