To some people the idea that Maythil Radhakrishnan comes from Pallakad in the South East part of the Indian sub-continent is definition enough. This densely populated strip of the country has produced the most prolific mix of writers, poets, dramatists, each of whom has a voice and character that is unique. At times, it would seem that the Keralite creates his or her own universe and is sufficient unto himself or herself. In the cacophony of many voices a writer is always in a crowd, or content to be his own crowd, alone. Radhakrishnan’s oeuvre is unique in that he lives in the larger world of ideas and does not feel the need to return as so many Indian writers do to the ancestral hearth with one eye on the anthropological evidence to be found in every crumbling pillared and wooden gabled home and the other on rambling reflections of old glory.
He lives in the here and now of urban India. His instincts have led him to burrow in diverse fields. Besides working as a journalist, editor, statistician and data processor and running a CAD and Drafting centre, he professes an interest in inspecting the secret life of insects. Besides an eclectic taste in music, he also enjoys taking part in the very public role of a Quiz Master. As he has been quoted as saying, Indians have a peculiar curiosity in acquiring weird nuggets of information about the world.
These activities do not of course include his literary output. He has written novels, short stories and collections of poems.
Of these, the most accessible to the English reader is the collection of three novellas that have been translated into English as “The Love Song of Alfred Hitchcock”. In the main story, he not only appropriates the title of a well known poem by T.S. Eliot but morphs it with the persona of the famous Director of the classic Sixties style films of suspense featuring cool and avid sexual heroines trapped in a web of meticulously filmed metropolitan murders. The other two novellas are entitled, “Hitchcock’s intervention” and “Music is a Time-Art”. Through them, Radhakrishnan explores ideas about life and death and the way that myths can connect us through the past to the present. The incidence of a sudden and unexpected outbreak of plague in another part of the country for instance brings about memories of Radhakrishnan’s father, who when he was alive was a sanitary inspector who had to undertake a visit to a remote area in the Southern State of Karnataka, when the plague had made its dread appearance. Radhakrishnan makes a reference to the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, and links it to the disappearance of a whole generation of children through the plague.
Film, music, literature and the tumult of the everyday world, which create these patterns of memory and resonance, are distilled in Radhakrishnan’s work with a rare originality. As a well-known commentator on Indian fiction, Professor K. Satchidanandan has observed: “There are very few in Indian fiction who can compare with this author in artistic innovation, intellectual subtlety and original perception of things and of life. The three novellas here represent all that is newest in Indian fiction.”
Maythil Radhakrishnan has cancelled his trip to Germany.