The Story of Radhika Mukherjee
Born in Kolkata, India, Radhika Mukherjee came alive properly at age 4, when she moved to Kurseong, a town in the Himalayan Foothills, for a year and a half. Back in Kolkata, she missed the mountains as if a part of her had been severed. Books and her imagination are what helped her cope. Having dived into the world of books, it was the natural next step to want to write them.
Radhika started feeling ‘literary’ at around age 7 or so, when she confidently declared – ‘I’m going to be a WRITER!’ when asked – ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Her interlocutor seemed to have fallen into a state of grave trepidation at this utterance from a child of a single parent and gravely pronounced, ‘Oh no, that’s too difficult, try something else.’ (Or words to that effect.)
Undeterred, Radhika commenced on an energetic curriculum of reading and thinking, convinced she was a writer (on the strength of a few scribbles). What to do, the words spoke to her! So she read and read and read and read and did spectacularly average at school. (Always hated exams!) And spoke in ‘big’ words which impressed people a bit but also made them uncomfortable. She was known to be ‘good’ in English.
At 14 though, she embarked on a quest to channel the words. Word tamin’ ain’t easy though. They slipped and slopped all over the place. Till finally, humming with the music of the romantic poets she was reading at the time – poems arrived! Dark, intense and even merry!
Her mother (writer and professor), while being exceptionally encouraging, gave her a salient piece of advice – poems are better if they are woven through with a metaphor. That sparked off new ways of thinking and seeing the world and brought with it better, more mature poems. Very soon Radhika was scribbling everywhere, all the time – forming poems and the beginnings of novels and the introverted personality she carries around today.
At 16 she started a light, funny book – a little satiric, almost a comedy of manners, filled with horrendous puns – about a girl being brought up by her flaky aunt. It was conceived as a first person narrative and very soon, Radhika was immersed in exploring the voice and story of this girl. The voice of the narrator though, started morphing. It became more serious, more pained, more profound, more questing.
At 17 then, an entire new work emerged, electrifying her life! That voice became that of Uma, protagonist of the yet unfinished masterwork. For months, she would scribble every night. Arrange, re-arrange, imagine, plot and inhabit the world of Uma, or vice versa. Memories were plundered, possibilities explored, mind-journeys undertaken.
10,000 words – Part I of this concentrated epic was completed by the time college was finished. In between was a half gap year, two house moves (the last one to an ancient farmhouse far away from the city) and the inadvertent acquisition of two cats and their soon to be born legions of children, along with the soon to be adopted multitude of dogs.
She had overreached in her book, she could not stand examinations, and the long commute to college had exhausted her. Add to the mix hostile neighbours, cat/dog-crises, a few horrible circumstances and people and severe financial strain and you have a good recipe for a brain-busting burnout. After recuperating (by which time the B.A. degree had arrived), Radhika enrolled in an M.A. course but struck with the urge to DO, to HELP, to BE, she gave it up, moved to Mumbai and got a job instead.
What an amazing rush of adrenaline that period of life was! So much learnt, so many skills gained, so many aspects of the self explored and a measure of confidence gained. So many roles essayed – Writer, Editor, Coach, Trainer, Managing Editor, Manager, SME, Recruiter – sometimes all in one job!
At the back of her mind of course, something kept telling her she needed to write, be a part of the making of books. Trips to bookstores were like pilgrimages to a lost, promised land; tugging her back to the world of books. Then and now, arose the same question/refrain: someday. She started a blog, Light Under Shadow (originally titled: From Deep Under the Shadows) and got quite a bit of appreciation, which really was like a light reaching in to illuminate the shadows.
Another burnout seemed imminent. So she bid goodbye to what had nearly been a dream job and thought – Ah! Now I’ll write. There were 2-3 storylines planned and ready, but perhaps it was too soon. New fiction did not flow.
In January 2013, a collection of short stories (written in earlier years) called Our Particular Shadows was published and it generated some interest. That moment of putting together the copyright page with ‘©Radhika Mukherjee’ on it was absolutely magical!
Then, marvelously, she got an opportunity to edit books! It seemed to be an incredible realization of a dream that had seemed too lofty to even dream of. Since then there have been over 20 amazing books edited, proofread and critiqued.
Right now, having moved to peaceful Pune with her husband, it is the rewards and challenges of the bookish life that occupy Radhika.
There are stories calling…
Follow the evolving story of Radhika: