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The news, read by Cochin royalty

LINKING THE FAMILY Rameshan Thampuran's newsletter has stood the test of time PHOTO: H. VIBHU

LINKING THE FAMILY Rameshan Thampuran's newsletter has stood the test of time PHOTO: H. VIBHU  

Cochin Royalty remains connected courtesy their newsletter which started way back in 1987

Spread out from Botswana to Bangalore, from London to Lakkidi and all the continents except Greenland and Australia, the members of the Cochin Royal Family are still connected through a vital link. Reaching out to over 3,000 members, keeping them bonded, bringing in news about the happenings in the family, is `Goshree Vishesham,' a monthly newsletter, the 200th issue of which was released at Thripunithura, the erstwhile capital of Cochin State, recently.

The idea of a starting a family newsletter was accidental and the decision to do so very spontaneous. Not much of planning and homework went into it and it was quite natural for some of the members to remark that this `product' would not last even a year.

One man who thought otherwise was Rameshan Thampuran, who actually mooted the idea and went on to publish it for ten years without a break. "This idea sprang up during one of our regular get-togethers. We had a small organisation with a library where we friends met and gossiped every evening. One day the talk veered towards newspapers and news. It somehow turned into parodying the day's news with incidents and characters from our town. That was when someone suggested that we start a newsletter to incorporate the news of our family, friends and the town. Immediately we approached a letter press nearby, talked with the owner and decided to go ahead," remembers Rameshan Thampuran.

They formed a committee, published a notice addressed primarily to the members of the Royal Family requesting them to cooperate in this venture, went to every house in Thripunithura, collected the addresses of the members residing outside the town, fixed an annual subscription of Rs. 20 for the newsletter and by December 1986, they were ready for the launch of the first issue.

"The first issue was published on January 1, 1987. We called it Goshree Vishesham and the cover of the 16-page newsletter had the royal insignia printed on it. We printed about 250 copies and it cost us Rs. 300. On December 31, 1986, one of the family members died. We saw to it that the news was carried in the inaugural issue. In fact, most of the family members came to know of the death only through our newsletter," says Mr. Thampuran.

For the first year the members themselves distributed the newsletter to the addresses in Thripunithura, till they got someone to do it for them for a monthly fee. Apart from a few articles, the early issues had some very interesting columns, like the editorial, letters to the editor and one on cooking. "Overall the response was good and even after 20 long years I think we have been able to sustain that. Of course, we also got a lot of brickbats. There were some who vowed that they would never subscribe to the newsletter for some flimsy reasons. But I know very well that they never missed reading it every month from somewhere," feels Mr. Thampuran.

After 10 years the responsibility of publishing the newsletter was entrusted to the Goshree Welfare Society in 1996.

"I found the job a bit too exacting. What drove me was the enthusiasm of our family members, especially those living outside the State and abroad. I also got a lot of support from people like Ravi Achan, Dr. K. T. Rama Varma, K. T. Kerala Varma, Raman Namboodiri, who penned some very informative and interesting articles and Kaumudi Varma's recipes that were always much sought after. I was fortunate get the unqualified support of my friends especially Ramabhadran Thampuran and K. Sivaprasad, who stood by me all these years," says Mr. Thampuran who was felicitated for his contribution at a special function held to mark the release of the 200th issue.

From 2001 onwards the newsletter is now being printed offset from Kottayam under the supervision of `Seeri' Ravi Varma, with help from the family members at Thripunithura. The product has been given a facelift, the cover page is now different, the columns, like `letters to the editor' and `editorial' have been dropped and some of the issues have photographs.

K. PRADEEP

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