NS Madhavan, creative writer

Portrait of NS Madhavan / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 1996

Portrait of NS Madhavan / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / 1994

N. S. Madhavan is a leading writer of contemporary Indian literature, whose short stories, novels, football columns and travel articles enjoy a wide readership especially in Malayalam speaking areas of India. Madhavan was born in the port city of Cochin where he attended the Sree Rama Varma High School. After graduating in economics from Maharajas College, Ernakulam he moved to Thiruvananthapuram to study for his masters at the Department of Economics, University of Kerala. During this period he began writing, and in 1970 won the top prize for his first published short story ‘Sisu’, in a contest organised by the Malayalam literary magazine Mathrubhumi. In 1975, Madhavan joined the Indian Administrative Service where he was seconded to the Bihar cadre. His civil service career followed the usual path of initially administering sub-districts and districts, then jobs in the state and union secretariats followed by the running departments and corporations.

I met Madhavan when he was a Joint Secretary of Food and Civil Supplies Department, India. AK Anthony was the minister during that period. One day, cartoonist EP Unni called me and said, “Madhavan needs to take for his book to be published by the DC books”. I agreed and the shooting was indeed organised in a hurry. There were several props for the photograph – black background, red shirt, chiaroscuro lighting etc.,  Madhavan explained to me this long list the publishing company demanded to make his book cover.  I and Unni rushed and organised all these props. We fixed a make-shift studio at his house in Kakkanagar, Delhi. I was working as a photo-journalist during that period and hence didn’t have any of the studio accessories. So, we collected all the table lamps and other available small lamps from his house to create the chiaroscura effect in the make shift studio and took this photograph. I made many images of Madhavan that day. I had to make him work with me for more than an hour. Amidst his busy, maverick schedule, he also enjoyed the shoot.

Madhavan, is a protean, maverick writer of my generation. And, he is continues to be an inspiration for the new generation as well.I have met him during several other occasions and I also have many photographs while he was writing his first novel Lanthan Batheriyile Luthiniyakal. He was based in Cochin and we meet very often during those days. Those memorable days of Cochin remains fresh in my memory. We used to search the details about boat making, the names of the different parts of the boat, the Portuguese names for these parts etc., We used to travel to the backwaters of the Cochin, going to different islands to look the life and lifestyle of the people. We enjoyed first hand, Madhavan’s picturesque observation and his strong sharp wits. I felt that he is searching for his roots and was driven by his childhood memories, when he was on the look out for the different fish recipes, Kaika’s Biryani etc., After this intimate moments, I lost connection with him. We were both held up with our own worlds. We do keep in touch over phone at times. Thank you NS for your help in my life.

Abul Kalam Azad

13th January 2014

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