The most widely read literary column in Malayalam is "Aksharajaalakam" of M.K. Harikumar.
It is read by people who are in touch with 'letters' and those who want to know about the developments in the literary world. I read "Aksharajalakam" first the moment I get Kalakaumudi. I am, in a way, addicted to it. I don,t know why. I am so anxious to know what Harikumar says about a writer through his column. I approached Harikumar to share my anxiety with him. He said of the comments made by people from different parts of the country who read "Aksharajalakam".
A woman journalist from Kottayam called Harikumar on Saturday and said:"I've to wait two more days to read your column." Kalakaumudi hits the news stands on Mondays. Another young man from Kasaragod called him and asked:"What are the things you wrote about in the coming column? I am so anxious to know about it." Calls like these are very common now. One writer working in the Secretariate in Thiruvanandapuram wrote to Harikumar asking him to check a story he has written in a web magazine recently. When Harikumar replied to him he sent an SMS with these words:"words are few to express my ineffable gratitude. In fact today is the red-letter day in my life. How fortunate i am."
Another friend from Kollam called on Sunday amd told him:"Harikumar, tomorrow (Monday) I can read your column." Hearing this harikumar broke into a laugh.
Each week Harikumar writes 4 pages. This is Harikumar's contribution for the literature of today. He writes in a special style in these columns. It is not just a literary column alone. About the peculiarity of his columns, Harikumar said: "I seldom write with a preconceived notion that it is literature. Especially the column. My column is not meant for the writers. It is for the 'readers'. A column is not necessarry for those who think they are intellectuals. It should be readable and enjoybale even for those who are not inclined to literature. I believe my column is fulfilling the criteria. Don't expect too much savy from me. Even the literary subjects are to be dealt with in a non-literary way. Literature is there only as an under tone. One can easily follow the thoughts that are literary in everything. I try to respond to every subject which i wanted to know. But some writers criticised Harikumar, saying that he evaluates not literature but films too. How can one avoid films as they are also a part of the contemporary experience?
Not only in India, even in the world there won't be any column like "Aksharajaalakam". The most widely read columns in the world can be devided into two: One, Showbiz columns prepared after interviewing celebrities. Two, Columns about Political and Social Life. There will not be a wide variety of subjects or independant viewpoints in any of such columns unlike "Aksharajalakam". They seldom have a philosophical or moral standards either.
"Aksharajalakam" is now being published along with the blogs of Harikumar. With this, more and more hits are received for his blogs. He has linked his blogs and column to major social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Another important thing happened in the mean time. "Koottam", a Google adjudged rapidly developing regional social network, has started published his column in it. It has become a turning point. It all began with Harikumar's writing about Koottam in "Aksharajaalakam". The column was sent to about 1,75,000 readers of Koottam by its administrators. Afterwards, Harikumar was asked to write a column in Koottam on every Tuesdays.Now he writes in Koottam every Tuesdays. Right now he is working on another book about "Khasakinte Ithihaasam". when asked about it, Harikumar said that Jyothikumar and Jayamohan of Koottam wanted me to approach Khasak once again. I wrote "Atmayaanangalude Khasak", a study on "Khasakkinte Ithihaasam", 25 years back. Approaching Khasak after 25 years again will be new experience, said Jyothikumar and Jayamohan. Their words inspired me.
For the 1, 75, 000 readers of Koottam I am sending a link of "Aksharajaalakam" along with my column for them. One has to view this comment of Harikumar seriously. Is there any other writer who is read by such a wider numbers of readers every week? "Aksharajaalakam" is now being read as an inter-continental column rather a local column of Kerala State alone.
Most writers want their names to be mentioned either critically or approvingly by Harikumar in his flag-ship column "Aksharajaalakam". All they want is their names to be mentioned in the column by harikumar, even if he criticise them. They don't mind it. Many writers see this as a credit they get from Harikumar.
Harikumar began "Aksharajaalakam" in 1998 as weekly column on the editorial page of Kerala Kaumudi. That continued for 6 years. When Kalakaumudi relaunched its 1500 number issue, "Aksharajaalakam" was transferred into it. As severe and adamant obeservations and thoughts began to crop up through this column, it became very popular in short time.
Some said Harikumar followed M Krishnan Nair who wrote "Sahitya Varabhalam" .But Harikumar said that there is no similarities of any sort between himself and M Krishnan Nair except for a similarity of the first letter 'M' both have in their names.
"Krishnan Nair has never been an inspiration to me. I have never seen a single idea that can be borrowed from him. Even the thinking and reading do vary between us. There is no similarities in the structure of our columns. He wrote about contemporary literature. so when any one writes about literature, people began to point out similarities between them. It's only natural. Those who read carefully my columns will understand the difference."
Well known poet Chemmanam Chacko recently wrote in Kalakaumudi about Harikumar's "Aksharajaalakam". "Aksharajaalakam" is a matured column. it is proud to have such a column in the contemporary malayalam literature." This confirms Harikumar's version of story about his own writings.
It is a unique literary piece which people wait for anxiously every week. That is the column of Harikumar. Now that Harikumar is having the larget number of readers, there is no use for anyone to be jealous of Harikumar or of his column. Readers come to "Aksharajaalakam" to learn about the latest trends in literature. It was Harikumar who wrote first about the death of 'post modernism". It was Harikumar who introduced "alter modernism" of Nicholas Boriyad, 'digi modernism" of Alan Kirby and "performatism" of Rauel Eishelman to the Malayalee readers through his column. He interviewed them through email and introduced them to our readers here.
When Eshelman read the English version of "Aksharajaalakam" he said: " M.K. Harikumar’s aphorisms reveal him to be a keen and critical observer of the human condition as well as a resourceful thinker who grapples with both quotidian and eternal problems. His skepticism towards many aspects of contemporary civilization is counterbalanced by a quest for spiritual values in nature and in human life itself. In his striving to think outside the bounds of convention, he makes us aware of forces larger than ourselves.''