Ajantrik is the magazine we published during college days.
What is Ajantrik? The simple (and incomplete) answer would be, Ajantrik is a Bengali newsletter turned magazine published by a handful of students from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. The more comprehensive answer would be, Ajantrik is a conglomeration of many things. It is a concept, a vision and challenge for several people to uphold the cause of their beloved mother tongue.
This is the era of a peculiar type of neo-cultural colonialism. Along with the rest of the world, India has conjured up her own kind of McWorld, where the generation-X youth swears by MTV, speaks Hinglish, drinks cola and dreams Bollywood. Naturally, this kind of cultural trend was very much prevalent amongst the upwardly mobile students of IIT when a handful of Bengali students conceived Ajantrik (meaning Beyond Mechanical in Bengali). All they wanted to do was to create a platform, which would serve two purposes. First, it would create a common meeting ground for all the students who were still proud of their Bengali origin (number of such students were dwindling at a dangerous rate at that time). Secondly, Ajantrik was supposed to maintain a parallel cultural identity, which would retain its separate existence from the so-called MTV-culture, and to which every Bengali student could relate herself.
Any cultural platform requires a concrete manifestation, and Ajantrik was published as a wall-magazine in the beginning of 2001. And so it was, a wall-magazine having six or seven pages that was published once in a semester. But the enthusiasm it created was unprecedented. Ajantrik contained mature editorials addressing issues like immigration-problems, poems, articles and stories of myriad kinds, news-clips and quizzes centering around Bengali culture, and even results from campus-wide opinion polls. Though not parochial at all, Ajantrik silently drove the point home that many Bengalis still love their roots, and can thwart the McIndia juggernaut with an equally strong cultural force. The only limitation of Ajantrik was its scope. Its circulation was limited to only a few students and professors of IIT, Kharagpur, while rest of the planet was kept totally ignorant.
Then the big break came.
In 2002, Ajantrik saw a bunch of new editors, who, being more tech-savvy, immediately put the immense power of World Wide Web to champion its cause. Eventually, the website of Ajantrik http://ajantrik.8m.net became familiar to many of the serious readers and proponents of Bengali literature situated across five continents. And Ajantrik community grew to a size much larger than ever imagined by its creators. Meanwhile, major changes were taking place in the form and content of Ajantrik. We had more coherent looks, introduction of featured articles and a brand-new section on brainteaser. Ardent enthusiasm of the members of editorial board and unbelievable cooperation of some professors in the campus have finally made it possible to publish a Little-magazine issue of Ajantrik, complete with a cover-story on ‘Harano Shaishab, Harano Swapna (Lost Childhood: Lost Dream)’ in the Kolkata Bookfair, 2003.
After two years since its conception, Ajantrik seems to be in a far stable position than it was in the beginning. Ajantrik community already has seven issues to its fame, with another one due in April 2003. Most importantly, Ajantrik is no longer a campus magazine of IIT Kharagpur; but has an ever-increasing base of readers and contributors that spans from younger generations in various colleges of West Bengal to immigrant Bengalis living in the other side of Atlantic. And yet we know, Ajantrik has lot more to achieve. Till now, it has been only partially successful in fulfilling its very reason of creation. There are still many students in IIT who are not aware even to the existence of Ajantrik, or merely scoffs at the idea of a magazine as a platform for Bengali Culture. Moreover, Ajantrik has always been plagued by lack of funds and spare-time of its volunteers.
But did I mention Ajantrik was not a goal, but a never-ending journey? And it has been a rather interesting journey. Ajantrik has created the magic-land where we can bask in the pleasure of reading, feel the ecstasy as creative juice flow though the nib and at the same time feel proud of our strong cultural identity.
A dream called Ajantrik has changed all our lives.
Originally written by Subhradyuti Sarkar on Mid 2003
All this is now past.
Ajantrik was started and first published by Avik Sarkar and Soumyangshu Bhattacharya.
We took it forward. Our group consisted of
Arindrajit Chowdhury, Joydeep Bhattacharjee, Ranadev Dutta, Shubhadeep Roy, Somesh Prasad Roy, Subhradyuti Sarkar, Sudip Sarkar, Sujoy Das, Tirthajyoti Sarkar and many more ...