The Pittsburgh Patrika’s Twenty Years

By Premlata Venkataraman

With the October 2015 issue, The Pittsburgh Patrika crossed a milestone. It was 20 years ago in October 1995 that we mailed our very first issue of the magazine. It was a nebulous idea coming true for my husband Kollengode S. Venkataraman, who is a news junkie by habit, an aficionado of Tamil classics, a dabbler in eclectic things here and there, a man with opinions on many facets of life, and willing to put them on paper. Incidentally, maybe accidentally, he is an engineer by profession.

When he bounced around the idea of a magazine for the Indian diaspora, most of the advice he got was that there would be only minimal interest. Since most of the activities then, and still now, occur at religious centers with their own newsletters, there really was nothing else to cover. With our two daughters still in school and the huge cost of their college education staring at us, we set out to give the venture a try, mentally ready for the magazine’s neonatal death.

In the first issue, Venkat wrote, “This newsletter is a forum for airing and sharing your views, ideas, even frustrations, on any matter of topical and not-so-topical interest. [We, the Indians here] have quite a diversified background, and yet are so very alike. When we look through our patina of sophistication, we often see that our pleasures and pains, anxieties, concerns, hopes, expectations, even griefs, are similar. The Patrika’s intention is to entertain and inform people who share a certain value system, and are curious about what is going on in our midst… … If you feel strongly on any matter…, now you have a forum to air it.”

The first issue (with no advertisements,) only talked about the intent of what the future issues would cover. Vividly we remember now: we did not want to staple the magazine on its spine since that would involve an additional $8 for the 400 copies!

Early on, we decided the focus would be on our Indian and American experiences relating to our lives in Western PA, something neither fully Indian, nor presumptuously American, to echo the evolving identities of Indian immigrants who now call Western PA their home. The name Pittsburgh Patrika truly reflected our pan-Indian and yet American identity in Western Pennsylvania, in which Pittsburgh has a dominant presence.

On these points, your magazine, all through these twenty years, has stayed true to what it set out to do. We do cover stories/trends/political upheavals that occur in India and here as well, but always keeping the focus on how it relates to our lives here.

While covering the events put together by the Desi Diaspora here, we are astounded at the vibrancy of the talented people pursuing different facets of our culture. Whether it is Holi, Garba, Pongal, Diwali, India Day, or Gandhi Jayanti, we are ready to gather and party! Covering these events and getting to know the organizers has been a lot of fun.

When we started, our understanding was that we attended our temples, went to our weekend parties, liked cultural programs, and were always preoccupied with our children’s discipline and education. But we were astonished by the treasure trove of hidden talents in the community and were enthusiastic to highlight the best of India and integrate it into the American mainstream: music teachers and talented dance teachers and their students, artists, painters, henna artistes, social activists, fundraisers for local causes, volunteers in mainstream organizations. Highlighting these activities has been the most satisfying part of running the magazine. We must here acknowledge the conducive atmosphere of multiculturalism encouraged in the US.

In recent years there has been a trend for fundraising for many local causes by Indian-Americans here. Staging music and dance shows or even organizing 5-K walkathons to help those less fortunate in our neighborhood is a very healthy, welcome trend. Giving greater visibility to these events in the magazine, we hope, ensures more participation.

Personally it has been an educational and humbling experience for us in this small undertaking. While researching stories and interacting with people coming from different parts of India, we realize how much more we all have in common. With more and more of our youngsters intermarrying among ourselves and with mainstream Americans, we will come together as a single community uniting under the banner of our Indian-American identity, even as we integrate rapidly into the American mainstream.

Another point is that articles in The Patrika are authored by people living right here among us. This makes the magazine interesting reading. We thank these writers for their interest. We acaknowledge our reader’s kind words they tell when we meet them in social gatherings.

Many young people who have “grown up” reading The Patrika still visit us on Facebook and the web page. It is gratifying when you tell us how eagerly you look forward to the next issue and how you read it through in one sitting. And we cherish articles writen by some of these youngsters. So thank you for your interest.

Publishing this magazine in our spare time was a challenge with sporadic work-related domestic and overseas travel. Also, we neither seek nor get any grants from governmental, social, cultural, religious organizations, or corporate or charitable foundations. We believe that in the Free Market environment, any activity has a reason to exist only if it is able to at least pay all the bills on its own. Depending on grant money often saps the vitality of organizations, especially, magazines.

Our only source of revenue for meeting the ever-increasing cost of printing and mailing the magazine to nearly 2000 homes every quarter is advertisements. So, we owe our very existence to our advertisers for their support and confidence in our integrity.

We profusely thank our advertisers and look forward to serving you and our readers better in the years ahead. We also thank a handful of well-wishers who, on and off, on their own and out of goodwill, send us voluntary contributions in support.  ♦

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