One January morning in 2018, I woke up to see a spike in The Bangalore Review’s views. An article by Blaze Bernstein was the cause for this spike. When I searched online for Blaze Bernstein, I realized that this young, prodigious writer had been missing for a few days and now been found dead, the victim of a hate crime. I was overwhelmed with sadness as I longed to know this person I had never met, only once emailed in the course of his having submitted a piece to The Bangalore Review. He was only 17 when he submitted his work to the magazine, 19 when he died.
Whenever I have thought of The Bangalore Review in the last five years, I have also thought of Blaze.
In 2015, soon after I moved to Dubai, two of our founding editors left the team. I was devastated, and thought that would be the end of the magazine. We put the publication on hold, but the submissions continued to pour in. The one person left in the team other than me, Maitreyee, would talk to me from time to time, trying to convince me to restart the publishing. I wanted to, but I didn’t have the courage. Or perhaps, I was waiting for a sign. After a while, Maitreyee seemed to give up.
One morning, a few months later, she sent me an article from The Hindu, which mentioned that, “several online journals in India publish a mixture of established and young poets… Webzines like The Bangalore Review, The Northeast Review, Vayavya, Coldnoon and Café Dissensus have published some very fine poetry in recent times.”
That was the sign I was waiting for.
Before the Bangalore Review ever happened, there was the Bangalore Book Club where a few folks met over books, coffee and dessert to discuss the books they loved. On its best days, we used to see thirty people in a discussion, and on other days, as few as five. I was a member of the club since 2009, and one of its organizers from 2010. However, I didn’t always attend the sessions until 2012, when I was without job for a few months. It was in those days that I first made a new bunch of friends, who were not satisfied with the large format discussions in Bangalore Book Club. They craved for more, and frankly for me, more than a craving, I was driven by a curiosity to know what other kinds of books there were, beyond the popular fiction that was mostly fodder for our book club discussions.
Gradually, we started meeting outside the book club, in a sort of after-hours sense, over beer and food. Of course, I wasn’t drinking. The discussions ranged from literature to music to cinema and went really deep into the purposes and philosophies of each. At some point, when I was still without job, and thinking of starting a magazine for design and arts, the first people I asked for opinion were the same friends from the after-hours book club. They were both enthusiastic about it and together we started planning to setup a magazine, which even though at first was going to be about design, architecture and arts, later morphed into a literature magazine. At one point, our goal was to publish literary criticism and essays only, but we realized it would be lot more difficult and hence, we decided to carry fiction and poetry as well. That was in May, 2013.
Towards the end of May, we had started spreading the word about the new magazine and we had also decided on a name, The Bangalore Review. I wanted to show to the other founders, what the website would look like, and prepared a mock-up. It was a first draft, but they okayed it and said it was good to go for our first edition.
Some of our friends and relatives were eager to see what we would whip up. Interestingly, there were a lot of hidden talent around us and some of them shared their works with us. One of the cofounders wrote to Meena Alexander, the poet, and she was happy to share her work with us. All three of the founders wrote a piece each. That’s how we had the first issue ready by June 13, 2013.
In 2009, I had written a novel, and tried pitching it to publishers. That’s when I realized how the publishing industry works and how little it cared for people with no prior visibility in the literary world. By 2012, I gave up any ambition of publishing my book.
When The Bangalore Review started, this was one agenda on the top of my mind and I proposed to all the editors that we do not judge the contributors by anything they write in their bio or their cover letters. Over the years, we have published people from all over the world, from every reasonably inhabited continent on the face of the planet. We published both young and old, new and seasoned writers, carried translations of writers from many different languages, etc. But, we have also turned down works by writers with quite a large following just because we didn’t find the work to fit in with our needs at the moment.
We exist primarily for the writers, they drive us. And we believe that new writing can be good, even excellent. If you are a publisher and are looking for the next great writer, the chances are that they have already something in the pages of The Bangalore Review.
The Bangalore Review is the one achievement I am proudest about, among all the things I have done. We are still a not-for-profit magazine and have no intentions to be anything else. We collect a nominal amount of money against submissions, and pay most of it for the domain, hosting and other tools related to the magazine’s online platform. We get a bad rap for that, but until we have a rich benefactor to back us, we will have to continue seeking the submission fees.
I am the only surviving member in the original founding team, but our principles still remain the same. We started out as a magazine to promote new voices in literature and arts, to encourage more active literary criticism, and we still continue to do so. Maitreyee, our current Managing Editor joined our team within the first three or four months of the inception of the magazine. Fehmida, our current Essays editor, was always a well-wisher but joined our team in 2017. Fayesal, my man Friday, the guy who makes sure the issue comes out every month, joined us in early 2020 at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Sucharita, our Fiction Editor, was one of our early contributors, but joined us as an editor in 2021.
While so many other online magazines have shut shop, we are fortunate to have completed ten years. As one of the founders, I have had very little to do with this. Many times in the past, I had even considered shutting down the magazine. Each time I have felt discouraged, from somewhere in the universe, a sign comes to me giving me reason to keep the magazine running.
As a person who struggles with anxiety and periodic depression, it takes only a little for me to get dejected. Keeping the magazine going is a great responsibility and several times in the last ten years, I have felt the weight of it too much to handle, even though I have very little to do in the magazine’s day-to-day affairs anymore. For the last year or more, Maitreyee has been at the helm of the magazine and Fayesal in charge of the design & publishing. I feel useless once in a while, but I have seen that this arrangement is so much better for the future of the magazine.
Thank you for being with us over the last ten years. Here’s to the next 100 years.
Suhail Rasheed, Founding Editor & Editor-in-Chief