Saturday, February 26, 2022

Interview with Author Menon Unnikrishnan



  1. What motivated you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and turning it into this book?  

I always had this feeling that am more concerned and engrossed with how I view and react to a situation rather than the incident itself. All that I hear, see and experience thus get treated within me and that perhaps it is this output that sought ways to expressing itself. So when I contemplated full time writing post my retirement days, it was exactly these thoughts that I thought of penning for a beginning. And that was when I struck upon the idea of writing about the one hundred days that led to my retirement from government service.


Primarily retirement itself had been a process that offered much to dabble with. Personally it had lot of emotional bearing for me. That was also a period when I started realising that we have not just the gender bias but also age bias in this society of which am a part. The day you turn sixty you can feel hitherto unseen bonds getting delinked and that’s when you realise the import of it. It is also a fact that the way you see and perceive everything around you also takes a change. All of this provided much for me as an author to begin with. I didn’t have to seek my motivation elsewhere. And when ultimately my work came out from print, it ran over four hundred pages and I realised, yes, my choice had been right.


  1. What is it about and who is it for?  

“When Waves Fell Silent” maybe we can call it a memoir, largely so and yet I won’t say it is in the conventional mould. Because, the imageries my mind dabbled with in the book may not strictly be of a memoir.


The background or rather the base for the book had been the last one hundred days that led to my retirement from service. Yet another unknown Indian was coming out with an untold story, on the emotional bearings of the process of retirement. Structured in one hundred chapters, it starts from the one hundredth day and counts down to the last day.


The base being media, the state public service broadcaster, All India Radio, much has been drawn from its day to day engagements. While most who write about the entity do so on its greatness and the heroes it produced, this book for a change is from a ground level programmer who all through was involved in churning out day to day broadcast content for the masses of a developing nation. That probably gives the reader an insight of the pub-caster without any makeup.


The book though of value to a media practitioner in India or elsewhere, yet, would be better appreciated by those who are moved or taken in by the emotional bearings of one who sincerely tried to discern the multiple façade of a society he is in.


  1. What takeaways might the reader will be left after reading it?  

The reader is definitely going to get a peep into the paradoxical views of a society on its definitions of right and wrong, the apt and convenient, the possible and priority. Readers would be treated to the poetic truth of nature around, what the author observed amidst the contradictions imposed. Maybe they would get to realise how an age bias is plaguing a gullible society, ignored and neglected by powers that be.


The author was not a celebrity or a public figure, just an Unknown Indian with Untold Experiences, probably irrelevant to a casual reader. However, personally, each experience and what it meant to society, was unique and can always claim their share of history, especially when you happen to be associated with a public entity. Time and age may have exerted their influence on the state broadcaster but changing its character was never in the agenda. Let me unashamedly confess, the writing was also prompted by a desire to vent frustration at the way an organisation devalued its human resource, declining due prospects, making a mockery of their very existence and pillorying them socially as minions of intellectual laboring, keeping them away from a status where they could have performed more purposefully.  


  1. How did you decide on your books title and cover design? 

The waves have always been like that. They continue to beat the shore in all ferocity. I have always felt they have a character., a commitment it felt to the shore alone. But the latter never seemed to own it. One could see the insensitiveness, as the waves struggled to linger. But they kept losing grip, every time sliding back. The waves continued to adorn the shore with the shells and conches, the booty it mined from the depths of the sea, optimistic that it will be accepted someday. But it never happened. Yet, they continue hoping.

Maybe it was a coincidence that I saw a parallel in life, but not without reasons. All my efforts at enriching and reconciling with the vocation, had been like the waves and the shore it kept washing. I gave it all my knowledge, understanding and talent. It used them up all  but refused to commit itself to me and now with retirement, I was coming to terms with a finality that this vocation is not going to ever. If waves had been falling silent at all the odd hours, contemplating and resuming efforts, here I was suffering the same ignominy. Only time was to tell whether I will have enough acumen in me to come back like the resurgent waves.


The title “When Waves Fell Silent” and the cover picture supporting the concept originated in this thought. 

  1. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers?  

Though matured with age and experience, my first ever work, "When Waves Fell Silent", came out only recently. So am too nascent to make any comment or advise a fellow writer. However, I would say this much. What you want to write has to come from inside you. Your inner self would pester you with the idea. Realise that is the one you are convinced about. And that is what you have to write. That is irrespective of whether it is fiction or nonfiction. The story idea could be what perturbed or provoked your mind. I believe that is when your writing gets a purpose. That is when it fulfils an obligation to the society as an author. Maybe this may not augur well with the commercial dictates but then that had always been secondary to me. I only wanted my book to be read. 


  1. What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?  

As a budding author this may be beyond me to comprehend. But as a reader, yes, I would say this is a knowledge based society. Information and knowledge are going to control the way we see, behave and act. And in a society that is analysed and judged at the micro level, every bit of information is going to count. And future generations are going to latch on to the words and the ideas they convey for survival. The only divergence would be the medium they would be using for the purpose. Though the electronic mode is claiming its share of popularity, this author feels there will always be a sizeable chunk rooting for the traditional books. To that extent it is going to stay. Maybe it may change the way it publishes books like the books on demand that is feasible now. 


  1. What challenges did you overcome to write this book?  

When your primary vocation is anything other than full time writing, then it could be really difficult to find time to write especially when you are a temperamental writer for whom the time and place are important for the creative pursuit. And certain vocations could be too demanding that it just won’t give you the leverage for it. I know for it happened to me. Precisely why I had to wait till my retirement to active dabble with this passion.


Yet another problem was the often spoke about writer's block. You have to experience it to know how it can affect you. It can be a very traumatizing experience. And when that happens the best way I found was to stop everything, drop the pen, take the backpack and catch the first train and be away from the setting. Forget that you are writing. Take in all experiences of the journey with an uncluttered mind without any intention or inhibition. And on return, there will be something in it for my writing.


And then again there is this laborious process of editing and re-editing your draft to your satisfaction the perfection which I believe is a bane to the process. It is a very difficult compromise you have to make.


  1.  How would you describe your writing style?  

I don’t think I consciously follow any particular style for that matter. The priority is always to translate my thoughts in the most convincing manner and my past reading experiences fill in the words and connects everything. Maybe I should confess that I do seek out imagery to embellish my writing, this more on account of the love of nature as observed at the micro level and then again I can’t refrain from penning even the most non consequential thing I see around me. Even the inanimate objects seem to influence my thoughts and I probably do try to accord life to it. 


  1. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours?  

For one simple reason that they would find so much in it that would relate to their own lives. It is after all a common man with his memoirs. Who else could be so true to the most ordinary? And then it would be a kind of reassurance for the reader that he is not alone in there. His own thoughts and perceptions are not in isolation. That is something which is likely to give him or her the much needed push to carry on with optimism.  

Biography: A broadcaster, this author had been with All India Radio, the state public service broadcaster for over three decades as a program officer, serving in different parts of the country. He has the privilege of holding two national broadcasting awards for programming excellence. Couple of productions nominated to scrutiny by international jury and several features and documentaries had been matter of satisfaction. Presently he is engaged in full time writing. The first ever work, "When Waves Fell Silent”, a memoir on the last one hundred days to retirement from active vocation was published recently. It's another ‘Unknown Indian’ with ‘Untold Stories’. The emotional bearing of retirement, thoughts, perceptions and impressions on a contemporary society during the period, recollections from over three decades, quite a lot of imagery, he believes it has a lot to offer an avid reader. He considers his work non-fiction in a different mold.


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