Thulir has completedtwenty-five years of existence this month

Running a magazine without a break for twenty-five years is a big deal. This is even bigger if the magazine in question happens to run on voluntary effort. Thulir, a science magazine for children, accomplished twenty-five years of existence this month.

The magazine is published by Tamil Nadu Science forum and all the people who work on it are volunteers and all contributions a labour of love. Isn’t it amazing that such a magazine has been running for a quarter century now?

In commemoration of the event, a postal cover was released at a function held on November 24 by Postmaster General Gulbir Singh. Justice K Chandru spoke on the occasion and released a CD containing all the issues of Thulir that have been published.

He said that former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, had brought in an amendment to the article 51(A) of the constitution which reads – one of the fundamental duties of every citizen is “to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.” Soon after that and in keeping with it, the Tamil Nadu Science Forum was constituted in 1980. The signatories to this were himself and N. Ram of the Hindu publications, he recounted.

Thulir, a product of Tamilnadu Science Forum, was born in 1987 when the need for a popular science magazine for children was felt. It was first produced from Pondicherry but later the production and administration moved to Chennai. Comprising 32 pages with coloured covers, Thulir today sells about 35,000 copies and over its twenty-five year run has seen only two editors: first Su. Srinivasan and now, R. Ramanujam of Institute of Mathematical Sciences who has been the editor since 1992.

The spirit of Thulir has been to bring to the fore not just applicable developments in science but also to publish articles that generate a healthy debate on social issues. They have handled trouble arising from this too. Says Radha who has been associated with the magazine since early days, “We once published an article about child labour in Sivakasi. This brought a host of lawsuits upon us. But when we showed them that our story was based on evidence, they withdrew the cases. We never publish a story without adequate evidence.”

Five books in Tamil written by T.V. Venkateswaran, currently with Vigyan Prasar, were also released, including the story of Ramanujan the mathematician and the science of the Higgs Boson.

Earlier, on Nov 23, a seminar was held on “Challenges facing Science Publications, especially those for Children”, convened by A. Vallinayagam for Tamilnadu Science Forum.

Presentations were made by editors of various science publications in Tamilnadu. Badri Seshadri from Kizhakku Publishers, Chidambaram, editor of Ariviyal Oli, Madhavan, editor of Vizhudhu, Balakrishnan of Thulir, Indumathi, editor of English bimonthly Jantar Mantar, Editor of Samam, Pandiarajan and Narayanasamy of Vignaana Siragu.

All the above publications, except the books of Kizhakku are run by volunteer efforts, which was amazing.

If it was touching to hear Madhavan describe the struggle to publish Vizhudhu a magazine for teachers, it was heartwarming to hear Indumathi say that there are always questions about technology and we need a forum to address these questions scientifically, reasonably and in a credible way – and the magazines provided exactly such a forum.

Thulir is supported by the National Council for Science and Technology Communication and Department of Science and Technology along with Tamil Nadu State Council for Science and Technology and Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research.

We never publish a story without adequate evidence