Lifestyle is not just food, fashion and beauty. It is all those things and more. It is about living. It is about health, law, stories, literature, travel, the list goes on.
Her voice echoing the excitement of an enthusiast, Sharmila Basu Thakur, who recently retired as editor of India’s popular lifestyle magazine Sananda, was speaking to journalists and others during her visit to Prothom Alo on Thursday.
Sananda at one time had been one of the most popular lifestyle magazines in Bangladesh too and was almost synonymous with its original and long-standing editor, filmmaker and actress Aparna Sen. It was only natural to ask Sharmila, “How was it like working with Aparna?”
Her face lit up. It was as if she didn’t know where to start, there was so much to tell. “Aparna is a most likeable person. We learnt so much from here. She was so involved in all the details. The fun part was that she had names for everyone, even me. I am a bit finicky by nature, having to drink only one particular brand of tea, having certain things only done my way. Ujjala Chanachur for example - that was a must-have. I always had it in stock and people would come to me for it. That why she named me ‘bhandar datri’, since I was always well-stocked with goodies!”
Sharmila Basu Thakur is visiting Bangladesh this time as judge of a cooking contest. Cooking is one of her passions, as is dancing, writing, reading and living life to the full. “Interaction is the key,” she says, ‘I love to interact. That is why I am here today at Prothom Alo. I was supposed to leave on the 24th, but I couldn’t resist this chance to interact with you all when editor Matiur Rahman requested me.”
Speaking on her experience in lifestyle journalism and all the elements involved, she said, “Good taste is vital. You can teach many things, but not taste. You either have it, or you don’t!”
“Did Aparna write the editorials herself or did a ghost writer do the job?” came another question.
“She always wrote the editorials herself,” replied Sharmila, “sometimes dictating over the phone, correcting the copy later, but it was always her own work.”
She attributed Sananda’s huge success to perfection. “We always focussed on maintaining the standard, the quality of the magazine, whether it was the writing, the photo shoots or whatever. We made no compromise. We paid attention to the minute details.”
“Another reason why Sananda was so popular was that its canvas was so large - not just lifestyle, but current affairs, stories and more.”
A food enthusiast, Sharmila said she loved Bangladeshi cuisine too. And why not? “My roots are here. My father was from here. My in-laws are from Sylhet.” Sananda carried a considerable number of recipes from Bangladesh too, “though perhaps not enough,” she admits a mite ruefully.
Like print media the world over, Sananda too is facing the challenge of the digital age. “We are all in this struggle and it is tough,” said Sharmila.
The programme concluded with a warm round of applause by all present.