Ahmedabad Visit! Chakram Chandan! Reprint News!

Gujarati Pulp Fiction, H.N.Golibar -

Ahmedabad Visit! Chakram Chandan! Reprint News!

This month we took a trip to Ahmedabad, where we met with veteran pulp authors H.N. Golibar, Bansidhar Shukla, and Ekta Doshi, all of whom will be featured in our Gujarati Pulp Fiction anthology, scheduled for December.

The highlight for us was learning about the history of the Gujarati magazine and pop culture institution Chakram Chandan--founded as "Chakram" in 1949 by N.J.Golibar, a member of Ahmedabad's Kutchi Memon Muslim community. Before getting into publishing, the senior Golibar began his career selling sweets known as "Goli"; he got his name from his hawker cry, "Ek anna, goli bar" (12 golis for 1 anna).

A portrait of N.J. Golibar from the cover of the memorial issue of Chakram

When N.J. died in 1966, his son H.N.Golibar took over the magazine--at the tender age of 15 (!)--managing operations while he was still in school. In 1970, after finishing his studies, H.N.Golibar added "Chandan" to the magazine's title, and soon started serialising his own science fiction and supernatural thriller novels in the pages, earning the nickname "Atom". 

H.N. "Atom" Golibar, from the back cover of one of his novels.

In 1976, a colleague told him that a weekly magazine could never survive without selling space for advertisements. Golibar took it as a challenge--he stopped running ads and kept Chakram Chandan completely ad-free for another 45 years. (Remember: not monthly, but weekly!!!)

Cover of the May 1999 issue

At its zenith, during the serialisation of Golibar's bestselling supernatural thriller Jantar Mantar, the magazine had a circulation of 1,25,000 copies. Chakram Chandan was especially popular in Bombay, where it was championed by Golibar's close friend Abid Surti, creator of the Hindi comic superhero Bahadur. Special orders of the magazine came in from as far away as Khartoum, Sudan, where 30 or so Gujarati families used to congregate in the community hall at the Indian embassy for a group read. 

Front cover of the book edition of Jantar Mantar

Golibar told us a story about how in the early 1990s, he took a break from the magazine to go to Arabia on Hajj. In preparation for his leave, he speed-wrote a few weeks' worth of chapters for the novel that was currently being serialised. So attuned were his readers that they immediately noticed the rushed work and difference in style, and the magazine was met with a flood of complaints! 

Magazine production was largely a family affair, involving H.N.Golibar's cousin Aslam Memon (who contributed a weekly ghost story), his son Mohsin Golibar (who wrote a science news column), and his wife Nazma Yunus Golibar, who wrote under the nickname Fatakadi ("Firecracker").

One of my personal favourite bits is Atom & Fatakadi's weekly Q&A column, which always features a cartoon of Fatakadi beating her husband up, often with a rolling pin or cricket bat. 

From the Atom & Fatakadi column in a 2000 issue of Chakram Chandan

Q (from a reader): Fatakadi Bhabhi, has the computer and internet age benefited you in any way?

A: Yes of course, Bhaila! I got one of my relatives to make me an automatic rolling pin machine that launches one rolling pin after the other right at Atomji, without me having to lift a finger. All I need to do is stand there and press a button!

(Translation: Vishwambhari S. Parmar)

Atom and Fatakadi today

Atom-ji's granddaughter Nausheen Golibar recounted to me how in the weeks leading up to the Diwali special edition, the whole family would be absent from home, sleeping at the office for days on end as they rushed the issue into print.

The magazine features incredible illustrations, many of them by the late G. Sandhwani, who lived several hours away in Jamnagar. Atom-ji recounted how he and Sandhwani used to send instructions for the illustrations, drafts, corrections, and final products back and forth between Jamnagar and Ahmedabad using the government bus driver as a courier. (He was paid in free copies.) Look at these beauts:

Look out for more reproductions in The Blaft Anthology of Gujarati Pulp Fiction, coming at the end of the year!

The magazine went on indefinite hiatus during the pandemic, but there's talk of it starting up again. It was a real pleasure and honour for us to meet the royal family of Gujarati pulp fiction who were behind it for so many years. Many thanks to them for meeting and spending time with us--and also to Kickstarter campaign contributor Bharg Mankodi, who came along to act as interpreter!

 

In other news:

We've reprinted a few books that have been out of stock for a while, including:

STUPID GUY GOES TO INDIA by Yukichi Yamamatsu

WHERE ARE YOU GOING, YOU MONKEYS by Ki. Rajanarayanan

Also:

We're selling and distributing comics for some other indie creators, like Bakarmax, Studio Ekonte, and Halahala Comics. Only a few on this page so far, but watch the space: more coming soon!

Other Indie Stuff! – Blaft Publications