A wonderful tiny read
Firoz Khan Kundayithode created the tiniest book to exist in Malayalam since Rasarasika which was made in 1970s
To date, the Guinness World Record considers Teeny Ted from Turnip Town, a book by Malcolm Douglas Chaplin published by his brother Robert Chaplin as the world’s smallest reproduction of a printed book. Between 1969 and 1970, Malayalam too had a small yet wonderful possession like this - the book, Rasarasika which was 1.5cm long and just one centimetre wide, written by K V Manalikkara and published by Kalpaka Library, Thiruvananthapuram. It is said to be the smallest book to be published in Malayalam. Almost 50 years later, technology has evolved rapidly but no one has tried to beat this record.
That is, of course, until Firoz Khan Kundayithode decided to do it. His book titled Aharakramam with 24 pages, promotes mindful eating is just 1.3cm long and one centimetre wide - about 0.2cm shorter than Rasarasika which had 28 pages. A pet breeder by profession, Firoz was always fascinated by attempting things that others wouldn’t think of trying. Earlier Firoz had made it to the news by breeding edible worms and mice.
Firoz had earlier published two books that would benefit any pet breeder. An audio clip of famous writer Paipra Radhakrishnan gave him the idea to create the tiny book. “In the audio clip, he said Rasarasika was published when technology was at its infancy. He wondered if another Malayali would attempt something like that now. This question stayed with me. I started wondering why people with better education, information and resources aren’t trying something like that now,” says Firoz, a Calicut native.
Since Rasarasika only had a few copies, not many people know it existed, claims Firoz. “I believe my attempt has given the book more publicity. I have mentioned Rasarasika in most contexts surrounding my book,” he says. To make Aharakramam entirely in Malayalam, Firoz even refrained from printing page numbers. Though the book can be read with naked eyes, using a magnifying lens is recommended for better clarity.
It took Firoz three years to complete his dream project. When he shared his concept with publishers, they rejected him initially. “When they hear about the book’s size, they come up with excuses as to why printing it won’t be successful. I tried convincing all of them by listing out alternatives, but they didn’t listen,” says Firoz.
Left with no choice, Firoz decided to create the book himself. He made the miniature with his own hands. As there were no machines available, he relied on a cutting blade to chop the papers to the required size. “I typed the content on my phone and adjusted the font size and printed it using a computer. After cutting the pages, I stuck them together using gum. I made the cover out of thicker paper,” he adds. Cutting the pages was the most challenging bit, he says. “If I put too much pressure, it would ruin the book. I made plenty of such mistakes. I experimented a lot to see if the pages would stay in place as well,” says Firoz.
Seeing the final output, one wouldn’t think so much work went into making it. “Filling up the content, printing, cutting and binding the pages were a task,” he admits.
Before making the book, Firoz got a feel of Rasarasika through his friend. “Though I created a smaller book, Raasarasika would always be a piece I admire. I’d never underestimate the creator and the effort he put in, back when he had fewer resources than I did now,” he adds.
Firoz’s expertise in making books comes from having lived a hard life. “I grew up in a poor family. When I was a kid, we couldn’t always afford new notebooks. So I used to take blank pages from old notebooks and stitch them together to create new ones,” says Firoz.
Firoz plans to give the first few copies of Aharakramam to the school where his kids are studying. He wants to then hand over a few copies to the archaeological department for preservation. “I would want my work to belong to people who understand its worth and would keep it safe,” he says.