Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: N. Gopinathan Nair--His Life and Times

I like to think that when I sit down to write a story I have done enough research to give the novel a feel of authenticity—the scene, characters, and problems ring true to the reader. Getting to that point isn’t always easy. I can and have asked odd questions of elected officials, local police men and women, social workers, and nurses. These questions help me get at the facts of a situation, but every writer knows you need more than that. You need the “feel” of a situation, the atmosphere of a neighborhood, or the sense of a community.

The last time I was in India, just a year ago, a friend gave me a copy of her father’s collected essays, which she had helped her mother compile. As I started to read through the essays in English I felt an entire age opening up for me. N. Gopinathan Nair was one of those men who live fully in their time, and in their own way participate in shaping their country’s future.

All of my characters in both series, the Mellingham series and the Anita Ray series, have a back story, and this is the kind of work that I turn to, to get a sense of the world some of them might have known.

The scribe Remembered: N. Gopinathan Nair—His Life and Times, edited by K. Saradamoni with biographical preface by Saradamoni and visual essay by G. Asha. (2012)

The early years of a new nation are heady exciting times. The reports and articles by journalist N. Gopinathan Nair are a record of these crucial early days and issues in the history of Kerala and India. Gopi, as he was generally known, was best known as the founder editor of Janayogam, the first weekly and later daily newspaper of the undivided Communist party in Travancore, before it merged with two other areas to become Kerala.

Born in 1923 outside Kollam and educated in Kuala Lumpur, where his father worked, and the Government Boy's High School in Kollam, he later attended the American College in Madurai. Gopi was profoundly influenced by Nehru’s writings. He turned from an early interest in science to journalism for his career.

Gopi wrote for many newspapers and publications over the years on a wide range of topics. He was especially attentive to legislation that would address the ancient and onerous burdens on landless farmers and other laborers, the lack of education for those outside the elite groups, developing technology in the new India, and creating a stable government to benefit the many castes trying to move into the modern world. His articles often included carefully researched data for skeptical readers and historical background information to flesh out a discussion of contemporary problems and proposed solutions.

The book comprises essays and articles in both Malayalam and English, depending on the original publication, as well as several tributes and reminiscences. There are numerous photographs of Gopi and his family throughout the years.

Gopi’s wife, Dr. Saradamoni, prepared an extensive introduction and his daughter Asha collected and arranged a number of photographs that add another rick layer to Gopi’s biography.

To purchase the book go here:


  1. I agree that to write with a feel of authenticity you have to understand the world in which your characters live. I have never been to India but when I read your Anita Ray books I feel like I am there.

  2. Thanks for the compliment and the comment.

  3. I always felt you know Trivandrum better than me Susan.:)

  4. That's a lovely thing to say, Usha, but I doubt it's true. I have a new hotel this year so I'll be getting to know another neighborhood.