A view of the Sharjah International Book Fair.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
A corner of the 42nd edition of Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF, till Nov. 12) is occupied by seven publishers from the Indian State of Tamil Nadu.
Occupying eight stalls, they are a prominent part of the Fair. S. S. Sajahan, owner of Universal Publishers based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, points out that the company, founded by Abdul Rahim in 1948, has been running successfully for 75 years.
“Universal Publishers has guided the lives of tens of thousands of readers by publishing the first self-reliance books in Tamil in 1948 itself,” he says. “We have published more than 1500 titles till date,” he adds, “out of which over 1000 books have seen many editions. Universal Publishers is one of the few Tamil publishing houses that has been publishing good books for such a long time. It is hailed by all as the best publisher of Islamic books.”
The publisher made its first appearance in SIBF last year. This year, it has brought 500 titles on subjects such as motivation, poetry, Islamic literature, children’s books and cooking. “Last year, we collaborated with Discovery Book Palace of Chennai,” Sahajan said. “The response was good. We do not want profit, but want to spread the knowledge of Tamil literature in the world.” Karthikeyan Pugalendi, CEO of Chennai-based Sixthsense Publications, said that he intended to launch three titles during SIBF. One of them was a bilingual children’s book, another was a biography on Leonardo da Vinci and the third was a book on midwives. “We have brought 3000 titles here,” he said. “They include books by Sahitya Akademi (India’s National Academy of Letters) winners and novels that have been adapted to screen. We are also showcasing many promising contemporary writers, Western classics translated into Tamil, and books of writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez. We have also a good collection of children’s books, including Tamil study books for them and biographies.”
Karthikeyan Pugalendi, CEO, Sixthsense Publications, Mythili Sundaram of Kalachuvadu Publications. Photos: Kamal Kassim/Gulf Today
Rama Meyappan runs Nool Kudil Pathippagam (Book Hut Publications) along with his daughter Vishalakshi in Chennai. Rama Meyappan is also an editor, besides being a publisher, while Vishalakshi is a director of the company. “We have brought over 600 titles,” Vishalakshi said, “including children’s books, books on politicians and on Indian history and volumes on health, food, beauty and poetry. We have also brought a volume of the Tirukkural, the historically renowned book on ethics and morality, and fiction and short story books.”
“We established the monthly magazine Ungal Unavu Ulagam (Your Food World) in 2005,” Rama Meyappan said. “Vishalakshi has been helping me since 2015 in our book publishing venture.” The Meyappans have a distinguished academic background: Vishalakshi’s mother is a teacher in Chennai, who runs an in-house school with 150 students. Nool Kudil Pathippagam also focuses on books authored by children. It has so far published 15 titles written by young adults of age group 10 – 20. Among others, it has also brought out the ‘24 carat’ book on life written by Dubai based author Dr Fajila Azad. Rama Meyappan is the joint secretary of BAPASI (Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India).
Ethir Veliyeedu, headed by Anush Khan, is a first time SIBF participant. The publisher is based in Pollachi, Coimbatore district, Tamil Nadu. “We have brought the Tamil translation of Goat Days authored by Benyamin,” Khan said. “We also have a Malcolm X biography in Tamil and Solakar Thoddy, a novel written by S. Balamurugan. The book is perhaps more than a novel, since it is a factual detailing of terror unleashed by the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka police personnel during the infamous hunt for the notorious forest brigand Veerappan.”
S. S. Sajahan is owner, Universal Publishers. Photos: Kamal Kassim/Gulf Today
Khan said he had come to the Fair to get a feel of the market. “We have been around for 20 years, and would like to build relationships with readers here. Right now, that is our priority. We hope to have a no profit, no loss presence.” Sinthanai Virunthagam (A Feast for Thought) is based in Chennai and the bookseller and publisher proudly says that it is a place “to buy books about Tamils, Tamil language, Tamil culture and Tamil history.”
Kalachuvadu Publications Pvt. Ltd. works from Nagercoil, the administrative headquarters of Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. ‘Kalachuvadu’ means ‘Time’s Imprints’ and KP (as it is affectionately known) was founded in 1995. “We have brought 600 titles,” Mythili Sundaram, Kalachuvadu Co-founder, said. “There are new releases of Perumal Murugan and the poetry of Zakir Hussain. We have also launched Tirukkural, translated directly into Arabic from Tamil.” Books translated into Tamil from the works of well-known writers include American author Maya Angelou’s book of poems And Still I Rise, Albanian author Ismail Kadare’s work Broken April and works by Filipina-Australian author Merlinda Bobis and Sri Lankan author Sunethra Rajakarunayake. A book on the Right to Information Act with an introduction by Gopalakrishna Gandhi is also on offer.
It is the second time Kalachuvadu is being at SIBF. “The response last year was lukewarm,” Sundaram said. “We had hoped for much more and hope makes the world go round!” She said that if each Tamil family that lived in the Emirates bought one book, “Tamil publishers would go back happily.” She is doing all she can to promote Tamil books: advertisements have been placed in newspapers and promotional material have been given to FM radio stations. “The Malayalam media is also covering us,” Sundaram said. “We are expecting more drop ins.”
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