Madhu S Nair has travelled to numerous countries over the years. He talks about his experiences and upcoming books on Cuba and Japan
Photo by Manu R Mavelil
By Shevlin Sebastian
When Madhu S Nair landed at Bogota, Columbia, in 2002, he felt unsure. He did not know Spanish, nor did the people know English. At a terminus, he wanted to take a bus to go to Bolivar Square and see a statue dedicated to South America's most famous revolutionary Simon Bolivar. But he did not know which bus to take.
A teenager, seeing his plight, spoke to him. Somehow, through sign language, and using the words, 'Simon Bolivar', he told her where he wanted to go. She pointed at a bus, at some distance away. So Madhu walked towards it. And got into the bus. Suddenly, he saw the girl running towards him.
Through her gestures, he realised that he had got into the wrong bus. So, he got down, the girl held his hand, and led him to the correct vehicle.
“I was very moved by her concern,” says Madhu. Later, when he wrote a travelogue about his experiences in Colombia, he dedicated the book to this unknown girl.
The Thiruvananthapuram-based Madhu has been an avid traveller for long. In fact, he has gone to over 50 countries in different parts of Europe, America, Asia and Africa. “Travelling broadens the mind,” he says. “You learn to respect different food habits, cultures, creeds and religions. In short, I have learned to respect the human being.”
Asked to give tips for first-time travellers, Madhu says, “You have to be very alert, especially when you go to a country where you don't know the language. It is better to avoid travelling at night. Whereever you go, you should read up about it, so that you can have a sense of history of the place.”
You also have to be prepared for unexpected experiences. Once when Madhu arrived at the port town of Cartagena, in Colombia, there was not a single room available. In the end, he managed to get a room at a brothel. “You need to be fearless at times,” he says, with a laugh.
All these experiences have been grist to his writing. Thus far, he has written 15 books on his various travels, and a few more are in the pipeline. They include books on Cuba, Japan, Tanzania and Vietnam. He is also credited with having written the first book in Malayalam on computers.
Clearly, Madhu has been a man of many parts. After graduation in Metallurgical Engineering, from Kashmir University, in Srinagar, he went to the USA where he did his masters in Technology of Management from the American University at Washington. Thereafter, he worked as a computer specialist at the Goddard Space Flight Centre, belonging to the National Aeronautics Space Administration. Following that, he spent a few years at the Pentagon as a computer scientist.
His conclusions, from his work experience at the Pentagon, are interesting. “In the first few years, you can move upwards steadily,” says Madhu. “But after you reach a certain level, it becomes difficult. Then you will feel you are not a part of the system. You are always regarded as a foreigner.”
So, it was no surprise that Madhu returned to Thiruvananthapuram in 1990. He started the capital's first computer training institute called Krishna Computers. Today, he is the chairman of the India Hospital Trust as well as the Publisher of India Books.
His experiences at the workplace in the US and Kerala have given Madhu a unique perspective. “In the USA, work is like a religion,” says Madhu. “They are serious and dedicated. And they take their vacations seriously, too. Here, there is an apathy towards work. Kerala does not have a business-friendly environment. In America, they place a lot of emphasis on business, especially small firms. Nevertheless, despite its flaws, I have a deep love for my land.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)