CHENNAI: Books lined in shelves, some loosely arranged on the floor, and some neatly stacked inside boxes, is what captures your attention first when you enter Varthamanan Pathippagam, a 53-year-old publishing house in T Nagar established by the late J Srichandran. “I followed my father’s footsteps and took charge of the publication in 1989,” says S Varthamanan.
He started the publication in the year I was born and named it after me,” he smiles. Varthamanan gives us a peek into his life. Excerpts follow.
You were a software service engineer in the late 1980s, what prompted you to leave that job?
My father worked as a professor in AM Jain college for 31 years. Along with his teaching profession, he managed the publishing company until the late 1980s. After his retirement, he asked me to help him in the business. I decided to leave my software service job and work with appa. This was a time when we Chennai was just stepping into the software era and I was on the cusp of it, but I decided to be with my father.
The publishing house was one of the firsts to introduce cash on delivery (COD). What was the strategy?
We have been the pioneers of several initiatives. My father wanted the layman to understand and enjoy Tamil literature, so we began publishing full volumes and versions of different literature books, but in simple language. Like today’s COD options, we used India post’s VPP services to ship books and we were probably one of the first publishing houses to introduce it. Special price or concession price in books was another concept coined by us.
What’s a typical day in your life like?
I work from 9.30 am till 5.30 pm. I meet authors, write advertorial pieces for the company and plan marketing strategies. I head home by 5.30 pm and believe it or not, I eat by 6 pm or 7 pm and go to bed by 9.30 pm. We are Tamil Jains and we don’t eat post sunset. In between this, I read about two magazines and four newspapers. That’s my typical day.
Apart from reading magazines/newspapers, how do you unwind?
You would be surprised to know that we don’t own a TV. So, I don’t know what’s happening in Bigg Boss (quips) but, I have downloaded a news app, where I can see news telecasts. I keep myself informed. I take about two hours to read the entire newspaper...I read between the lines and analyse.
What’s your idea of an ideal vacation?
I do travel with family. But, I don’t look for the usual travel destinations. I like visiting historical spots and unexplored villages, hills and caves. Chathuragiri Hills in Madurai, Chitharal village in Kanyakumari, and the Servarayan Hills near Salem are some of my favourites. I want to visit the Jain complex of caves in Tamil Nadu.
You were born and brought up in T Nagar. What is the one thing you would change in this locality?
My entire life has been within the perimeter of T Nagar and this place is home. Though there have been developments in the last four decades, the area still maintains its past glory. But what’s saddening is the lack of public toilets here. There’s probably just one in Panagal park and I wish there’s something I could do about it.
What will your next book be about?
I want to publish a Tamil Law book with 20 titles. There’s lack of knowledge about acts as basic as the Tenant Act. So, through this, I want to create awareness.