Q & A with C. Radhakrishnan

Kevin Peter of Moterwriter.com caught up with author C. Radhakrishnan and got him to talk a little about his novels. This is what transpired in the tête-à-tête with the author.

Kevin Peter: What’s a typical day in the life of C. Radhakrishnan like?

C. Radhakrishnan: About eighteen hours of wonder and six hours of wonderful slumber. To me there is no end to the wonders of the world. They are all around, small and big, blossoming afresh every minute in close succession. The play is ever enthralling.

KP: Tell us a little about your background?

CR: The ground under my feet has remained consistently slippery, but to good effect. I wanted to be a farmer but slipped and gate-crashed into the arena of science. The dream of a career in scientific research, however, was shattered when I again slipped and fell headlong into the world of letters. But, as I diverted my attention to find out what writing was all about, I slipped once more and landed myself in philosophy. I hope this is my last refuge, but don’t know! However, strangely, the love for farming, science and literature has not deserted me despite all the mishaps on the way. I happen to be a much married fellow!

KP: How would you describe your writing process?

CR: It is the most satisfying thing I can do. I rate my own work on the basis of the joy I get out of the first writing of it. The rest of the work, the polishing, is drudgery. But it helps me find out my limitations as well as abilities.

I consider a work of literature as a thesis in emotional research, maybe because I am a student of science. It amounts to solving a problem – most often arising out of conflict between tradition and deviation. This means I don’t handle any problem more than once. Logic is my protection, vision my guideline and the force of life the fuel.

KP: Who are the writers that have inspired you?

CR: Vyasa, Valmiki and Kalidasa among the ancients, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Hugo, Camus and Kafka among westerners and Ezhuthachan, Kumarana Asan and Uroob of Malayalam – to count the tallest who have helped me shape myself most.

KP: What do you think is the best way to influence others, through your actions and your deeds or through your words?

CR: What one does is of course important at the time but what is expressed in words lives a lot longer. For instance, I have forgotten all the presents and punishments my teachers and parents gave me but, surprisingly, I often remember their words in situations decades after.

For a loftier example consider the role of the Upanishads. None knows what else those rishis did in their actual lives but the entire world cares a lot for what they passed on in words. It is the hope of every writer that his words will be remembered longer than he or she lives.

KP: How would you describe your books ‘Agni’, ‘Birds That Fly Ahead’ & ‘Now For A Tearful Smile’ to a new reader just discovering them?

CR: ‘Agni’ explores the flammability of love. The fact is: To have loved and lost is not always better than not having loved at all!  Beware of love lost inflaming! The root cause of most violence is love lost, denied or injured. Terrorism can be effectively fought only with love.

‘Birds That Fly Ahead’ explores why revolutions fail. It is not enough that the exploiter is eliminated; at the outset the revolutionary himself should be above the instinct to exploit! Stalin stepping into the shoes of the Tsar and becoming a dictator much worse in terms of cruelty, despondency, conceit and sadism obviously begs the question.

In contrast, ‘Now For A Tearful Smile’ tells the story of the evolution of the mindset necessary to bring about and sustain a meaningful social change. It is proved that it is attainable, sustainable too.

KP: Who or what inspired you to tell Arjun’s story?

CR: The national newspaper I was working with during the early seventies called for volunteers from among its staff to report the Left extremist (Naxalite) movement from close quarters. I offered my services. Worming one’s way into their ranks was not easy; but getting away after the two-week period given to me by my paper was a lot harder as the leaders of the gang I was with felt that letting me go free would amount to a great security risk as I knew everything about them. In short, they kept me prisoner for the next four months. It was the most gruelling experience of my life so much so that I could not even recognize my face after it! When the gang was finally taken into custody and the members interrogated, the police officer was kind enough to accept my story and call my office in Delhi.

Most of the colour Arjun is painted in the novel is true.

KP: Deconstruct Arjun for us, who is he? What’s he really like?

CR: He was almost as one sees him in the novel. He had told me all about himself during the long sleepless nights of vigil and hunger spent on mosquito-ridden marshes. He was one of the only two of the gang who escaped arrest and/or encounter-death on that final night on the banks of a narrow river. The two jumped into the rapids.

KP: What’s your personal take on translated works and what did you think about Kairali Narayanan’s translation of your work into the English language?

CR: Translation is indeed a very tough job but that was not what mainly held me back from doing it so far. The act of translating my own work tasted like repeating a joke to a friend; no way near as satisfying as writing something new. So I kept on postponing it to the day I didn’t have anything new to write about and, fortunately or unfortunately for me, that day never dawned. At the same time I was feeling sad about not being able to present my work across the borders of the language I write. I was indeed happy when someone unknown did a couple of chapters of one of my works and mailed it to me on her own. I thought it was good and asked her to go ahead. She did. Only later did I realize that she belongs to a family revered for its poetical tradition in Kerala and, besides, is the daughter of a friend of mine, Venmani Vishnu. She went on to do the other two titles of the ‘Arjun trilogy’ (‘Birds That Fly Ahead’ and ‘Heart-rending Times’) as also an independent one – ‘Deep Within’. The last two are getting ready to be released. I am indeed happy at my humble presence on the international scene.

KP: Even though outwardly your novels may have some sombre and serious themes, one undeniable aspect is the presence of strong and intense love stories. So this is a two part question, first up what’s your honest opinion on this emotion called love?

CR: Only for man is love a passion that can grow up to universal proportions. For human beings its bliss knows no bounds. One who hasn’t ever loved has never known happiness. Also, one who hasn’t loved without possessiveness and the urge for physical contact hasn’t tasted the true happiness of it. Nirvana is supposed to be when one loves all in the universe and all loves one in return in equal measure. I have always felt that sex has nothing much to do with it. Nature uses the instinct for the great capacity to love to implement the process of reproduction. In fact, in the act of sex what one loves most is oneself! It is universal experience that one enjoys the emotion of love most during adolescence when one is yet to associate it with the act of sex.

KP: Now to the second part of my question, do you think what most people refer to as love is in fact a misnomer for some other emotion they are feeling, perhaps pertaining to those of security, companionship, comfort and lust?

CR: Love that holds a family together is, again, nature’s way of using a part of man’s great capacity to love to arrange the game for the survival of the species. Lust is a disease. It is high time it is called just that. Anyone who wants to make use of others to satisfy his or her physical pleasures without caring for what they feel is a criminal. Also, love for a particular friend, a place, a nation or even that for the entire world is small change when compared to its real dimension – the bliss of being in love with (and therefore being one with) everything in the entire universe. By the way, this is what yoga is all about.

KP: Writing anything new at the moment and when can we expect it?

CR:  I have done a commentary of the Gita, bringing modern science to bear upon the ancient text. Published in Malayalam it has run into six editions in five years. There is general demand for it to be rendered in English. So it is being re-done. Painstaking indeed, it may take about a year more. 

KP: Is there still a dream book or a subject in your mind’s vast expanse that you’ve been carrying around all along but have never gotten down to writing?

CR: Well, there is. Its title is 3333. It is about what human society may look like after a millennium. I have been preparing notes for it for about two decades now. I have been struggling to bring myself abreast with the latest in sociology, anthropology, psychology and so on. There are yet miles to go before I hope to feel confident enough to begin. First of all, I have to mark the different steps from here to there.

I have another project too to complete. I began life as a student of physics and have been in love with it all through. I have ventured a non-computational model for the universe so as to circumvent all the riddles that plague modern physics. It was first presented to the world in 1989. I have been polishing it ever since and hope to be done with it in a year or two, other things, including my health, remaining the same.

I am 76 and I don’t know how much longer I will be around. However, there is nothing like hoping, you know!

KP: Reading anything at the moment?

CR: Re-reading the basic texts of the world’s major religions, also bringing myself up on civilizations like the Mayan.

KP: And lastly, thank you for parting with your valuable time C. Radhakrishnan and all the very best for your books.

CR: Thank you Kevin Peter. You have made me grope for answers to question I otherwise wouldn’t have asked myself.

Connect with him at – http://c-radhakrishnan.info

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