“Little Magazine – Big Themes” – Talking to Timir Basu editor of FRONTIER

Frontier, started its journey in April 1968. The journal, founded by Samar Sen, continued to be edited by him till his death in August 1987. It was a time of great political upheavals not only in the state of West Bengal but also at certain parts of India as well as the globe. There were uprisings everywhere. The students, workers, peasants, middle class people, every section of the society was looking for a change and Frontier was among the most faithful reflector of that period of turmoil. The journal was born in the city of Calcutta with a pledge to oversee the progress of those events with an open eye. The incisive analysis of the social and political events of the time is scattered throughout the pages of the weekly. The tradition is maintained till date. In the midst of various odds the magazine comes out regularly – 52 issues a year. The readership covers a wide spectrum of population including students, teachers, academics, legislators, business executives and white-collar employees and many others -in short whoever is interested in critical as well as informed views of society, home and abroad, free from the compulsion of any vested interest. The economic subsistence of the Weekly depends mainly on its Subscribers, Associates and Life Members. 

Q: Please tell us about your involvement with Frontier particularly about what attracted you to it. How old were you at the time?

Timir Basu: Well, my proper and somewhat regular association with Frontier dates back to 1979 though my first article, Contract Labour in Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC), appeared in 1975. Frankly speaking, in those days I didn’t even know the exact location of Frontier’s office. I used to send articles through Anrudh Singh, a veteran trade unionist. He was a whole-timer of the undivided Communist Party of India for many years. He is no longer alive.

What requires special mention is how I got involved in journalistic writing in the first place. After my release from jail at the end of 1970 I was searching for an identity to carry on social activities without being branded as a Naxal. I began to organize trade union movement almost as a whole-timer, without any remuneration of course, first in the CESC and then in a limited way in the West Bengal State Electricity Board.timir-1a

I was the secretary of the CESC Contractors’ Mazdoor Samity [CESC Contractors’ Labor Union]. Harenda — Haren Mukherjee — was the president of the union. One day somewhat casually I read an article in the EPW [Economic and Political Weekly, Mumbai] regarding contract labor engaged in ‘grass-rope’ making in Gujarat. It was a short piece but it provoked me to write an article on the plight of the contract workers in the CESC. So I sent a very short piece to the EPW without bothering about whether they would publish it or not. After a few weeks, one of my friends, a regular EPW reader, informed me that they carried my article. Later, I sent the article to Frontier as well through Anrudh, and Samar Babu too published it without delay. Incidentally, the Delhi-based Call, the Central Organ of the RSP, also reproduced it with due acknowledgement to the EPW. So I began to think the unthinkable — a label of a freelance journalist could be a good identity to carry on political activities. I requested Krishna Raj, the editor of the EPW, to send me a copy of the magazine in which my article had appeared. Pat came the reply with the request for writing on labor. I began to write almost regularly for the EPW, mostly on labor issues.

My EPW pieces created a lot of controversy, attracting rejoinder after rejoinder, court cases and all that. As usual I used to send some articles to Frontier as well.

One day I summoned courage and went to the Frontier office at 61, Mott Lane. At that time, only Samar Babu was there. After a brief discussion over this and that he asked me to contribute short commentaries, though he appreciated my EPW articles. So I began to write commentaries. Not that all of them were published. I was producing short write-ups in abundance, like a madman while exposing political bankruptcy of the CPM and their misrule. On one occasion he clubbed together three of my short pieces and made it a column — Calcutta Notebook. Well, in the initial days, Frontier ran a regular column Calcutta Diary. Ashok Mitra, a former finance minister of West Bengal, India, and Gyan Kapur used to pen it alternately.

In those days Bhabani Babu — Bhabani Chaudhury — was working as a part-time helping hand of Samar Babu. Proof-reading apart, he used to contribute edits and comments. After all he had a professional background with The Statesman. Bhabani Babu said, Calcutta Notebook being a column, should be published every week without any break. After that I didn’t look back. Calcutta Notebook became a regular feature, and it was well-taken by readers. Samar Babu once said that foreigners who used to visit Frontier office in those days would invariably inquire about Calcutta Notebook and its writer. Notebook ‘in good measure’ drew attention of Asoke Mitra (ICS), Samar Babu’s close friend as he wrote about it in his write-up on “Samar Sen” in the commemorative volume The Truth Unites, edited by another Ashok Mitra.

What troubled me most was how Samar Babu despite his weak health and advanced age had to manage a lot of official work as the structural arrangement of Frontier was somewhat complicated. And it is still so. Well, it is a Private Limited Company — Germinal Publications Pvt. Ltd. Germinal owns Frontier and Germinal is run by a board of directors as per the Company Law. In reality Frontier itself has no independent existence of its own, at least technically and legally. And Private Limited Joint Stock Company means all the mandatory compulsions of Company Law. Law is always against the weak and the small. Big shots don’t bother about it. Annual Return to the ROC (Registrar of Companies), Income Tax Return, Trade License, Annual Audit, proper maintenance of account books and ledger, regular recording of minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors, all these were a real headache for Samar Babu. As Frontier, or for that matter Germinal could not afford to employ a full-time office executive to look after company related affairs, Samar Babu himself had to spend a lot of time to keep company-related matters updated. Moreover, once Samar Babu said, somewhat disgusted, that his creativity would be finished because of the boring job of proof-reading. So I voluntarily began to share his agony and workload while continuing to write regularly and managing the printing press as well. In short I became a full-timer for Frontier, without any salary of course. As for personal expenses private tuition and freelancing in the EPW, and later in Business Standard (at that time it was an Ananda Bazar Group of publication) saved me.

Well, I was in my early thirties at that time. That is really not the point at issue. Many people, young and old, used to visit Frontier office and passionately inquired about Samar Babu’s health, Frontier’s condition, and so on and so forth, but nobody really came forward to help him in a positive way by offering their free service and suggesting practical steps to raise funds.

Q: Samar Sen, founder-editor of Frontier, was there when you got involved with the weekly. Tell us about some of your more interesting experiences besides the routine jobs at Frontier.

A: Professor Ruth Glass used to visit India once a year. She had some special interest in the Left Front rule in West Bengal, rather the communist experiment in a bourgeois set-up. After each visit, she used to write a comprehensive report “India Diary”. And she was well-known to Jyoti Basu, the former chief minister, Ashok Mitra and others. As she was always a state guest, Raj Bhavan, the state governor’s official house, was her temporary residence. She would invariably like to discuss political issues with Frontier, with a hope to understand our line of criticisms and arguments against the Left Front rule — or mis-rule. So I had to go to Raj Bhavan, and face her questions as Samar Babu was not very interested in such interviews. Barbara Scriber of Germany once made an appointment with Jyoti Basu to assess the social-democratic experiment in Bengal for her report to be published in Germany. So, before meeting Jyoti Basu, she came to our office and discussed at length about the past, present and future of the Left Front rule.Samar Sen

The French Consul General, posted in Calcutta, once came to our office to discuss political issues and understand the cross-currents in this part of the globe. His earlier assignment was in Japan. He was surprised to notice how Frontier was criticizing Government of India’s policy towards China against the backdrop of the India-China border clash. He admitted frankly that no French journal would take such risk by criticizing their government when the issue involved a foreign country and that too in respect of the sensitive border dispute. He invited us to his office for free discussion. Samar Babu asked me to go to the French consulate and face the situation. So I had to oblige the grand old man. He was a nice fellow. Incidentally I have forgotten his name. I was somewhat shocked to know that he was about to form his opinion on Bengal, based on reports published in second grade local vernacular dailies.  Anyway we spent more than an hour discussing Bengal, Communist Left and related topics. Frontier means voice of dissent, and they counted on it. One deputy Consul General from the Russian Consulate [in those days it was the Soviet Consulate] used to visit our office frequently to go through old volumes of Frontier as he was studying for a doctoral degree on communist movement in India. He was to submit his thesis to the Soviet Academy of Sciences in a year or two. And I had to take the trouble of briefing him about the on-going trends in the communist movement in India, the impact of Naxalism on the movement, and all that.

Q: What was the condition of Frontier at the time?

A: Well, financially ours was a case of hand to mouth existence. The same tradition continues unabated. Always surviving on a shoe-string budget! Most of the old writers deserted us. New writers were not emerging. Samar Babu was reluctant to talk to people who were distancing themselves consciously or unconsciously from Frontier. But I began to meet them separately, and requested them to contribute to Frontier and sought their suggestions for the rejuvenation of Frontier. Amiya K Bagchi, Asoke Mitra (ICS), Ashok Rudra, Ranjit Sau — I discussed Frontier with them. Almost a door to door campaign! Ashok Rudra used to stay at the Indian Statistical Institute (Baranagar) for 2-3 days a week. I made an arrangement so that he could write an editorial comment regularly.

Incidentally Samar Babu was so frustrated that he began to think over the worst scenario —closure. And at the end of 1979, once he was seriously pondering over the heading of his last editorial — “Enough is Enough”. I asked him not to write the obituary. And, from that point, I started to organize or reorganize. Initially, Probodh Dutta, a fanatic admirer of Samar Sen and a shareholder of Germinal helped me in reorganizing. He knew most of Samar Babu’s friends and important writers personally. He used to accompany me whenever I went to someone’s house for Frontier.

An Evening Air – Poem by Samar Sen

I go out in the grey evening
In the air the odor of flowers and the sounds of lamentation.

I go out into the hard loneliness of the barren field of grey evening
In the air the odor of flowers and the sounds of lamentation.

In the gathering darkness a long, swift train suddenly
Passes me like a lighting.
Hard and ponderous and loud are the wheels.
As ponderous as the darkness, and as beautiful.

I look on, enchanted, and listen to the sounds of lamentation
In the soft fragrant air.
The long rails, grey-dark, smooth as a serpent, shiver, and

A soft, low thing cries out in the distance,
But the sounds are hard and heavy,
In the air the odor of flowers and the sounds of lamentation.

Q: Please tell the way Samar da used to work as the editor of Frontier, the hardship he braved, the way he encountered those burning and bleeding times.

A: Samar Babu used to do most of the subbing [editing] and writing at home as I do now. At office he had to do proof-reading, public relations, some office work and a little bit of editorial work. At that time Bhabani Babu was also there. His main job was proof-reading and writing editorials, but not every week.

In those days Calcutta was crowded no doubt, but it was still not so difficult for old people to travel. Samar Babu used to travel in trams. It was convenient for him to reach office. Generally he remained in office for two hours unless there was some emergency work. Before my arrival he used to stay a bit longer. In fact disruption in tram services made his home to office journey troublesome.

Q: What were the circumstances that led you to the editorship of Frontier?

A: In the eighties we developed an editorial team, and Samar Babu got some breathing space. Partha Chatterjee, Sushil Khanna, Anjan Ghosh, Rudranshu Mukherjee, Swapan Dasgupta (The Statesman), Arindam Ghosh-Dastidar (The Statesman) were the main contributors.

Samar Babu was keeping indifferent health, and he somewhat hurriedly finished his autobiography — Babubrittanta (A Babu’s Tale). He had to spend a month or so in hospital. One day Bhabani Babu asked Samar Babu to think over the future of Frontier, because his health was not permitting to take so much stress. He was very anxious about the continuity of Frontier after Samar Sen. His suggestion was plain and straight. He asked Samar Babu to popularize my name at least as an official of Frontier on the front page.

Samar Babu was already working on that plan, which I realized later. As Samar Babu was very soft-spoken, he didn’t elaborate his idea to anybody. For quite some time in a planned way he was introducing me to his relatives, family members and very close friends like Asoke Mitra (ICS), Debi Chattopadhyay ( of Lokayat fame), Debu Chatterjee (industrialist), Santi Roy (documentary film maker), Kiranmoy Raha (a prominent activist of the film society movement and the holder of subscriber No. 1 position, which was a kind of honor he enjoyed), Khitish Chandra Das (Samar Babu’s cousin and a banker, their family was one of the owners of pre-nationalized UBI) and many others. Well, it was K C Das who actually structured Frontier’s (rather Germinal’s) organizational set up. Once he told me that he was “not happy about Samar’s appeal in the pages of Frontier for financial help’’. He was a company man and he wanted to run it as a company. They could not foresee the possibility of bank nationalization so early. He arranged over-draft facilities for Frontier just over phone. That was before the nationalization. Samar Babu didn’t have to face any procedural hazards in bank matters. Perhaps K C Das’s plan was to secure massive bank loans and modernize Frontier with an elegant office and a printing press of its own. And private limited company was ideal for it. At the start he was also on the Board of Directors. Germinal’s Memorandum & Articles of Association has enough scope to diversify business in areas other than publication of journals. Export, import, manufacturing… what not!

That Samar Babu was slowly but steadily preparing ground for shifting a greater responsibility to me became clear later. Robi da — Robi Sen, a Frontier’s man for all seasons, also confirmed it. Asoke Mitra (ICS) gave some hint about it in his piece on Samar Sen in the volume (The Truth Unites). Also, Debi Chattopadhyay, at a function at the Calcutta Book Fair, on the occasion of releasing some books of Samar Babu’s poems (Reprints) by Anustup, told me about it. He said ‘Samar used to show unusual restlessness and panic’ if some day I remained absent in office even due to illness.

One day I found my name was printed as assistant editor below Samar Babu’s name. Frankly speaking, I never thought of it, but Bhabani Babu heaved an audible sigh of relief. It was in 1983. In 1985, Samar Babu became seriously ill — perhaps a wrong diagnosis complicated the problem — and I had to look after everything, i.e., every aspect of Frontier production. After the demise of Samar Sen in 1987, the Board of Directors of Germinal — Robi Sen (Samar Babu’s cousin) and Anil Sen (Samar Babu’s younger brother) — decided to appoint me as the acting editor of Frontier. After a few weeks, I was declared by the Board as a full-fledged Editor of Frontier. Yes, in terms of years I have long surpassed Samar Babu’s tenure.

Q: You are associated with Frontier for a long time. How do you feel now about the weekly after so many years of your association with it? Was the attraction an illusion? Was it rewarding or bothersome?

A:  The magazine was virtually on the brink when I joined it. It was not that easy to run Frontier when Samar Sen was alive. It is not easy even now.

The Attraction was not an illusion. But I understood by associating myself with Frontier in the seventies that it was not possible for anyone else to start another Frontier despite its shabby look and ‘uneven’ content. Frontier acquired some kind of uniqueness in its own way. Some people in Gujarat once brought out a journal ‘Advance’ resembling Frontier. I mistook it as Frontier from a distance as it was displayed in a stall near Calcutta High Court. Nearing the shop, I discovered it was not Frontier, it was ‘Advance’. Well, I don’t know its fate. Perhaps it didn’t survive long.

Association with Frontier is both rewarding and bothersome. Rewarding, in the sense, I feel satisfied after the production of each issue on time despite so many hazards and handicaps that stand in the way of smooth functioning. But it is bothersome at the same time because I always remain under tension. I am always worried about its immediate future, not its distant future. Immediate future means ever rising production cost, staff salary (meager though), rising postal charges and all that. Perhaps this is an infectious disease I have contracted from Samar Sen.

Q: Tell us about some of your sweetest and bitterest experiences as the Frontier editor.

A: There are a number of incidents that can be called sweet. Rangnekar, editor of Business Standard [at that time it was an Ananda Bazar Group of publication] one day invited me to meet him in his office through his news editor Kuruvilla. I went to Ananda Bazar house and Kuruvilla introduced me to Rangnekar, a short man, known as a left-leaning editor. I found Frontier on his table. Well, I was not yet the editor. Rangnekar told me that he was regularly reading my articles in Frontier [Calcutta Notebook] and EPW. By showing me the latest issue of Frontier, he said, ‘‘Look, this is a neat, small production, I like it”. This was a kind of appreciation! The editor of Business Standard, owned by a big publishing house, considered it as a neat production!

There were always some Frontier addicts. Even today there are some. Maybe, Gayatri dee — Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak — is not an addict in that sense. Whenever the crisis situation reached the tipping point, I was in the habit of sending SOS first to Gayatri dee. She always came forward even after her retirement with positive help. Once she sent a short letter— “Don’t stop it, continue it despite hardships, we eagerly wait for it”.

These are all sweet moments — appreciation of my hard labor.

Jack Preger, a doctor by profession, was harassed by both Bangladesh and India governments for his voluntary medical service among the destitute — pavement dwellers in Dhaka and Calcutta. He wrote quite a few articles in Frontier and The Statesman describing his plight and bitter experience in conducting NGO work among  destitute. Left Front activists made his life miserable by not allowing him to do social service, rather medical service among the poor. He used to visit Frontier office frequently. One day he came to inform me that he was coming straight from the Bangladesh Deputy High Commissioner’s office, and there he found the latest issue of Frontier on the Deputy High Commissioner’s table. Quite naturally I enjoyed the moment with Jack Preger.

Q: You might have faced some odd moments also. If you do not mind, will you please share a few of those?

A: Yes, I had to face many odd moments during my long innings at Frontier. The most serious one was after Samar Babu’s demise. A sort of power struggle erupted for which I was not prepared at all. In fact, I could not think of it even in my wildest imagination. Robi da — Robi Sen — informed me about it. Anyway Samar Babu’s wife Sulekha Sen and the Sen family as a whole stood solidly behind me.

Q: How do you evaluate Frontier as its editor for so many years? Can you identify a few unique characteristics of Frontier?

A: Frontier has some unique characteristics, no doubt. Frontier never posed itself as an organ of any particular political leaning. Yet somehow some people, the CPM-people to be precise, branded it as a mouthpiece of the Naxalites, which it was not. Frontier acknowledged the revolt of the youth in the late sixties and early seventies; it tried to focus on new political and ideological thoughts; it hailed the break with the status quo-ist past and emergence of new forces for change. Very few people know how the Naxalite ideologue Saroj Dutta jeopardized Frontier’s circulation by issuing a mandate to the followers of the CPI(ML) not to read Frontier, because in his view, Frontier was actually a front of imperialism, the other two being the CPM-led United Front and Jyoti Basu’s favorite security establishment — the Eastern Frontier Rifles. For one thing many serious political activists of those days defied Saroj Dutta’s “obnoxious” fatwa and used to read Frontier secretly.

Samar Babu at no point of time wanted to run Frontier on a pre-planned basis. His idea was “let readers and contributors reflect on events, both national and international”. In other words it was a case of too much dependence on spontaneity and momentum. Bhabani Babu was not in agreement with him on this issue. Samar Babu’s fear was that by pre-planning he might impose something from the top. If anything, I have been following the same thumb rules since Samar Babu’s demise.

Q: How do you compare the days of Frontier between the days of Spring Thunder and now?

A: The days of “Spring Thunder” were turbulent. After all “Naxalbari” galvanized an entire generation for a radical change. Even bank employees and insurance agents ignoring their comfort zone were discussing revolution. Students and scholars were leaving colleges and universities, they were restless. Mao motivated a large number of young men and women to sacrifice their career; they went to villages to serve the grassroots masses and get integrated with them. As Frontier tried to chronicle the spirit and momentum of that era, quite naturally the magazine Samar Sen founded and ran in a humble way, became a source of inspiration to many.

But things are poles apart today. Nobody is seriously talking about revolution. Nor are they interested in revisiting the failed revolution. This is the basic difference between then and now. Social movements independent of party control are emerging across the world, challenging the system and status quo. Activists who are in the forefront do not have a long-term perspective. Their language of revolt has so far failed to the attract attention of the masses. It’s localism all the way! The issue of social change and liberation of the oppressed sometimes becomes bizarre and vague. Unless new slogans to attract the imagination of the young emerge, the situation won’t change for the better. Frontier’s crisis in a sense reflects the crisis of stagnation in revolutionary thoughts.

Q: How do you evaluate the influence of Frontier?

A: No doubt Frontier influenced a large number of young people, politicians, social activists in the yester years. And it continues to influence them though in a limited way. One example may be self-revealing and passionate as well. Political prisoners in Vizag Central Jail, Ranchi Jail eagerly wait for the next issue of Frontier. Sometimes they don’t get it because of prison hazards and postal dislocation. So they send post-card requesting our office to send the missing issues immediately. In their communication they say “our paper Frontier”. The statement “our paper Frontier” illustrates among other things emotional attachment they have with the journal. With great difficulties they send hand-written articles and letters for publication in Frontier. To them, Frontier serves people’s cause in its own way, and how to maintain that continuity is important.

There are many libraries and institutes that subscribe to Frontier and they keep bound volumes. We get repeated reminders from them to replace missing issues otherwise they won’t be able to complete binding the volumes. This postal dislocation is a serious problem. Our repeated complaints to the postal authorities have not yet yielded positive results. For them it is business as usual. We have lost many overseas subscribers because of postal dislocation.Front-cover-2a

Q: To how far, in geographical terms and in terms of type of readers, does Frontier reached?

A: In geographical terms, Frontier is still global. There are readers in Australia — academics, school teachers. There are readers in America, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, England, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and also in Africa. As for the type of readers, it varies. Social activists, journalists, human rights crusaders, political commentators, film and art critics — all are there.

Interestingly when China was communist, Hong Kong used to purchase 60-70 copies of Frontier via sea-mail. Having learnt this Sumanta Banerjee once said, “They might be China watchers from the West”. China watchers do not need third party assistance any more. They could do the job directly in the very heart of Beijing.

Once there were a substantial number of readers in Nagaland and Jammu and Kashmir. During Assam agitation many road-side vendors lost their business and Frontier lost circulation. Despite the fall in circulation Frontier goes to every corner of India.

Q: What’s the present condition of Frontier?

A: To some extent the condition of Frontier is static. It is not expanding. The over-all situation is not a hopeless one either. Tragically the young generation is not reacting the way we reacted in the late-sixties and early-seventies. There lies the crux of the matter. Once I expressed my feelings to Samar Babu in the following way:
‘‘You didn’t ask us to read Frontier, but we read’’.

Q: What are the difficulties now being faced by Frontier? Is this, in your opinion, a reflection of the existing socio-economic-political reality?

A: I have already stated that the crisis of Frontier is basically the reflection of the existing socio-economic-political reality. Finance is the main problem. As we don’t get any advertisement support, even government advertisement support, we largely depend on life-members — sustainers — to keep Frontier going. Samar Babu failed to raise enough working capital at the start. So he had no option but to endure a hand to mouth existence. The same tradition continues unabated.

Q: Is it possible to make ends meet in Frontier?

A: Yes, it is possible. That’s why we are still in circulation despite heavy odds. It’s not possible to expand it in a big way. But it is always possible to grow in a small way with some comprehensive planning.

Q: There must be people within and outside India who stood by you at times of your difficulties. Do you want to say something about them?

A: There are many people within and outside India, who supported me at difficult times. Well, B R Bapuji and Ranganayakamma of Hyderabad deserve a special mention. They think Frontier must continue at any cost. They even borrow money from their sons and send it to Frontier. My friend V B Talwar of JNU never failed to support Frontier financially whenever I requested him to do so. Parimal Bhowmick is not known to Frontier readers because he is not a writer. Once he was in Bengal’s group theatre movement in the late sixties and early seventies. Incidentally he is a relative of Robi Sen. On a number of occasions Parimal saved Frontier from bankruptcy and helped us  tide over legal complexities which were really very tough and frustrating. He has been supporting Frontier silently without receiving the limelight in any forum, ever since I took over the entire charge in 1987. Then Gayatri dee — Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is always there to stand by me in times of crises.

I K Shukla was a real Frontier addict. Even after retirement he never forgot to send his monetary contribution. Whenever I sent SOS in respect of Frontier’s financial crisis he responded positively. I was not aware that he was suffering from cancer. A cheque of US $25 came with a short note that he was not in a position to contribute more because his wife was seriously ill [she too was suffering from cancer] while suppressing his own ailment. After a few days I got the news that he was no more.

Shukla’s friend and co-worker Maharaja Kaul was also a Frontier addict. Shukla was a prolific writer but Kaul was not. Basically he was an organizer, promoting education for the weak and the needy. I cannot forget their emotional attachment.

Perhaps the readers of Frontier’s early days know the name of Karrim Essack. He was a regular contributor. His area of specialization was Africa. He was based in Tanzania. Originally a native of Gujarat he was a member of the banned South African Communist Party but had to flee his country of adoption because of police repression and witch-hunt by the apartheid regime. By profession he was a lawyer. He was so emotionally attached to Frontier that whenever he visited India, he never missed any chance to come to Frontier’s office. After Karrim’s demise, his wife Pamela Essack used to keep in touch with Frontier. She was also a member of the underground South African Communist Party. They are all gone. They all treated Frontier as their own voice.

Q: Publication of a magazine involves lots of diverse tasks like keeping in touch with writers, collecting articles, selecting-editing-preparing press-copy, liaising with press, proof-reading, mailing & distribution, finding finance, handling of money & daily book-keeping, accounting & auditing, maintaining office, daily correspondences, attending visitors, collecting advertisements etc. Who does all these jobs?

A: Initially Samar Babu had a few helping hands, including three regular office employees. Right now we have just two employees excluding Timir Basu and a part-timer. I have to bear the entire burden. Once there was a person who used to collect advertisement on commission-basis, but right now there is nobody to do the job.

Q: May we get an idea about the average day of the Frontier-editor, i.e., the way your day begins with the duties related to Frontier, and the way it moves up to evening or night?

A: Well, my day beings at 5:30 am, no matter whether it is summer or winter. I continue to maintain my school-day habit of sitting with books and writing materials in the morning. As for the day I shuttle between the printing press (DTP Centre) and the office. For half an hour [1.30 pm –2.00 pm] I go to the Central Avenue Coffee House, just for a cup of black coffee. I take full meal once a day — at 11:30 pm and never go to bed before midnight.

Q: Don’t you feel that Frontier‘s condition should be told in clear terms as it reflects the society’s failure to support a worthy weekly?

A: Yes, Frontier’s condition should be told in clear terms. The problem has been there right from the beginning. It had a commercial (or at least semi-commercial) approach, and yet there was no infrastructure to project and maintain that approach. Over the years the situation has worsened and reached such a pass that now it seems increasingly difficult to manage it in old ways.

Q: What’s the way out of the difficult situation that Frontier faces?

A: We must try to motivate younger people and understand the requirement. There is no denying the fact that we are wandering in political and ideological wilderness. Maybe, we are failing to reach them. Bad things can be turned into good. So said Mao. But so far we have failed to translate the dictum into action. But then there is no short-cut. The road to hell or heaven is equally hazardous.

Q: What will be your message or call to Frontier readers?

A: Never say “No”. I never say “No” even in difficult times and that’s why Frontier is still in circulation.

The interviewers are grateful to Nilanjan Hazra for the help in editing. The interview was carried for the first time by Frontier on-line on January 19, 2016.


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Rabin Chakraborty is associated with Frontier editing its on-line edition and while Farooque Chowdhury is a freelancer from Dhaka

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