N S Madhavan - Author of 'When Big Trees Fall'
N S Madhavan was born in Ernakulam, Kerala, in 1948. He once confessed that he enjoyed a 'happy childhood', opposite of Hemingway's prescription for a good writer. He studied at Sree Rama Varma High School, a government school, teeming with three thousand and odd students. Though the school ran like a factory with morning and evening shifts, it never lowered the bar as far as teaching Malayalam went.
Madhavan's luck with Malayalam teachers followed him to the Maharajas' College, Ernakulam, where he majored in economics. He had recounted that writing came to him by accident. One day, in 1970, when he was doing his post graduation in Thiruvananthapuram, Madhavan noticed that his hostel mates had all withdrawn into their rooms with reams of paper. They were busy writing for a short-story competition for college students, by the prestigious Malayalam weekly, Mathrubhoomi . Herd instinct, more than anything else, prompted him to write. Madhavan's story Sisu (The Child) won the first prize. Freed from the fear of rejection slips, he followed this story with more.
In 1975, Madhavan joined the Indian Administrative Service and was seconded to the Bihar cadre. His career followed the usual graph of administering sub-districts and districts, jobs in the state and the union secretariats and running departments and corporations. By 1980, he had practically stopped writing. In 1983, his friends paid a tribute to a 'late' author by publishing Choolaimedile Savangal (Corpses of Choolaimedu), a collection of Madhavan's published stories.
The decade of the 80's saw him write nothing and he later said he was slowly losing touch with his mother tongue. In 1988 his job took him back to Kerala. This helped him to reclaim his language. Within two years, in 1990, he published a short story, Higuita , about the quixotic and eponymous goalkeeper of Columbia's World Cup team. Madhavan's reentry was welcomed with critical and-much to his surprise--popular acclaim.
Higuita was followed by Vanmarangal Veezhumpol (When Big Trees Fall), which forms the kernel of the movie KAAYA THARAN. "More than imagination," Madhavan once said in an interview, "sometimes pollen flying about from contemporary events fertilise minds."
After the Kerala spell, there were no more pauses in his writing. Madhavan has published five collections of short stories since then. In 2003, his first novel, Lanthanbatheriyile Luthiniyakal (Litanies of Dutch Battery) was published.
Though his stories in translation are not anthologized, his individual stories have appeared in Katha Prize Series, The Little Magazine etc. Some links to Madhavan's stories, translated to English, are given below:
• THE CRY