Saturday, February 20, 2016

Reaching Out To A Global Audience

The Malayalam author C. Radhakrishnan has brought out a few of his acclaimed novels in English: e-books as well as printed versions

Photo of C. Radhakrishnan by Melton Antony 

By Shevlin Sebastian

In 1970, Edatata Narayanan, the New Delhi-based chief editor of the 'Patriot' newspaper,asked for a volunteer to go to the jungles in West Bengal and meet up with the Naxalities, led by Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal. Assistant Editor C. Radhakrishnan agreed to go.

In the district of 24 Parganas, Radhakrishnan was able to get in touch with the Naxalites. “I stayed with them for 14 days in the forests,” he says. “After that I told the leaders that I had to return to Delhi. But they said I could not leave because I knew too much. In case I am caught, I may be forced to reveal their whereabouts.” So Radhakrishnan ended up staying with them for three months.

It was tedious, painful as well as unforgettable,” he says, at his home in Kochi. “I saw, first-hand, all the police operations. Some of the Naxalites were lined up on the banks of a river, shot point-blank, and pushed into the water. The police conducted numerous fake encounters. These poor Naxalites did not have any weapons, clothes to wear, food to eat or soap to wash their bodies.”

Finally, Radhakrishnan managed to escape, met a police officer in Kolkata, who, after confirming his identity, by calling the 'Patriot', provided him with clothes and money.

This experience proved the inspiration for Radhakrishnan's acclaimed trilogy: 'Munpe Parakkuna Pakshikal', 'Karal Pilarum Kalam' and 'Iniyoru Nirakanchiri'.

Recently, all the three novels have been brought out in English: 'Birds that Fly Ahead', 'Heartrending Times' and 'Now For a Tearful Smile'.

These fluent translations have been done by a Hyderabad-based English teacher, Kairali Narayanan. This happened by accident. One day, Radhakrishnan received a couple of chapters, of 'Iniyoru Nirakanchiri' (Now for a Tearful Smile), translated by Kairali, in his e-mail inbox. He liked it and asked her to do the entire work. Following that, he sent it to his critic-friend, Professor V. Sukumaran who stays in Kozhikode. “After reading it, he said that this was one of the best translations of a Malayalam text,” says Radhakrishnan.

The author has a specific reason for publishing in English. “We are not known outside Kerala,” he says. “Whenever I go abroad, I look for books by Indians, translated into English but I hardly find anything. The many foreigners I have met have no idea about our vernacular literature. Now, technology has come to our aid. The e-book has enabled us to reach out to a global audience.”

In fact, after placing his book on Amazon, Radhakrishnan has got some responses from the USA and UK. “Today, most reading in the west is in the e-book form,” he says. “People don’t have the time to go to bookstores. The e-book is the present, as well as the future of book-reading.”

Keeping in touch with current trends has been a feature of Radhakrishnan's writings. As a result, he has won numerous awards, like the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Vayalar Award, the Bharatiya Jnanapith's Moorti Devi Award, the Mahakavi G Award, and the Lalithambika Award for his contribution to Malayalam literature.

He is one of the few writers in the world who has been able to live off his works. Amazingly, he has 75 titles in print. And several of them have been best-sellers for several years. Asked the reasons for his success, he says, “I write in a simple and straight-forward manner. I learnt this method as a journalist.”

And, again, unusually, for a writer, he publishes the works himself through the imprint, Hi-Tech Books. But the distribution is done through well-known publishers like DC Books. “Thanks to my readers, I have been able to carry on,” says the 76-year-old. 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode)

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