What are you reading this Sunday?

Shivaji Dasgupta
24 Sep 2023
New Update
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Representative Image

New Delhi: In an alarming twist to civilisation, the response may well be menus from Swiggy and Zomato. While truthfully, bespoke reading instigated by newspapers is still a viable possibility, not just hiraeth.


The Telegraph, in its original breezy avtaar, invited an entire generation to such delights, courtesy 'Colour Magazine' launched in the 1980s. Colour being not just a branding nomenclature but an apt metaphor for its liberal content, an entire universe away from the sternly preachy The Statesman. The latter famously emerging from The Friend of India, but clearly no friend of emerging Indians. 

This supplement was built with charming empathy, at an age when Sunday held humongous socio cultural meaning. A day of liberty, not just for the moody purse strings but for structured mindspaces, whether young or old. Many uncovered the joys of China Town courtesy Rita Bhimani's 'Eating Out', while Neil O Brien's quiz column incubated the living-room Torquemeda.

Every article was blessed with thoughtful perestroika and otherwise mild mannered folks vied ferociously for first right of reading. Households got exposed to The Telegraph courtesy this edition, an acquisition pattern emulated by others much later.


Over the years, most newspapers developed their signature Sunday content, whether connected or disconnected to genres. The Asian Age was a charming playground, a collector of curiosities both global and local. A well honed global network ably facilitated an effusive flow of eclectic content.

The Times of India stayed true to its pecuniary construct, a patently lifestyle cue dictated surely by researched customer centricity. Its main issue became bulkier as well, an a-la-carte ensemble of cross cultural stimulants ensuring everybody's interest.

The next big disruption was indeed 'Brunch' from Hindustan Times, in many ways the spiritual successor of 'Colour Magazine.' Vir Sanghvi's Rude Food was a delicious read and the lead stories betrayed a sincere yet light-hearted intensity. The Indian Express curated Sunday Eye as its opinion on this leisurely yet engaging subject. It's repertoire partially literary while otherwise slice of life, but invariably conversational. 


Even the financial dailies, in a concerted endeavour to stretch readership, discovered their rites of passage, Mint Lounge recently remarkable. Quite like ET and FE, there is a momentum for pleasantly crafted insights, unfurled as disruptive opinions, industry exposes and dramatic revelations. As if a cushioning interlude before markets reopen on the morrow, to build a reservoir of ammunition.

Regional dailies, at least from Bengal, arrived at the Sunday party with much aplomb. Anandabazar Patrika, the presiding deity, retains a literary hue, tempting the intellectual authenticity of the race. Sangbad Pratidin pulled off a silver bullet with its 'Robibar', choosing firmly the expressway of Pop Culture, albeit in a well endowed batter of definite depth. Ei Shomoy  follows the TOI defined Page 3 soul, while the others stick to a thoughtful flight path. Invariably enthroned in the comforting domain of the past, selectively forging a bridge to the critical and cynical today. 

Genuinely without exception, all of the above are present in digital versions as well, for those allergic to the crunchiness of paper. Thus, the alibi of unavailability non grata for those choosing to abdicate self enrichment. But this is a larger cultural issue, as best exemplified by digital-only news magazines who operate in universal growth models. Thus, not investing in Sunday Special content feeds, as both stimulation and business. Perhaps this is a underrated opportunity, patterns from ink actually useful for the brave new world. 


On culture though, the lament is slightly more dire, as reading is increasingly behaving like test match cricket. The T20 gratification of videos, messaging and  information miniaturization ( FB et all) is leading to a drastic dip in consumption of written substance. Often restricted to the domain of formal education only, as the mandate for co curricular engagement seems to reside in the seemingly seductive elsewhere. This is a red flag, not just an orange alert and the onus for resurrection must quickly be owned.

Which is exactly why Sunday supplements, in old or new formats, can become a necessary savior. Instigated not just by the crossover stalwarts but also the influential newbies. The lessons from The Telegraph Colour Magazine from the 1980s may well find suitable parallels in these hypersonic times. In that case, we were rescued from the drudgery of rigid convention and from a customer centric perspective, that is still the ask with newer adversaries. Timeless yet timely, like the James Bond series as a reference in contextual continuity. 

On Swiggy and Zomato, they surely enjoy the enhanced readership of menus on Sundays and good luck to every establishment enjoying collateral advantages. In life at large, the digestive palate needs to be urgently fortified, as foundation and not icing. Perhaps Sunday Supplements can be the messiah we dearly require.