It's the sun, a sunflower, an alien.... it's Otto!
Dubai - Young Times is back again!
Published: Tue 9 Jan 2018, 9:48 PM
Last updated: Tue 9 Jan 2018, 11:56 PM
Once upon a time, happiness meant a feature in the 'Celebrate with Otto' section of Young Times - one of our most loved publications that entertained teens and children - more than a smart phone ever could.
You were cool if you were an 'Ottomate' because that meant you were part of the hugely popular Otto Club. No gift could outdo a greeting card from the cute mascot on your birthday.
Young Times gave the then 10-year-old Basudhara Choudhuri her first ever byline. "I had assumed that only teenagers could get published. But then, a girl on my school bus read my story and told me that she liked it! I cycled 4 kilometres and bought multiple copies of the magazine that day; copies that are now with my grandparents, relatives, and parents." Now, a Pune-based Applied Mathematics student, she always thought of Otto as a sunflower.
For writer, journalist and actor Lavanya Narayan, Otto was an "ambiguously creative cutie" that was the soul of the magazine. "Otto's smiling and chirpy face made the magazine all the more exciting," says another Young Timer, who is currently an ESL teacher in Pakistan.
Another popular notin was that Otto was an alien. This was put in perspective when the final issue of the magazine read a tearful "It's time to say goodbye", and the cover featured a bright Otto with his companions atop a rocket ship. He was probably going back to his world. Or, maybe not.
Dilip Raote, the first editor of Young Times, reiterated this. He explained in the magazine's final issue that Otto was designed with a futuristic approach as an alien from a galaxy far, far away, who resonated with the voice of the youth. The then art director, Ajay Angre, designed the mascot.
Raote recounted an interesting incident that took place during the Young Times days - when the Khaleej Times staff received a letter that was addressed, 'Dear Otto', without a mention of the newspaper or a post box number.
An eternally chirpy Otto taught readers that you didn't have to be a person to be a confidante or a 4am friend. A stick-like figure that sported a mischievous toothless grin spread across pages in the magazine urged children and teens alike to read, learn and ask more. Twenty-two years on, avid Young Timers credit the mascot for a colourful childhood. Sequels are enjoyed, and comebacks of your favourite characters even more. Otto is back too, and to quote Ross from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, "he was on a break!" Here's another chance to find out what Otto means to you!