You probably have heard about him. He’s 62. If you’re a Delhiite, he’s probably your favorite chai wallah. But there’s a lot to more to him than just being a tea-seller. He is a prolific Hindi-language author, a publisher himself and he also sells his books on platforms like Amazon.
He sells his books at his tea stall.
Laxman Rao was born to a farmer in a village in Maharashtra. He came to Delhi in 1975 to become a writer.
In the beginning, he used to work as a construction worker. He has also washed dishes at a restaurant.
He always had an interest in Hindi literature.
And of course, to be able to contribute to the same as an author.
It didn’t work out well and ended in disappointment as nobody wanted to invest on a book written by a roadside vendor.
Some people advised him that he needed to get a proper education first, to be able to publish a book.
And that’s what he did.
‘Ramdas’ – a book about the complexities of the student-teacher relationship, through the story of a young, wayward student from Laxman Rao’s village who drowned in a river, is his best-selling novel. Right now, it is in its third edition and has sold more than 4,000 copies.
Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister back in 1984. A Congress party member spoke to her about Laxman Rao and that was when he received an invitation to meet her, and present his books to her. He told Anasuya Basu for BBC,
I met Mrs Gandhi in May 1984 with two of my books. She really appreciated my work and encouraged me to write more. I expressed my wish to write a book on her but she insisted that the book should be on her work rather than a commentary on her life. Enthused by this meeting, I wrote an essay on her tenure from 1969-1972 titled ‘Pradhan Mantri’ (Prime Minister) but she was shot dead before it could be published. After her death, I wrote a play based on her life and used the same title as the essay.
He did is 11th and 12th and then BA from Delhi University.
He talks about the areas of his interest, the ones he likes to write about.
He makes 1,200 rupees by selling 150 cups of tea, on an average day.
From his own savings, he published his first book in 1979. He says,
Publishers have a highbrow attitude towards people like us and want money to publish our work. I had no money to spare and, therefore, decided to start my own publishing house.
Laxman Rao sells his books on Flipkart and Amazon. He also has a page on Facebook which is run by Hitesh, his elder son. Hitesh also manages online sales coordination.
A spokesperson for Amazon India told BBC,
His books are doing very well on our site. We are happy that authors like Mr Rao have found a platform such as ours to sell his books.
Though Laxman Rao has won many awards, he has never been invited to any literary festival till date. He did get recognition from the then president Pratibha Patil.
His passion for Hindi literature and his love for writing have kept him going. Even at this age, he uses a cycle to sell his books. He strongly feels that a writer’s job is also to sell his books. For the closure, he said,
Authors pull different stunts to market their books, make movies and TV serials out of them. I am a simple man. I get all my mail at this footpath address. My books are available in school, college and university libraries in the city and I am often asked to lecture in various schools and colleges across the country. What more can a writer ask for?
Here’s a video shared by The DelhiPedia which talks about his journey so far –
Screengrabs taken from The DelhiPedia
Information sourced from BBC