What you aspire can be achieved

Laxman Rao – Writing in adversity

Laxman RaoIf you ever happen to step on the pavement outside the building of Hindi Bhawan near ITO in New Delhi, India, you might give a passer’s look to a roadside tea-seller called Laxman Rao. What might coax you to look over your shoulder is the stack of books neatly placed alongside his stove. “What are these books here for?” you might ask yourself. Of course, they are meant to be sold but what’s more noteworthy is the name of the author in print on the covers. All those are penned by Laxman Rao, the tea-seller.

This middle-aged man has contributed 20 books to Hindi literature, spanning over 37 years. “I have been sitting outside Hindi Bhawan for 15 years now but have never been invited to any literary function there,” says Rao in an ironical tone. The author lays before us his pity by saying that the Delhi’s writing fraternity knows him more as a chaiwala than a writer.

With his treasure lying bare beside him, Laxman Rao tells us about the rare feat he achieved recently by way of his latest novel titled Renu. It was read by none other than the President of India, Pratibha Patil, who got so impressed that she sent an invitation for the writer to come and meet her at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The twinkle in Rao’s eyes was evident as he narrated the honor bestowed upon him. “Unse milkar aaj mere kaam to recognition mil gayee (my work got recognition today after meeting her), he said ecstatically. He thanked the efforts of a group of intellectuals called Vidharbha Mitra Mandal who presented his work to the President.

He forayed into writing as an 18-year-old, when he wrote his first novel, Ramdas. It was based on a true story of a boy who drowned in the river in his village and sold 2,200 copies. However, it was not before he had to toil hard after landing in Delhi in 1975 from Maharashtra’s Taregaon Dashasar village. He worked as a laborer and did dishes at local restaurants before setting up his roadside tea stall. All this while, he kept pursuing his BA degree from the Delhi University.

Since his first novel, he has touched topics related to politics, social issues, people and life in general. “Most people can’t believe that a chaiwala can write books. Initially I could not even find publishers,” laments Rao. That, however, didn’t hold him back. He set up his own publication called Bhartiya Sahitya Kala Prakashan and published 8 of his 20 books, with four more ready to go to press. “You don’t need a decorated office. Just compile your work and give it in any press for printing. Publishers have started coming forward now but I can handle everything myself,” Rao says with determination writ large over his face. What more, he markets his work himself, cycling to schools and colleges in and around Delhi besides selling his work alongside his tea stall.  

Although his first love is writing, it’s the tea he sells that runs his family. He is there at 9 in the morning every day and leaves for home at 9 in the evening, with earnings anywhere between Rs. 100 and Rs. 150 daily. However, he made sure that his two sons didn’t get robbed off the gift of education. The elder one, Hitesh, studies chartered accountancy and the younger one is completing his graduation.

While there is nothing that can match the efforts and fortitude of Laxman Rao, it surely is a lesson for those who feel aggrieved due to lack of opportunity and resources. We can write our own destiny, as did this ‘Star of the Day’.

8 Responses to “Laxman Rao – Writing in adversity”

  1. Wonderful example of persistence! Great find JS 🙂

    • Thanks JP! I was really inspired to find this man. He is almost writing his fortune himself and is indeed a one-man persistent army. Hats off to Laxman Rao! I wish his days of adversity and poverty go away soon.

  2. Quite a fantastic story. Skill has got to get its due. I’m glad people can at least read about this working class hero through your blog. Great job.

  3. Hi JS,

    I came across your blog through Indiblogger, and wow…an I found your blog amazing especially this one article (Laxman Rao). I appreciate your efforts, and idea…

    Keep aspiring us to become these stars…;)

  4. Thanks for a wonderful story. This shows that writers are truly passionate people, and that they also a focused and caring.

    Thanks for sharing this

    • I too got hooked to this man when he came across through one of the newspaper write-ups. He is a picture of grit and determination. Hats off!

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