In the month of Ramadan, we, the editorial team at Other Books set off on a road that we haven’t known before: a book promotion trip from Calicut to Thiruvananthapuram, connecting individuals, institutions, organisations and common people. The idea was simple: meet our readers, friends, well-wishers, authors, translators, community leaders, research scholars, activists, imams and common public and talk to them about the work we have been doing. Show them our titles, particularly the biography of Prophet Muhammad, written by Martin Lings. When Auswafka, our managing editor, proposed the idea in one of casual conversations, we were excited. There was no proper plan. No business calculations. No meticulous scheduling. Even, in the beginning, no idea about the sources of the budget. Yet, nobody was skeptical. May be we always believed in miracles, the power of books and ideas. The generous hospitality of the people among whom we live and work. Also, we were sure that for a publisher like Other Books, with subaltern perspectives and unconventional titles, reaching out to more people was crucial. So was this trip agreed by all.
"Book is a relationship" has been more than a tagline for the people at Other Books. We believe in books. They do work miracles. Otherwise, a humble Malayalam translation of Martin Ling’s epic work MUHAMMAD: HIS LIFE BASED ON EARLIEST SOURCES – remarkably translated by poet KT Soopy – could not have run into third edition in such a short period. Had there not been this foolish belief, we would not have had any reason to comprehend why this title could be so widely discussed and adorned by people least known to us. Also, we would not have thought of traveling with this marvelously crafted biography of Prophet to meet the people, most of whom are yet unaware of us. And above all, to our profound surprise, we received the surprising support of a philanthropist who came forward to sponsor the book to a few hundred readers. Great labour brings in deep appreciation, almost always.
On the early hours of July 1, we packed around two hundred copies of Muhammad and a few sets of other OB titles, and stacked them on the back seat of an Innova. The drive began: Auswaf, Shameer, Noushad, Joseph and Luqman. Road, Ramadan, fasting, monsoon showers, meetings, music, discussions, fun, new projects, dreams. The month of Ramadan has always been vibrant and deeply organic to each one of us, in different ways. We never took it as a month of passivity, as it is often treated, unfortunately, in some Muslim circles. Taking it for granted and putting aside ideas and executions to other months were not our style.
It was a trip semi-planned or unplanned. The intention matters. We had informed our friends in different towns and cities about the trip. Most of them were willing to spare time with us, host us, anchor our activities in the town, take us to more people and introduce new institutions. The paths welcomed us with moments of great meetings, new ideas, insightful discussions, rewarding feedbacks, encouraging suggestions, critical recommendations, offers, proposals et al. Worthy it was, in every sense.
We had unforgettable iftars with our hosts like Nisar in Thodupuzha, Dr. Saiju in Kollam, Muslim Association in Kollam etc. Sometimes, we had humble iftars in a speeding car. The only person beyond our editorial team, Dr. Luqman, was a wonderful and trustworthy driver, among many other lovable qualities of his character. He loved driving; for him, it was, many times, traveling along the memory lane and meeting his old fellows.
Ponnani, Veliyankode, Kodungallur, Aluva, Thodupuzha, Erattupetta, Kanjirappalli, Changanassery, Karunagappalli, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram were our major stations to interact with people, with minor breaks at other places, too. The institutions we visited ranged from Ponnani MES college to Kerala University and Aluva Azharul Uloom to Erattupetta Al Jamiyathul Fousiya.
Like all deep journeys, this was also inward. In spite of being together, very personal and meditational. It connected us, recharged and re-energised us. It compelled us to see the worth and flaws of what we are doing, the paths we have to break off to reach better destinations. To give more to the community, to unfailingly trust, to critically engage, to negotiate the unnegotiable, to boldly pursue new horizons of ideas, to reconcile, to be alive and organic.
While reaching back in Calicut, the city of our beautiful abode, after a long, tedious, lovely and unforgettable ride of four splendid days and nights, an inexplicably deep sense of calmness sat on our hearts and heads.