Since most children these days are full-grown adults in their minds by the time they are 11 or 12, the old confusion surrounding the 15th birthday no longer exists. I remember when I turned 15 - half the gifts were for seven-year-olds; the other half were for young adults. Snakes and Ladders rubbed elbows with The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Was I young or old, fish or fowl?
I don't see Friday magazine getting excited by gifts of either Snakes and Ladders or Oscar Wilde. Remarkably, the magazine came into the world as a full-grown adult, with pages both glossy and classy - a rare combination in those days! The gestation period was used brilliantly by the then editor of Gulf News, Francis Matthew and Malavika Kamaraju the magazine's former editor. Many elements have endured for a decade and a half. Others have evolved since magazines are in a sense living organisms.
It was all hush-hush at first. Rumours flew, other rumours crawled. "The new magazine will be a literary one," said one. Others felt it would be interview-based or market-driven or shopping-friendly or personality-driven or opinion-based or inspirational or cookery-based.
Like the visually challenged men of the land of Indus in the poem, each one had got hold of a particular aspect of the magazine but missed out on the big picture. For, in the end, it was all of the above and then some.
Part of the ‘then some' was this column. "We'll carry your column, so get a picture taken," Francis said one morning. I tried to look casual and deserving. I thought it was a clever way to protect other people with the same name who had not actually written the column and so would be saved the brickbats.
Readers started coming up to me in malls, at theatres, and in restaurants, usually to say nice things, occasionally to suggest a rearranging of my features. I say thank you to both groups; it has been a privilege to land on your doorsteps every Friday.
"How much do you pay to get your photo in Friday every week?," I was asked by my barber in Satwa, "Can I send my picture in too? I will pay."
It is dangerous to argue with someone who is standing over you with a razor close to your throat while you are in a straitjacket of sorts. I couldn't nod or disagree without upsetting the delicate balance between the moving razor and my still face. "Mmmph," I said, leaving it to the barber to interpret.
So here's a confession after 15 years. If a barber ever turned up at the Gulf News office insisting that his picture be printed in Friday, I was the person responsible.