Pursuing priceless passion: In conversation with Saurabh Chawla of Storizen

My first post for 2020 is an interview with Saurabh Chawla, Editor and owner of Storizen Magazine, the only magazine dedicated to the Indian Authors.While Saurabh Chawla is a Business Consultant by profession, he has given shape to his passion  through his personal blog Saurabh’s Lounge and Storizen Magazine. He has always been inclined towards creativity. An avid reader, he loves reading novels specifically the suspense/thriller genre. He shares his creative explorations in his blog.

1. What prompted you to start Storizen?

Storizen started off as a media platform to help the writers in India to have a voice, to promote their opinions and help them reach the potential audience.

It was founded by one of the dearest friends, Mukesh Rijhwani who is passionate about literature and writing. As a team, we are passionate about giving a versatile platform so that the artist of today is not lost!

There were plenty of Magazines out there but none of them were able to cater to the needs of the author today and empower them. This prompted us to start off Storizen!

2.       Tell us a little bit about the magazine. How has the journey been so far?

Storizen is a Magazine aimed towards authors, writers, and the bloggers. We have a vision of empowering the authors so that they can post their voices, their opinions freely!

Storizen is a monthly magazine and every month, we try to bring in new voices, new opinions and upcoming news related to books and literature for our readers.

We re-launched the Magazine in March 2018 and 21 issues later, we are glad that we have been able to reach the 1.5 Million+ impressions and a whooping 50k+ reads digitally!

The journey has been great and is an immense pleasure to say that we have been on the TOP 10 English Magazines in the Celebrity Category and Top 30 English Magazines in the Entertainment category on Magzter!

We would like to thank our readers and Subscribers  to make this a possibility and we look forward to your love and support in growing the Storizen Family.

3.   We live in times when people are taking less and less interest in art/literature/reading. Your views on the same.

I agree with you here and yes, there is an issue dedicated to the fact that Readership is going down with time!

People nowadays have a plethora of options available that they are not giving any attention to a single thing. The distractions, over-demanding jobs, the social media era et al.

If you look closely, you are surrounded by a lot of distractions which can sweep off your attention in a fraction of a second.

The moment you become interested in one thing, a hundred other things are ready to distract you.

The best way, which I feel and do to curb this is to take the things one at a time. When I sit for reading, I focus on reading and keep other things at bay. It is slightly harder to start, but it will be fruitful for you in the long run!

You can read the Storizen Magazine issue highlighting the idea “Death Of A Reader” here – https://issuu.com/storizen/docs/storizen-magazine-may_2018

4.       How do you sustain this venture?

Storizen is a venture that is born out of passion and passion, according to me is priceless. It takes time to be in the market and to sustain the same.

Consistency plays a crucial role here and we thrive to be consistent with our passion. We constantly strive to work and improve with time. The dedication, consistency, and perseverance are the driving force in sustaining Storizen!   

5.       Our passion doesn’t always pay the bills. What would you like to say to people who would like to follow their passion?

The truth is often hard to digest. Being passionate about something is much needed. It gives you a purpose in life, you feel energized as you wake up in the morning and immense satisfaction when you lie your head down to sleep in the night.

Practically speaking, yes the passion can or cannot pay the bills. In the former case, you are lucky enough and keep following your passion.

For the latter, keep your passion alive but also make sure that you are living a life you have envisioned for yourself. For that, you need to work, you need to work a lot!

Go into the market and do your research. Get a job first so that you can sustain both, your passion and your bills too.

Once your passion becomes capable enough to sustain your living, go ahead and grow the same.

6.       Your future plans for Storizen.

Talking about the future, we have had an opportunity to tie up with some of the top brands in the market. We wish to strengthen the bonds and form new relationships.

As per the numbers are concerned, we are focused on increasing the numbers to three folds. We are constantly thriving to learn new things and implement them to grow the Storizen Family!

We are also currently exploring new avenues and will surely look forward to starting off with them soon.

Stay tuned!

7.       Anything else that you may want to add

I would like to add a message from my side in the New Year 2020 –

We all live only once and if you live it right, once is enough. This quote by Mae West has a deep message. We always run behind things which we may or may not like, are temporary obsessions or make infinite resolutions for the New Year and fail to fulfill them.

This year, please make a promise to yourself to keep up and achieve what you envision your life to be. Don’t rush on the things, commit to creating what you really care for in life!

Have a blessed year ahead.

Happy New Year!   

In memory of Dida

She was married off when she was thirteen. Daughter of a rich businessman from Rangoon, she traveled all the way to a village in Cumilla district of Bangladesh with her husband. After reaching the village, her husband, a manager in a coal mine, left her under the care of his elder sister to resume his job. Though her sister-in-law was caring, she would often mock her as the ‘rich man’s daughter’ who didn’t know how to cook. She gave birth to her first child at fifteen. She was a proud mother of 10 children – five daughters and five sons. Her husband passed away when she was in her fifties and she lived the next 25 years as a widow, wearing white and having only sattvic food. She was my Dida – my paternal grandmother.

Dida

I remember Dida sitting on the chaukhat or on the staircase next to the courtyard, in a completely white sari worn in Bengali style, her grey hair tied up in high bun, chewing pan and fanning herself with a hand fan made of palm leaves.  Her calm and loving face bore traces of the beauty that she was in her youth. In summers she would prefer not to wear a blouse and we would tease her endlessly for that. “It’s too hot, let the old lady be”, she would say.

After school I would chit chat with Dida for a while. I would tell her about my friends and the lessons while she would talk to me about Bengali literature, plays, jatra (folk theatre of Bengal), sometimes about movies of Uttam Kumar. She was a big fan of the Bengali superstar Uttam Kumar, I think she had a crush on him. Dida was a voracious reader.  She had read the entire volumes of Tagore, Sarath Chandra, Bankim Chandra and other prominent Bengali writers many times over. “Your father would get me books from the library. I would read every afternoon after finishing lunch. Sometimes there would be no new titles in the library, but I would ask him to get a book anyway,” Dida once said. Those afternoons with Dida probably developed my knack for literature. She would tell me her favourite stories, discuss her favourite characters with me. Soon I started reading myself, sometimes I would read out to her. For a woman of her times who hardly had any formal education, her views were modern and progressive.

Sometimes on those afternoons she would fondly remember my Dadu, her late husband. “Your Dadu was a man of principles,” she would say, “He was against dowry and would not attend any wedding function where there was any kind of dowry exchange.” Dadu had passed away even before my parents got married, whatever I know of him is from those stories. She would talk about leaving Rangoon as a girl with Dadu, spending the first year of her marriage with her sister-in-law while her husband was away at work. “She taught me everything, though she would taunt me at times as ameer zaadi.”

Dida was the centre of our family. Every morning mom would go to her to decide the menu for the day. While mom would take care for the non-vegetarian kitchen, Dida used to do all the vegetarian cooking herself. My memory of Dida is strongly associated with the flavour and aroma of her dishes – kochu bata, vegetable made from jackfruit seed, sheem (broad beans) and baigan sabzi and many more.  She would insist on mom serving us macher jhol (fish curry) everyday, something that I strongly resisted. As a girl I wasn’t fond of macher jhol, but Dida felt a meal wasn’t complete without fish. “I couldn’t eat even one day without fish,” she would often say to convince me to have fish. “How do you eat now?” I would retort. “I eat just fine,” would be her reply. I would sometimes wonder how she could give everything she loved one fine day and not complain about it.

Though widows on those days were not meant to touch fish, Dida would make an exception for her grandchildren whenever we insisted that we would eat fish only if she feeds us. I still remember the nights before a pujo (Lakshmi or Saraswati) when Dida, mom and all the other women would be busy making naaru, sandesh and other delicacies to be served to the goddess next morning. We cousins would hang around the kitchen hoping to sample some of those delicacies. While the other ladies ignored us, Dida would sneak some sweets out of the kitchen for us. “God resides in children,” she would say, “you need to give them first.”

On weekends, after lunch when Dida would sit with her paner bata (paan daan), making a paan for herself, with her transistor next to her listening to the play. AIR in those days used to air a play every weekend. I developed quite a taste for those plays and would listen to them with her on lazy Sunday afternoons. Picture of Dida is incomplete without the brass paner bata and the transistor, those items were always next to her.

We lost Dida to cancer when she was in her seventies, the disease that she dreaded. “I hope I don’t get cancer,” she would always say. Tobacco that she would chew with paan gave her cancer. Doctor suggested surgery. “Please don’t cut me up,” she pleaded. We respected her wish. On the last few months of her life she could hardly eat. She would break out in fits of cough whenever we tried to make her eat. She would never complain, just lie peacefully on her bed most of the time. Fortunately, most of her children and grand children were around her at that time. One morning her frail body gave in and she passed away peacefully.

This post is a tribute to Dida, a women who lived her life abiding by traditions and yet managed to hold her own and inspire the generation after her!

Pen Pals – The Magic of Letters

inland letterOnce upon a time, long before social media had taken over our lives, long before Snapchat and Tinder, there lived a girl Tirna, in a sleepy little town Duru tucked in between three hills and a river. She lived in a small bungalow with her parents and sisters. Her father was quite an important man in Duru, and Tirna and her sisters went to the best school in the town. She was already in senior school and would be going off to college in Delhi or abroad in a year or so.

Tirna was a young girl with lot of dreams. While she was eager to explore the world outside Duru and was studying hard for it, she loved every bit of her little town – the slow flowing river that would get wild during the monsoons, the green and gentle mountains, white and grey clouds playing hide and seek with the peaks, starlit nights when she would lie on her back and gaze at the stars for hours, chirruping birds waking her every morning, beautiful flowers that blossomed everywhere in Duru. But most of all she loved the moonlit nights. Moon light created a magic for her, and she would sit on the terrace for hours losing herself in the magical moonlit world.

Tirna loved to read. She would spend hours in the small library on the hill top devouring on Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Leo Tolstoy or Anton Chekhov. She liked to write as well, she would pen down her thoughts in her journal, try her hands in poems and sometimes short stories. Her writing was still very private to her, her journal was carefully locked away in her study table drawer, away from the prying eyes of the world. Tirna’s letters to her cousins and relatives living in faraway places were the only writings her friends and family were privy to. She wrote long and beautiful letters to them regularly, sharing little things and happenings around her.

One day, as she was going through a magazine in the library, she came across a small announcement in the letters section – ‘Make new friends through letters,’ and listed in the announcement were a few names and addresses of people who would like to make pen friends. Tirna found this very interesting, she picked up a name randomly – Ankur Roy, an engineering student in BITS, Pilani. She took out her pen and pad and started writing a letter to Ankur, telling him about herself and her life in Duru. She wrote the address and posted the letter on her way back.

Weeks passed, she had almost forgotten about Ankur and the letter. One day as she got back from school her mother said, “There’s a letter for you Tirna. I have put it on your table.”  The letter was from Ankur Roy of BITS Pilani. Ankur was having his 1st semester exams, hence the delay in responding to Tirna. He hailed from Delhi, was a topper from DPS RK Puram now pursuing engineering in BITS. Ankur never had pen friend before and thanked Tirna for writing to him.

Tirna’s excitement knew no bounds – her first pen friend, getting to know somebody outside her little circle, it was all very exhilarating. She immediately wrote back. Her schooling was coming to close and her parents wanted her to take up engineering, but she wasn’t very sure, she wrote. Her grades were good, and she could probably get into any engineering college, and that seemed to be the sensible thing to do. After writing those lines to Ankur, Tirna realized she has never shared this with anybody before, not even her best friend Payal. In fact, she has been scared to admit this even to herself, afraid of disappointing her parents.

In his next letter, Ankur urged Tirna to go for what she wanted, not be pushed by others. Being an engineer was his dream, he wrote, and he will probably go abroad after graduation. Ankur and Tirna wrote to each other regularly, about their dreams and aspirations, about their little romances. When the girl Ankur liked started seeing someone else he was shattered, as if his world has fallen apart. Tirna’s letters urging him to focus on his studies and telling him that he will find someone else helped him move on. Tirna started sharing her writings with Ankur, little poems, short stories. He was her first critic and appreciative reader. Unwittingly over the months, Tirna and Ankur became best of friends and confidante. They shared their wildest dreams and silliest fears with each other, in their letters they would bare their hearts out without the fear of being judged. They were patient with each other, encouraged and advised it each other. Maybe it was the distance that was between them, maybe it was the medium of letters that created veil of security and intimacy.

When the time came, Tirna plucked up courage to tell her parents that she wanted to pursue English literature. She has already applied to few colleges in Delhi and Kolkata for the same. Though her parents were upset with her for a while, they ultimately gave in. Tirna got selected in a college in Delhi and left home and the little town Duru to pursue her dreams. She let Ankur know of course, and he was indeed happy for her. Meanwhile Ankur was now in 2nd year, getting busier with his studies, but he continued to write to Tirna regularly.

One day when Tirna got back to the hostel after her classes, she suddenly heard her name being called out loudly, she had a visitor. Tirna she wasn’t expecting anybody that afternoon, in fact she was soon to meet her friends in the café outside. She went to the visitor’s room and looked around but couldn’t see a familiar face. As she was about to leave the room thinking that she must have been called by mistake, someone called out her name a little hesitantly. When she turned and saw a tall, thin boy looking at her. “Do I know you,” she asked curtly. “I am Ankur, Ankur Roy.’ Tirna couldn’t believe herself, Ankur visiting him of all people. He was on a short break, visiting his parents in Delhi. “Thought I would surprise you,” he said.

Tirna somehow had never imagined meeting Ankur in person, and surprised she was indeed. She did envisage what Ankur would like at times, and there he was before her, a tall boy with an intelligent and friendly face. Tirna took Ankur to the canteen outside the hostel, and there they sat talking for hours, giving physical shape to the friendly intimacy of the letters. They talked easily like old friends who have met after years. They realised only when the canteen manager came up to them and said that he had to shut the place, it was almost 10 and they have been talking continuously for the last 4 hours. Tirna had to get back to hostel as she had a 10 pm curfew. Ankur visited her again the next day, before catching his train back to Pilani.

Tirna and Ankur continued writing, they would often talk to each other on the phone and meet whenever possible. Their first meeting or may be the first letter, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that grew stronger with years!