CHENNAI: Almost a century ago, when literacy and interest in reading was very low, an exclusive magazine with the sole purpose of carrying out a campaign for prohibition ran successfully with the circulation crossing 4,000 within ten months. It was edited and published by none other than the visionary freedom fighter and first Governor General of India, C Rajagopalachari, from his ashram at Tiruchengode. He was assisted in this mission by ‘Kalki’ R Krishnamurthy, who later became a popular writer and journalist.
Running a magazine dedicated for this, and successfully in 1929-30, when reading magazines was not widespread as today, is considered a rare achievement in journalism. A doubting Thomas initially, ‘Kalki’ had vividly recalled his stint with the journal, published for ten months, as well as his stay at the ashram in an article written in 17 April 1947.
“The very idea of a magazine on prohibition struck me as odd and adventurous. When Rajaji spoke about the magazine christened as ‘Vimochanam’, I had too many apprehensions,” he says.
But, it was the period when the anit-liquor campaign was part of the Congress’ freedom struggle.
First of all what struck him was whether an exclusive magazine on prohibition could be published. No wonder that he was bewildered on coming to know that the number of pages would be 40 and all of them would be devoted against liquor. But an unfazed Rajaji simply said, “We will make people buy it. We will make it fascinating” and went on to prepare the first edition.
The cover page itself was interesting with pictures depicting the evil effects of liquor. Besides, Rajaji penned a song resembling poet Subramania Bharathi’s ‘Jayaperikai Kottada”. The magazine had two interesting stories on alcoholism, few articles, brief notes and cartoons on the subject. Rajaji also came out with questions and answers on the subject.
The magazine prepared in Tiruchengode was printed at the Hindi Prachara Sabha press in Triplicane in the city. The printed bundles were taken to Tiruchengode for circulation through post. With reading habit then remaining confined to to a few, even magazines dealing with other fascinating subjects were not making any profit.