Outlook magazine’s idea of turning 18

India’s Outlook magazine has turned 18 which, in their editors’ judgment, is a milestone of some significance. They have tired to link magazine years with human years in a risible attempt at metaphor for something, anything.

Of course, it is good that the respected magazine has turned 18 but asking “18 top authors” to write about being 18 to commemorate its 18th anniversary is an obvious stretch. They just made it up.

When you look at the list of the 18 top names you suspect that some of them were never 18 while some others never ceased being so. So you take your pick. To be sure, 18 has zero significance. It heralds nothing, nor does it end anything. Reading some of the short pieces by the 18 distinguished names—and they have to be distinguished because I am not on the list—I got the sense that some of them had an unspoken WTF balloon go off when they were approached. Many of them are of age where the age 18 seems so far as to be non-existent.

Having entirely skipped teenage I have no particular handle on what it meant to have turned 18 but I suppose it is safe to say that it meant just about as much as it meant to be 36 and might mean to be 72 if I last that long. In short, nothing at all. I wish at least one of these top 18 authors had just written one simple line saying “Why are you asking me to write this?” Most of them being fertile minds with varied experiences were able to muster up something about the number 18.

Here is what I mean when I say that some of them had an unspoken WTF balloon go off when the magazine approached them to write. Fatima Bhutto, writer and political commentator of considerable erudition, said this: “I think of Damascus. The connection between 18 and Damascus, like all connections, is tenuous at best. I left Damascus for Karachi when I was 11. Age has nothing to do with it. I spent the summer of my eighteenth year in the city, as I spent every earlier and later summer. But if you ask me today what I think of when I hear the number 18, I think of the jasmines that creep down the side of Mezzeh’s buildings, brushing your shoulder as you walk by them.” Read the rest here.

Amish Tripathi, currently among the hottest popular writers in India, had this gem: “… if you ask me what 18 fundamentally signifies, I’d say that I think it represents wisdom. Wis­dom that allows us to give meaning to our lives.” Quite apart from the redundancy of “If you ask me” because Outlook already did, what does this sentence mean?

At least, Manu Joseph, editor of Open magazine and a respected writer, tried to be humorous even while avoiding to say anything substantial for free, perhaps saving it for his more lucrative (The) New York Times pieces.

In a devastatingly brilliant insight, Chetan Bhagat, the prima donna among popular Indian authors, said this: “However, little do we realise the gravity of achieving this stage—or adulthood. In some ways, becoming 18 sucks too.” Yes, yes, gravity does suck too.

And now I conclude this unnecessary post.


About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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