Daughter of Giri Trading Company founder establishes publishing house against all odds
BY R. KESAVA MALLIA, CHENNAI
CHENNAI-BASED MEENAKSHI BAALU, founder of Sri MB Publishers, is looking to inspire lovers of God across India through her books of mantras, shlokas and puja rites. Most are available with the original Sanskrit or Tamil, some with English transliteration and translation—and each of these little treasures of Hindu knowledge comes at an affordable price.
Publications: Mrs. Meenakshi Baalu
For example, Sakala Devataa Gaayatri Mantras (English-Tamil-Sanskrit with English meaning), translated by P. Ramachandra Sekar, has 52 Gayatri mantras, each with an image of the respective Deity. Rudram, Chamakam and Purusha Sooktham are perhaps some of the most widely known and recited Vedic mantras in India. Along with Laghunyasa, this set of books in Sanskrit with English transliteration also includes an English translation.
Meenakshi first flashed on mantra books at the age of 17. She was working at her father’s shop, Giri Trading Company, the notable purveyor of religious books and puja articles located just outside the Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore, Chennai. Young Meenakshi observed many a foreigner evincing interest in mantra books, especially those with transliterated Sanskrit. Twenty years later, in 1997, Meenakshi published her first book, Vishnu Sahasranamam. It was her opening foray into the world of publishing.
In 2000, following the demise of her father, after whom the shop was named, she took on more duties in the family business, learning printing, publishing, audio-video production and human resource management—aspects of the trade she had not picked up in business school or law school.
Her frequent interactions with printers, illustrators and translators inspired her to start her own printing press in 2001. Thankfully, a government program to help women entrepreneurs turned out to be available, and in 2006 land was awarded to her in Red Hills, around 70km from her home in Chennai. Seven years later, her dream came to fruition in this industrial area specially earmarked for women entrepreneurs. Her brainchild, Sri MB Publishers, was born. Meenakshi’s main support in all her business endeavors has come from her husband Baalu. She is equally grateful to all the employees who have stood with her through difficult times, working effectively to find solutions.
Meenakshi rises every day at 4am to perform her personal puja and prepare breakfast and lunch for her family. After sending her 15-year-old son Baala Ayyappan to school and 19-year-old daughter Santoshi to college, she is ready to go to the office around 8am. Her day concludes at 10pm.
Sri MB Publishers’ most popular titles are Trikaala Sandhyavandanam, the brahmin’s daily rites of personal purification, and Mahaalaya Paksham, the autumn-time observances in honor of departed family members. In eight years, over 50,000 copies have been sold. This may be because each mantra is explained along with a simple illustration of the practice, ensuring clarity in the mind of the seeker.
“Chanting mantras gives me absolute confidence and the ability to handle any amount of pressure at home or at work,” affirms the mother, wife, printer, publisher, social activist and lawyer. “The mantras provide enlightened guidance on handling people with bad attitudes without taking any matters to the heart. The chanting of mantras reminds me to be contented and feel satisfied with whatever I have achieved in my life.”
Publications: A collection of religious books from Sri MB Publishers
“Mantras,” states Meenakshi, “purify our energy body and physical body. The repetition of a mantra trains the mind in stillness and concentration. It is believed that if you recite your personal Deity’s mantra with genuine faith and reverence, you will be protected. Mantras can also cure disease, offer inner peace and transform a man into a man of God.”
The impacts of her books reach across Tamil Nadu and beyond. One person distributed 5,000 photocopies of the book on after-death rituals. Ravi, a businessman based in UAE, sought Meenakshi’s help to publish Stotra Sangamam, with shlokas for inner peace, wealth and prosperity in Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit and English. God-loving Kanthalakshmi picked up Lalithasahasranamam to heal her husband who had fallen ill with a severe facial palsy in 2010. The family saw his quick recovery as a miracle.
In 2014, the “Aanmeega Semmal” award was bestowed on Meenakshi for her publishing contributions. In just 18 years, she has published over 150 titles. “The purpose,” says Meenakshi, who can speak five Indian languages, “is to educate the masses spiritually. The Sanskrit-English model works well for today’s global Hindu community.” Each book coming from her press has Meenakshi’s attention. From illustration to desktop publishing operations, from choosing fonts to proofreading, Meenakshi’s involvement is at once sincere and serious. Visit Meenakshi’s website at: srimbpublishers.com.