Meet Lax­man Rao, chai­wala-cum-pas­sion­ate Hindi writer

In the ab­sence of proper re­sponse from pub­lish­ers and read­ers, writ­ers in the na­tional lan­guage are fac­ing end­less strug­gles.

Alive - - Contents - by Ravin­der Ku­mar

Writ­ers, es­pe­cially Hindi writ­ers do not come in lime­light in In­dia as much as their English coun­ter­parts do. Hindi writ­ers hit the head­lines oc­ca­sion­ally for all rea­sons ex­cept their writ­ing. For ex­am­ple, Upen­dra Nath Ashk, a noted Hindi writer came in news dur­ing mid 80s when he opened a small gro­cery shop at his res­i­dence in Al­la­habad, where he sold toffies (called lemon

choos in Hindi).

A re­porter of an English weekly mis­tak­enly de­scribed him sell­ing

nimbu-paani (lemon juice). The news made up­roar for some­time, when Ashk was quoted as say­ing he would not have set­tled for this tuchcha dhandha

(petty job) had his writ­ings fetched him enough money to main­tain a re­spectable liv­ing stan­dard.

But Lax­man Rao is writer with a dif­fer­ence. He is a Hindi writer and sells tea at his small road­side stall also. A loyal clien­tele throngs his stall in Rouse Av­enue near the bustling ITO area. They come not only for the brew, but also a taste of his words.

Yes, 63- year-old Rao is an award­win­ning au­thor of 25 pub­lished books, which are based on real-life sto­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences of his cus­tomers and other peo­ple around. But his jour­ney from Ma­ha­rash­tra's Am­ra­vati district to a flour­ish­ing writ­ing ca­reer in Delhi was full of bends.

In 1975, Rao had come to Delhi with just Rs. 40 in his pocket -- bor­rowed from his fa­ther to make it big in the na­tional cap­i­tal. He was a young man of only 22 then. Five years later, he started sell­ing tea at Vishnu Digam­bar Marg and in no time be­came pop­u­lar among of­fice-go­ers and other passers-by, who would stop for his tea.

But when he wrote his first novel and took it to a pub­lisher, he was told to "get out, a chai­wala can­not write". It only made Rao de­ter­mined to ed­u­cate him­self and pub­lish out his own books. From then on, he saved ev­ery paisa he could, till he had the Rs. 7,000 he needed to pub­lish his first book. Later, he cy­cled around schools to sell his books to those who fan­cied Hindi lit­er­a­ture.

Lax­man Rao is a tea seller by day and a stu­dent and au­thor by night. Ev­ery day, Rao cy­cles to ITO with his tea things — he says he doesn't use an auto be­cause the

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