His longest stints of work were at the Institute of International Economic Studies (IIES), Stockholm, and the National Institute of Economic Research (Konjunktur Institutet), Stockholm, following which he joined the faculty of the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode. His book ‘Deadlier Than the Male’ is published by Leadstart publishing.
TBE: Tell us a little about your story and the story world you’ve created.
Nandhakumar Warrier: Well, one can say it is a ‘campus’ novel, but that would be a simplification, for in the novel, incidents and developments in an IIM campus overflow on to and influence the society outside. The reverse is seen to be true as well.
Locating a large institute campus, especially a residential one, in the countryside is a bit akin to an alien airship landing in the countryside. It is hard to say which forms the interactions will take, and here the role of the director is a key one. Also, it has to be borne in mind that academic institutions function democratically compared to the industry: I think it was Pehr Gyllenhammar, long-time CEO of Volvo who once said bluntly that the industry is not a democracy. In contrast, one is free to air opinions and even put the director in awkward positions in an academic institution.
The story portrays a campus bursting at the seams with internal discord and ego clashes and – more dangerously – with the interaction with the outside world taking the form of vicious criminal collaboration- drugs, pedophile lairs and what not. The new director, a lady who comes with a premeditated plan to clean up the campus does a tight rope – walking act, imposing more discipline and hunting the criminal elements unobtrusively, all without affecting the smooth functioning of the institute or its image in the society.
TBE: How did you come up with the title Deadlier Than the Male and what is the significance of the title?
Nandhakumar Warrier: The title just sailed into my mind, the very first title and also the last that I considered. The main character, the lady director, takes the path that all previous directors have feared to tread. I also remember vaguely reading about some animal species where the “the female of the species” is superior and more dangerous.
So I thought it rhymed well: “The female of the species is deadlier than the male”!!!
TBE: What is the inspiration for your book? Is there a particular theme you wished to explore?
Nandhakumar Warrier: The IIMs are brilliantly functioning places because of the steel frames laid down in the beginning – something like the Britishers inheriting a lot of the Mughal systems, which, in turn, had inherited much harking back to the Maurya times. But one can see stresses and strains pulling the system apart, requiring firm corrective action. And then, who better to provide that, than a fearless and also clever lady able to out scheme enemies (yes, the word ‘enemy’ is no exaggeration here)!
Perhaps I was also influenced by the fact that there has been no IIM director of the female gender to date.
TBE: Who are your main characters? Tell us a little about what makes them tick. What appeals to you about them?
Nandhakumar Warrier: The lady director Sujata Das is the central figure in the story. The trouble-makers on campus are unaware that she has a reconnaissance system in place to zoom in on criminal elements and plots even before she lands on campus. She doesn’t hesitate to pull up laggards and students and staff misusing the system and contorting rules for personal benefits. An iron lady, one could say, but, as she is nursing an emotional wound due to a personal tragedy in her past, with a soft heart for the disadvantaged and those exposed to violence and harassment. She is on track to root out the evil on campus, linked to a pedophile look lair and – less visibly. – to the drug mafia, but has to strike at them prematurely for the sake of a girl student being targeted by these groups.
Divya is the girl student in disfavour with the underground mafia on campus as she is a regular visitor to a house nearby that is adjacent to the pedophile lair with international links run by two IIM staff members, the supremo of that nasty outfit being the IIM computer and network systems manager, Mohan. Diya is a very sensitive girl, with a troubled past, the history of a suicide attempt due to a tragic love affair.
Mohan, the IIM system manager as well as the pedophile organization head, is cognizant of Divya’s infatuation for Rakesh, a lively and handsome young professor. He tries to drive her to another suicide attempt by informing her that Rakesh is gay ( true ), and when that was absorbed sorrowfully by her retaining her balance of mind, that he is also a child molester (untrue!)
Rakesh is a dashing young professor with whom Divya goes jogging. He moves around also with Roshan, an NRI student. Roshan takes Divya to the home of his friend, Shalini, a dance teacher, and they quickly take to each other. None of them are aware that the house next door to Shalini is a pedophile hub. It is finally Divya who stumbles onto that ugly truth.
TBE: What resources do you use to research your book? Was the research difficult to find material for Deadlier Than the Male? How long did it take to finish the novel?
Nandhakumar Warrier: I didn’t need to do any research, since I had been part of an IIM community for many years. It was more a matter of observing and interpreting relationships and powerplay situations. And, while I have not worked alongside a female IIM director, I have been close to some ladies in similar positions, close enough to be able to observe them when they let their guard down and reveal the inner person.
The story and the plot had been churning around in my mind for a long time, so that it didn’t take long to write it down. But for various reasons, including a long USA visit, I broke off in the middle (though the story continued churning in my mind); still, I finished the book in a year and a half or so.
TBE: You have a way of creating determined women characters who push hard for a particular goal. How did that idea end up being so important in your novel?
Nandhakumar Warrier: Creating strong women characters just reflects reality. My observation and experience has been that women in leadership positions usually set their goals high and then work single-mindedly towards that goal. In contrast, men are easily swayed by extraneous events and veer away from the chartered path. I thought it would be appropriate to have a female director for an institute under siege from criminal elements because a woman in such a situation is less likely to turn her eyes away, let things ride.
TBE: Ultimately, what would you like for the readers to take from Deadlier Than the Male?
Nandhakumar Warrier: Academic institutions are part of the larger society, not positioned on a glass tower. Let the fresh winds blow in, but never drop vigilance lest poisonous fumes blow in with the winds.
TBE: In your opinion, what is the most important thing about any book?
Nandhakumar Warrier: It is not necessary for every book to contain a moral message. But I think a book should offer a deeper understanding of society, greater insights. This deeper understanding could make one despair of human nature, but that cannot be helped.
TBE: What or who inspired you to first write? Which authors have influenced you?
Nandhakumar Warrier: My all – time favourite authors are A.J. Cronin and Graham Greene. It was Amitav Ghosh’s first books that inspired me to write.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Nandhakumar Warrier: I am toying with a fast-paced story of crime and romance, pitched partly in India and partly in Sweden.