Radha Nair’s ‘Breaking The Cocoon @ 40’ is a delightful collection of select events from her life, which also holds a mirror to the time the incidents are set in
‘“If English speaking Ammachi’ was my USP, so be it!” writes Radha Nair, while narrating how her team had complimented her thus for winning a high-profile campaign for her team. She was then working as a copywriter in an advertisement agency in Thiruvananthapuram. Candidly, she adds that the ‘compliment’ did deflate her ego but not that euphoric feeling of having won the day for her team.
Her self-deprecating sense of humour, pragmatism, candid remarks and ability to look at the funny side of things are evident in every page of her first book, Breaking The Cocoon @ 40. Evocative, humour-laced narratives and knack for turning every-day events into adventures and thought-provoking incidents make her book a page-turner.
Talking about her book in a phone conversation from Thrissur, Radha, a children’s author, says that it was her younger brother who encouraged her to jot down her experiences in the ad world in Mumbai, when she began working as a copywriter in her early forties. “A year after my husband’s death in 2018, I was at a loose end. For a year, I had been busy dealing with paperwork at the bank and different offices. But once that was done, there was a lull and I was feeling a little lost. That was when my brother came up with the idea of a book. I used to tell them about all my foibles and mishaps and he felt it would make an interesting read,” recalls the septuagenarian.
Breaking the Cocoon @ 40 has been authored by septugenarian Radha Nair
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Acting on her brother’s suggestion, Radha decided to write about her experience of working as a dream merchant in the ad agency. However, she realised that it would be a slim book indeed if it were to cover only her ad agency days. “Initially, I had planned to title the book ‘Chasing the big dream’. But then I found that writing only about campaigns and companies would not make it an interesting read. We enjoy reading stories and telling them is my forte. Not all advertisement campaigns, no matter how challenging it was at that time, would make interesting reading. I did not want it to be a string of of campaigns. Then I decided to add a few select incidents from my life and, eventually, it turned out to be a kind of quick scan of my life,” says Radha.
So she started working on her book in October 2019. Early in 2020, Radha completed it and began looking around for publishers. The lockdown in March made it a little difficult to find one.
A popular writer with a dedicated fan following, Radha turned to Facebook to help her find a publisher. “From my friends, I learnt what should not be done. But I still had not got a publisher,” says Radha.
Her bestie Aswathi Thirunal Gauri Lakshmi Bai put her in touch with Poorna Publications and soon her book became a reality. “She and I had written The God Who Rules A Kingdom, a book about Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple as seen through the eyes of two children. It was published by Poorna and they had given us a fair deal. So I was happy to get them as publishers,” she says.
The first seven chapters map the homemaker-turned-copywriter’s journey as she steps out of the cocoon of her home, learns to navigate the electric trains and the twists and turns of her work in the competitive world of advertisements. The next seven chapters are about her work in Kerala’s capital city, shaping important campaigns like the one to raise awareness about AIDS.
“The next few chapters go back a few decades as I take my readers to my grandparents’ home in rural Kerala where we used to spend our holidays,” says Radha.
Just as one is actually giggling and laughing at her tales of ponds and thongs, Radha changes the tone of her narration and introduces us to a heartbroken, bewildered teenager who returns to Kerala after her diplomat father is assassinated in Canada on April 19, 1961. In a few, poignant words, she explains how it changes her life and then writes about that teenager finding her feet in a conservative Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram), making new friends and so on.
Of the 31 chapters in the book, most of those in the last section ‘Sixties and Seventies’ are those that Radha had posted in her Facebook page. In addition to the chapters on her move to Thiruvananthapuram, her marriage to a scientist at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, motherhood and so on, there are observations on contemporary life, nostalgic notes and coming to terms with her husband’s death. The book ends with a moving poem written on the eve of her husband’s first death anniversary.
An active member of ‘Her Trivandrum’, a women-only Facebook group, Radha’s posts on Tuesdays are much awaited by fans of her writing. So, is there another book in the offing? Although she says ‘no’ without a second thought, watch this space.
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