The south Indian state of Kerala is India’s first fully literate state. The politically sensitive state can boast of highest number of newspaper and book readers. Mr Ajith Paliath, an NHS staff based in Sheffield, has devised a novel way to circulate books among the Kerala community….writes Rajitha Saleem
The erstwhile steel capital of British Empire is now home to a novel concept to fuel nation’s favourite hobby – reading. Mr Ajith Paliath, an NHS staff, has devised an online platform to promote reading and literature among his community. Athenaeum—Akshara Granthalayam (library) is the only online library for the British Malayalees and is gaining popularity in Sheffield.
The way Athenaeum’s subscription works shows the immense goodwill and the interest subscribers have towards the concept. There is no subscription fee, but every subscriber has to fulfil the promise that every time they go home, they should contribute three or more latest books to the online collection. This ensures that the compilation always has the latest books.
The idea of Athenaeum is the brainchild of Ajith Paliath, an NHS care worker whose love for literature and books knew no bounds. A significant presence among the literary and book fests back in Kerala, Ajith found that there is a dearth of facilities to partake in regional literary exchanges in UK amongst his fellow beings. This prompted him to bring his envious collection over to the UK and to set up a library at his own home in Sheffield.
“I am extremely happy that with my effort there is an increased interest in our literature amongst the Keralites here. I was also surprised these interests came from all over UK,” said Ajith. He has created an index file of the books that is present in Athenaeum, which is online, and any person who wants a book can express their interest through the Facebook page. They can either come over and take the book or pay the courier charges to get the book over to them. So practically, the library is absolutely free to use.
Athenaeum has a coveted collection of over 700 books and periodicals in English, Malayalam and Tamil. Most of this are Ajith’s personal collection as he had an ardent interest in novels, short stories, essays and drama from a young age.
Ajith’s effort to popularise literature got a boost when DC Books, the premier Malayalam publishing company came forward to support the online library and organise an annual Literature and Reading day in 2014, which was inaugurated by the prominent writer Murugesh Panayara.
The literature day had competitions in many genres and prizes were given out to the winners by DC Books. “It was a great event and Athenaeum became famous all over the UK. It prompted more and more young people to take an active interest in our literature and provided a forum for new writers to come to the fore,” informs Ajith.
The association with DC Books has proved profitable to Athenaeum as it helped to order the books in bulk which would have been difficult otherwise. The efforts of Ajith has also got support from other literary figures such as East Coast Vijayan.
Ajith Paliath is even otherwise well-known in the regional literary circle in UK, as the editor of the magazine. `Thaliru,’ of Malayalee Association and also of the e-magazine of UUKMA (Union of UK Malayalee Association). A past president of the Federation of British Malayalee Association, Ajith is a well-known singer with Sargavedhi Live Orchestra, Leicester and Tune of Arts Live Music, Kettering.
In order to promote literary conversations across UK, Ajith is trying to organise small literary groups and co-ordinate a gathering of old generation literary people in London. As a literary enthusiast, not a day passes without thinking about furthering reading in UK for Ajith Paliath.