About Yester Years and Ahead

  Sorit Gupto |     June 22, 2023

My association with the Gobar Times will be incomplete without Piu & Pom. We were once working on a comic strip for the magazine.

Piu is the name of my daughter so it was easy to decide the name of one of the characters. But for Pom, there’s an interesting story. Those days there was an app on smartphones known as Talking Tom, which was about a cat who repeated whatever one speaks to it in a funny way. This cat was not only popular among kids but also among adults. Piu also had a soft toy of that cat which she used to carry with her all the time. So, it was more or less final that a cat would accompany her character.

One day, while scribbling the character of Piu, I asked her what name she wanted to give her cat in a comic strip. She replied, “Pom”. Later, she told me that she wanted to name it, “Pom-Pom.” But by that time, it was too late.

It was around the May issue of 2015 when Piu & Pom appeared for the first time in Gobar Times. It’s title was ‘Be a good guest’. Soon, the comics and the characters of Piu and Pom became one of the most important elements in the magazine. Both these characters started appearing on the cover page, cartoon column, games, stories, and even in a selfie corner during an event of the Green Schools Programme.

In the last 5–6 years, the magazine has gone through a lot of changes and experiments by introducing the concept of the cover story, new columns, crosswords, posters, and short stories on the environment to name a few. But the most important change, or rather the biggest challenge we faced at the time of the pandemic, was when Gobar Times became an online magazine from a print product.

Globally, the print media is at crossroads and so is our magazine. It’s a choice between costly hardcopies or the technology-based online versions. Needless to say, we are not very clear about which one to subscribe to. Probably, there is a middle way. We did a series of special issues in the online format during the pandemic days.

An online magazine for kids was itself an experiment (well, we were forced to go for the experiment) and it has its own positives. And negatives. Being a person of the old school, I prefer to read a hardcopy in the printed format. But our target audience, the kids, are getting more and more habituated with reading on-screen.

One thing is for sure: magazines in general and the kid’s magazines, to be precise, are not going to be same anymore. Their biggest challenge is coming from Artificial Intelligence (AI).

We often wonder what will be the scenario of print media in the age of AI. What we forget to ask is something more important: that is, what will be the scene of a kid’s magazine in the age of AI? A mature reader has some sense of discretion—to differentiate between right and wrong. True and false. Fact and fallacy. At least, he/she has the ability to crosscheck the details. But what about kids who have blind faith in the things they read in a magazine or which are told by adults? The AI is going to destroy each and every grammar of the yester years.

It may sound scary but it’s the truth.

I wonder if we are prepared to deal with our Pius & Poms in the near future…

About the Author

Supplement Editor, Gobar Times (2016-2021)

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