Friday, June 11, 2010

After the heady 1970s, Pauls Press announces closure and leaves many distraught

It turned out to be quite a moving story really – the closure of Pauls Press. I read the story thanks to a colleague of mine at WAN-IFRA who sent it to me. The article that had appeared in a recent issue of Indian Printer & Publisher.

It was in 1975 (the heady Seventies) that Rajinder Paul established Pauls Press, the year his daughter, Sonal, was born. He was producing a small theatre magazine called Enact. Recalling those days in the article, his wife Sunita talks about the days of letterpress printing, with hand-composed text using metal type. Offset printing was just about making an appearance in Delhi, she writes. The next revolution in printing – DtP – was waiting to arrive.

Those were indeed heady times, as Sunita reminisces, and at Pauls Press there was the special flavour of debate and tea and art and politics. For me, the 1970s marked heady days in school with some absolutely charming teachers, Rajesh Khanna films and Kishore Kumar songs. But all good stories have to change some day. And that day in this case wasn’t too far away.

Rajinder was a victim of degenerative rheumatoid arthritis. He closed Enact, unable to run after advertisements. Nine years later, he was no more. But he had left behind tonnes of goodwill in the printing world. Sunita now took up the challenge of not only facing the world bravely but also took charge of the press her husband had started. Life went along and the press was perhaps doing fairly well when Sonal joined the business, in 2002. Things improved dramatically and went on an even keel till 2007.

And then suddenly, unable to keep pace with the dramatic changes in the printing world as well as work ethic, Pauls Press had to cut costs and try and survive. As Sunita writes, the economic recession of 2009 was “the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back. We found ourselves to be a dinosaur within a span of 20 years in the new technology-intensive industry and decided we deserved extinction…” Sure, they were unwilling to compromise on quality and somehow the old joys of working had all disappeared.

On March 31 this year, Pauls Press formally announced closure, but kept half a door open for reopening some time. There were several letters of deep regret – from well-wishers and those who had worked closely with Rajinder, Sunita and Sonal over the years. One letter from Subhasis Ganguly of the Pearson India Group sums it all: “I am really feeling depressed. I still look forward to those long coffee sessions, debates, scheduling, breaking our heads for small or even minute details…There is a deep pain in the core of my heart. I will miss you. Now no one will care anymore whether there is a typo on page x or the font size of chapter headings differs by one point…

Reading the story, I could even feel the way Paul Press must have functioned during those heady days. What a pity the good old days can never come back! I hope some day Sunita and Sonal are able to bring life back to the press set up by Rajinder. Of course, it will never be the heady days of the Seventies again (those years can never come back). Even so, it will mean much.

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