At a time when handwritten letters are near extinct and people’s reading habits have largely shifted online, a Malayalam inland magazine continues to find its way to people's homes.
'Innu' is an inland magazine that was started in 1981 and is published by Pravasi Press in Kerala's Malappuram district.
An inland magazine, like an inland letter, is a piece of paper with three foldable flaps.
Kerala's eminent writer Manamboor Rajan Babu, launched the literary magazine thirty-six years ago, and it now boasts of readers even in foreign countries.
Innu is set to publish its 425th edition in a few days and has found its way to the Limca Book of Records for being the longest-running inland magazine. Innu carries a number of short poems, editorials and short stories.
Manamboor Rajan speaks to The News Minute about Innu’s journey, surpassing challenges through changing times.
Innu, in its earliest form, was Sangamam, a hand-written literary magazine.
"During the 1960s, there was this Raja Ravi Varma library in Manamboor, which was where people who wanted to read would assemble. When the library wanted to bring out a literary magazine, they made me its editor. For 5 continuous years, we brought out the hand-written magazine in the name of Sangamam and published 60 editions in that time. I was in my early 20s then," Manamboor Rajan recalls.
After getting a job as a clerk at the office of police superintendent in Kannur, Rajan shifted base to Kannur in the early 70s. After working at other districts including Thiruvananthapuram, he returned to Malappuram and launched Innu in 1981.
"You just have to shell out 25 paisa to send an inland letter anywhere in India. It is so convenient. The reason why I launched an inland magazine and not a full-fledged magazine is primarily because of time constraints. Also, there were already several established magazines at the time. What was the use of bringing out another one on the same lines? Short, crisp and enjoyable literary works is what we encourage," Rajan says.
Another inland magazine that used to be in publication at the time, also served as a reference point for the author.
Innu’s reach has never been much of a concern for Rajan. He points out that Malayalam’s literary giants like MT Vasudevan Nair and OV Vijayan have contributed to the magazine several times.
Now, every edition of Innu reaches around 11,000 addresses in Kerala and abroad, with a total production cost of Rs 8000.
"Malayali associations in England, America and the Gulf are supportive and are regular subscribers," Rajan says.
While Innu had been sent to subscribers free of cost for most part of its life time, Rajan began to charge a nominal fee of Rs 50 a year since last year.
"One, the cost of production has increased. And two, we do not know whether these people have moved to other addresses. So, since the past year, we have been charging a nominal amount so that we know who our actual readers are," Rajan says.
Every month, the Innu also honours a subscriber who sends maximum number of letters to the magazine, as feedback and constructive criticism.
At 69, Rajan believes that although there is much talk about declining reading habits, but that was not entirely true.
"Innu is read by people from various age groups and even distributed in schools. Reading habits have not died, it never will," Rajan says.