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Home > Sunday Mid Day News > As Taj Magazine turns 50 this year we speak to its editor to find out more

As Taj Magazine turns 50 this year, we speak to its editor to find out more

Updated on: 30 July,2023 07:00 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Sucheta Chakraborty | sucheta.c@mid-day.com

A combination of well-researched essays on an eclectic mix of subjects and superior design sensibilities has helped the Taj Magazine thrive over 50 years, says its editor

As Taj Magazine turns 50 this year, we speak to its editor to find out more

The Taj group’s art and culture magazine, which celebrates its golden jubilee this year, has not put the hotel industry’s or the IHCL’s interests at the forefront, unlike other industry magazines. Pics Courtesy/The Taj Magazine

The One thing I introduced was a glimpse of ‘tajness’ that I felt was sorely missing,” Dr Rakshanda Jalil, writer, literary historian and editor of the Taj Magazine that turns 50 this year tells mid-day. Jalil, who took up the reins of the magazine about five years ago, had been familiar with the magazine, having read it during her stays at various Taj hotels, and had admired its eclectic choice of subjects, the variety of people who wrote for it and the editors who helmed it, especially in its early years. “I knew I wanted to retain—and strengthen—that eclecticism… I wanted to have a variety of voices and styles, not to mention subjects from academics to journalists to popular writers, thinkers [and] poets. I knew I wanted to have a broad range, a multiplicity of voices and concerns,” she shares. 


Among the things introduced during her editorship, however, she says, was a subtle focus on aspects of the Taj group that may not have been too well-known. “I felt this was important given the expansion in the IHCL [Indian Hotels’ Company Limited]. I felt these new hotels and properties being added to the Taj portfolio, and in some instances older properties, that were being refurbished need to be talked about, too… So I began to have two articles about two new Taj properties in each issue.”


The Taj group’s art and culture magazine, which celebrates its golden jubilee this year, has not put the hotel industry’s or the IHCL’s interests at the forefront, unlike other industry magazines. Pics Courtesy/The Taj Magazine


The bi-annual magazine’s 50th year celebrations are being spread over its two issues this year. The just-launched June issue is a general volume with essays on a variety of subjects like heritage, archiving, memoir, theatre, dance and craft. The content includes a study of the contributions of the Armenian community to the city of Chennai, a museum dedicated to Ghalib and his milieu, extracts from Jadunama: Javed Akhtar’s Journey, articles on the Kochi Muziris Biennale’s initiatives to bring art to the common people, the origins and practices of the royal atelier culture, a profile of Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj and a look at designer Sabyasachi’s inner world, art and influences, among other things. The issue also has essays by the editor on the fusing of modern design with traditional opulence at the Taj Amer and the gastronomic delights offered at the Taj hotels’ iconic restaurants in Goa as instances of ‘Tajness’. The December 2023 issue, on the other hand, Jalil says, will be a theme issue on The Weaves of India, featuring the country’s varied weaving traditions and practices. 

“The Taj magazine is unlike any other trade or industry magazine, insofar as it does not put the hotel industry’s or the IHCL’s interests at the forefront,” says Jalil, surmising that this might be the reason for its success and its place next to other prestige publications on Indian art and culture. 

Dr Rakshanda Jalil Dr Rakshanda Jalil 

“Not just now, but from its very inception 50 years ago, editors of this magazine have worked on the assumption that the guest who comes to stay at a Taj hotel is a well-informed person, who is likely to be interested in not one or two subjects, but in a range of issues and concerns,” she says. As a result, great care is put into the commissioning of articles. “We don’t accept blind proposals. We actively commission articles after doing due diligence on a writer and how he or she writes,” she explains. 

It is these well-researched, lucidly written essays by some of the most well-known writers, thinkers and specialists in the fields of art, culture, heritage, architecture, fashion and food, coupled with the publication’s stellar design, layout and quality of printing that have, she believes, set the magazine apart and given it the attribute and status of a ‘collector’s item’ that guests have often chosen to take back with them.

Various editors have over the years produced memorable general or miscellaneous issues, says Jalil. The most notable themed issues among these have been The Splendour That is the Taj, Art Treasures from the Taj Collection, 100 Years of Glory, “each handsomely produced, exquisitely illustrated”. Other sought-after themed issues, she shares, contained vegetarian and non-vegetarian recipes compiled by the chefs of the various Taj hotels. “Food has been integral to the Taj ecosystem,” she explains, and as a result, two themed issues featured the group’s globally renowned chefs on the cover “thus celebrating them and their culinary legacy”. There was also another themed issue that dwelt on the subject of global warming and the IHCL’s activities in the decades leading up to 2009 to address environmental concerns.
 

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