In a world of digital noise and hashtags, a community newspaper called The Voice of Malabar Hills sets a different tone for this affluent neighbourhood in south Mumbai. It prints true-life inspiring stories about the lives of the residents of Malabar Hill, Napean Sea Road, Walkeshwar, Altamount Road, Peddar Road and adjoining areas.
“I wanted to focus on our community — the everyday civic issues, development, achievements, events and most importantly, the residents,” says Tushar Prabhoo, a lifelong resident and editor of the newsletter. “Staying versatile and relevant is a challenge, but when I closed down my printing business in 2012, I decided to follow my passion and start this local newspaper.”
Since 2014, then, Sahoo has published this monthly, 16-page tabloid, priced at Rs 5. He was inspired by the UK and US traditions of hyper-local newspapers.
“Everything from a new road to a malfunctioning streetlight gets importance in our paper,” he says. You will also find pictures of peacocks sitting on cars in Godrej Baug; the tale of a local resident who rescued an owl; a social organisation doing good work; local businesses reaching new landmarks; children excelling at academics and sports. “The focus is very firmly on positive news,” Sahoo says. “In 2014, unlike now, there wasn’t much information about the heritage structures in the city. So we invited Anita Garware, the chairperson of Indian Heritage Society, to write articles of heritage issues. That remains one of our most popular sections.”
A team of 12 plan, write for and produce each edition. Revenue comes from local advertisers and subscriptions. PDF copies are sent to a mailing list of 2,500 subscribers who grew up here but now live overseas.
“I think this paper is unique. It tells me about my Malabar Hill and gives me a sense of belonging,” says Prakash Munshi, 74, a local resident and subscriber. “The best part of it is the news is balanced and it always promotes small businesses in the area.”
The pandemic has forced The Voice… to halt print publication. “We send out the PDFs, post regularly on social media, but there is nothing like the physical copy. Our readers do miss it,” Sahoo says. The social media push has helped the publication reach a younger crowd though, points out Aangi Shah, 27, a local resident and editorial member.