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Back in the 1980s, Misha (which translates to bear in Russian) was the most popular children’s magazine in India published in English. Within its glossy pages, you were treated to folk tales, science fiction, riddles, photographs,
pen pal sections, puzzles and illustrations. As an added bonus, it smelled awfully good. Unfortunately the collapse of the USSR spelled death for many Soviet publishing houses (Raduga, Mir and others) and Misha soon became extinct. For years I searched for magazine back issues in second hand stalls all over Bombay finding a tattered copy every once in a while. Even expert book sellers who run bazaars such as the ones in the Fountain area hadn’t heard of the magazine. In the beginning of 2003, I found a man on the footpath in Dadar T.T. (next to the fly over) selling old novels and as I have a nose that is particularly sensitive to valuable and out-of-print literature, I spotted or rather, sniffed a stack of Mishas containing several issues that had been published through the 80s and 90s.
The moment was, needless to say, exhilarating. At that time I had 120 rupees with me, (roughly the equivalent of 2.5 dollars). I offered the man 100 rupees and he happily gave me the stack without making me resort to haggling. Even If I’d had a 100 dollars, I’d still have given it all to him. The seller had no idea how rare the magazines he was selling were. They were moreover in excellent condition with barely a few creases here and there. No dog eared pages, no silver-fish damage or greasy stains. I really have no idea how much the magazines are worth and don’t plan on ever selling them. For those of you keen on obtaining actual copies, I only have one word of advice- persevere. You never know when you might strike gold. As one of the commentors aptly mentioned, famous second-hand book sellers may not have the rare gems decaying in smaller, more perishable establishments. Before I conclude, I request you to not entreat me to send you a physical copy of the magazine as some have-I do not need your money nor your gifts. Some things just cannot be bought, no matter how trite that sounds.
Update (December 5, 2008) : Thanks to Javi, the Argentinian guy who commented on this post, I will be using ISSUU as a platform for upoading MISHA. It’s fast, convenient and makes for easy reading online by allowing a magazine format. The September 1987 copy is a little tattered as can be seen from the scan. I assure you that most of the other magazines in my possession are in a far better condition considering their age and the abuse wrought on them by the elements of nature and careless vendors.
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Sorry it took this long!