THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: History lay brittle and moth-eaten in the sepia-toned newspapers, bundled inside a cool sheet of thin cloth-paper. They spoke of umpteen moments in history - when the ripples of a mutiny in Mumbai resonated in Kochi or the times when a Dewan towered a King in Travancore. Though looking torn and worn out, they possessed the ammunition to send an adrenaline rush through a history-monger.
The newspapers of yore, dating back to pre-Independence times, reached the State Archives office in the city on Thursday becoming the first-of-its-kind collection in its custody. Many of the names are unheard of, some little known and others familiar. There are nearly 42 newspapers, many of them in urgent need of a mending. From ‘Samadarshini’, which used to be published from Thiruvananthapuram in 1945 to ‘Gomathy’, which came out from Thrissur during the 1930s, fall in the bundle. The newspapers, which are an interesting collection throwing light on the development of print media in the State, were gifted to the State Archives by a family based in Thrissur.
The newspapers belonged to the collection of K Sreedhara Menon, who was a retired District Judge in Thrissur. Though he passed away in 1992, the collection was preserved by his wife Rukmini S Menon until recently, when their son U Ramesh, an archivist with State Bank in Kolkata, decided the papers should rest on the Archives racks and not lay moth-eaten in their house. At a function held in their house on Wednesday, they handed it over to Dr S Shivadasan, the head of the History Department in Sree Shankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady and Archives Director Rejikumar.
‘’We realised that it could be a major asset for research scholars. I asked my mother and she had no qualms about it,’’ is how Ramesh simplifies it. But the fact is, very few are willing to part with historical documents or manuscripts in their possession, going by the experiences of the Archives officials.
‘’It is a valuable possession as far as we are concerned. We have not had newspaper collections especially which throw light on the historical developments during the pre-Independence times. We will mend the papers and take steps to preserve them for the researchers who use our archives,’’ said Rejikumar.
The most valuable information that has tumbled out of the collection is the news item in the paper ‘Gomathy’ which says that the after-effects of RIN (Royal Indian Navy) Mutiny was felt in Kochi too. ‘’There have been many studies done on RIN mutiny, especially one done under a project of ICHR is widely read. I think the Kerala connection was not highlighted in that study too. Until now, we had no proof on how the RIN mutiny was felt by Kerala,’’ said Shivadasan.
Another interesting find among the pages of the newspapers is about the attack on Dewan C P Ramaswamy which happened in 1947. The news item in ‘Gomathy’ says his condition was grave.
Of the bundle, some of the papers had appeared only on Saturdays like ‘Snehithan’ (from Thrissur) and some came out thrice a week like ‘Samadarshi’ from Thiruvananthapuram. ‘The Cochin Times’ which was brought out in the year 1945 was published only on Mondays and was edited by T R Ganapathy Iyer. Many of the Malayalam newspapers lavishly used English too, something oft-repeated in many pages. ‘Navalokam, Keralan, Malabar Mail, Bharati, Express’ and ‘Malayarajyam’ are some of the other yesteryear newspapers in the collection.