The Indian novel is now a well-established moneymaker abroad. But for the first time an Indian play in English, usually seen as a cultural dead-end, has won international accolades. Padmanabhan's play tells a chilling story of how "a small family in a small tenement in Bombay is distorted by capitalist money". The year is 2010, and Third World nations have been transformed into 'donor' nations, and the First World into 'recipients'. People in the West buy a poor man in Bombay and keep him in good health so that his organs can be made available to them whenever needed. He is paid to keep his organs in perfect working order and, by extension, forgo his human rights. "Since he has to keep healthy at all costs, he has, for example, no right to be unhappy," Padmanabhan says. "It's a situation that is not acceptable to the family but for them the money is an absolute argument."
Padmanabhan has travelled thru Stockholm, Geneva, Bangkok, Karachi and Teheran with her diplomat father, returning to work in Bombay before moving to Delhi in 1985. She's illustrated children's books, held exhibitions of posters, written short stories for magazines, learnt zinc plate etching, and written four plays. A collection of short stories, Hot Death Cold Soup, was published in '96; her comic strip Suki, about the life of a feminist journalist—"Suki used to be me. Now she is not"—appears in The Pioneer. "I have ideas all the time, I need to for the cartoon strip," she laughs self-deprecatingly. Padmanabhan is determinedly unglamorous and down to earth. "No one can grudge me my success, can they? After all, I'm fat and 44!" Nonetheless, the Greeks loved her.