Retrograde. Bamboozlement! More Bamboozlement!

Vintage Edition of The Reader’s Digest from 1972

The cover of The Reader's Digest in its first issue published in February 1922 announced:


The magazine, now published in more than 50 editions in 21 languages across more than 70 countries reaching almost 100 Million people, has since had the same central theme.

The image at the top is of the Indian edition of The Reader’s Digest Vol. 100 No. 599 March 1972. In 1972, the magazine, then published in 13 languages, was celebrating its 50th Anniversary.
In the same year, the United States Government gave DeWitt and Lila Wallace Medal of Freedom, its highest civilian honor. In his presentation speech President Nixon mentioned that the award was being given to them for their “ towering contribution to that freedom of the mind from which spring all our liberties.” Watergate soon broke water on June 17, 1972 with the arrest of five men for breaking and entering into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel complex in Washington, D.C.

The March 1972 issue had greetings from World Statesmen, it reads like who’s who of the time. The Statesmen who sent in their greetings included Richard Nixon (U. S President), Rt. Hon Edward Hearth (Prime Minister of Great Britain), Jacques Chaban-Delmas (Prime Minister of France), Eisaku Sato (Prime Minister of Japan), King Hussein I of Jordan, Willy Brandt (Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany), Golda Meir (Prime Minister of Israel), Juan Carlos (Prince of Spain) and Rt. Hon William McMahon (Prime Minister of Australia). While all the others mostly talked in a formal tone about how its reach spread to million, spreading knowledge, removing ignorance, bringing forth better understanding among humans and so on so forth, the comment of Japanese Prime Minister and King Hussein offered a glimpse into what the magazine meant to non - western nations and developing nations.
Japanese Prime Minister Sato said:
“ I was impressed when barely a year after the termination of the Second World War, the Japanese edition of the Digest was published in Japan. Isolated from foreign publications during the war years, a great many Japanese read avidly through the pages of this informative magazine and have been, since the, faithful readers.”
King Hussein of Jordan had this to say:
“ Since my tender years, I have been impressed by the easy reading and yet captivating features published in this handy magazine, which was available and within easy reach of all.”

The scenario in India must have been no different and it must have found its readers who wanted to read its condensed and compact articles. The first Indian Edition of the magazine was published in 1954 and had a circulation of 40,000 copies. In 1972, a princely sum of Rs. 42 a year was the subscription rate (that included postage). That year, the Editor for the Magazine was a British national - Michael R. S. Randolph. The Resident Associate editor for the magazine was Rahul Singh, son of Khushwant Singh. He was the Magazine’s first Indian Editor. Rahul Singh went on to be the editor for The Indian Express and Khaleej Times and authored a book "Khushwant Singh - In the Name of the Father".

Earlier, the Indian Reader's Digest was published here under a licence granted by the US-based Reader's Digest Association Inc. to RDI Print & Publishing Ltd, a 100 per cent Tata owned company. The Reader's Digest is now published in India by Living Media India Ltd., and sells over 600 thousand copies - a Fifteen fold increase to the circulation figure of 1954.

To write in the Digest’s language:

How I saved a Magazine and lived to tell it?

About 7-8 years ago, an elder cousin of mine was about to get married and his folks were having a big house cleaning party. On this particular day, much to my own dismay and to the disgrace of my lazy disposition, I decided to give them a little hand. Maybe the good sunny weather was to blame. I would never know but I would always be glad because, my act of revolt against my own nature proved to be a blessing in disguise, and out popped this ancient magazine from one of the old wooden drawers that contained my cousin’s old school books. I was obviously excited knowing the magnitude of my discovery. My joy was heightened by the fact that the state of the magazine wasn’t too bad except for the fact that the magazine had clearly been to an Indian tea party; an ordeal it survived but in the process getting only some nasty tea stains that mercifully hadn’t penetrated all the pages. In my heart I knew that the magazine had survived only because it hadn’t been discovered, no body from that house knew about its existence in a secret dark corner. At that very moment, I knew that by discovering its hiding place I had put its existence in danger. I knew that a stinking dustbin, wet with leftover daal of previous night was waiting to receive the magazine, keeping its retractable mouth open. If I won’t act soon the orphaned magazine would die an unknown and horrible death. I called upon the evil deep inside my heart to help me. And then the miracle happened. I heard a voice as clear as the one that I heard some years later coming from a Digital Dolby System. The voice, “ To steal a book is not a Crime”. At that exact moment, I found a reserve of some unknown strength in me and I carefully sneaked the magazine inside the safety of my Bangladeshi shirt. I went around the house the whole day without any one knowing what was going on deep inside my shirt. Once home, I hid it at a secret dark place of my own. This was the day when I saved a magazine. I forgot all about it until now. Recently, I heard about other magazines, which who too went through similar if not as much horrid ordeal. I heard that their stories are being scanned and beamed up for posterity on this medium called blog. This is great. Also, I remembered that the magazine had some great Vintage Indian Print Ads, all of then unique, that people might like to see.

What now?

I am going to post the Vintage Indian Print Ads at my blog.

1 comment:

  1. I was inspired by the Reader's Digest particularly an article about a life story of a personality from China who was born with abnormal condition. He could not walk. His sister had to carry him to school. As he grew up he to crawl to school. He a teacher he guide him very well in English. He started writing. Later one a person from the U.S.A visited him in his village. he had read his article in the USA. But the American was surprised to fine the writer handicapped and he could not move his legs. the American takes him to America and helps him put on an artificial legs and the Chinese fellow studies and completes his M.A. in English. Returns back to his native land and upgrades his primary school to High school. He teaches there. I thinks the school is still there. But he died after sometime. After reading his story. in the 70s I switch on to English medium from Assamese medium
    It's long time now I don't remember the name of the name of that personality and name of the village. But Reader's Digest that article is deeply imprinted in my mind. At times I feel missing something.
    i had bought the 50th anniversary issue also from a book stall. I gave a friend of mine. From his shelf it got lost. I feel the pain.


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