Since his teenage, 63-year-old Laxman Rao has been writing books and has published some of these books himself. These books are available on Amazon, Flipkart, on Kindle, as well as on sale at his roadside chai shop near ITO in Delhi.
Laxman Rao was born in Talegaon Dashasar village of Maharashtra and was inspired by Gulshan Nanda’s writings before choosing to venture into writing himself. As a 15-year-old, he loved to read books by Nanda and according to him “he thought he would one day become Gulshan Nanda.”
Because at the time Laxman had no school in his village, he went to live in Amravati. While still schooling, Laxman also had to work as a domestic help for three years and at a spinning mill for five years as a result of his family’s financial incapacity.
A distressing incident at school was what propelled him to write. A schoolmate, who was also a boy from his village, Ramdas by name drowned and died in a river. Previously known to be a rebellious student, a teacher helped turn Ramdas’s life around into a student’s favorite at school. “The story of Ramdas” turned out to be Laxman first book.
Having the knowledge that lots of publishing houses are located in Delhi, Laxman had hoped to move there taking up writing more seriously. After schooling, he worked as a farmer for some time before leaving his village with only Rs. 40 his father gave him. It was not easy getting to Delhi with Rs.40 as he exhausted his all his money only getting to Bhopal. This left him no choice but to work for three months as a laborer.
By July 1975, 25 years old Laxman got to Delhi. All he had were a 10th-grade completion certificate, two shirts and the dream to one day become a successful writer. He failed to get a job in Delhi and ended up working at a construction site as a laborer and then as a waiter at a restaurant for two years before deciding to open his own paan (betel leaves) shop which he later changed to a tea shop and that he has been doing for the past 20 years. Within these two years, he had written another book titled Nayi Duniya Ki Nayi Kahani, which was about his journey to Delhi and his determination to become a writer. However, rejection and mockery were what he received when he took both books to the many publishers in the city as no one thought a tea seller could make a good writer. Laxman had decided to publish his book himself after a publisher had asked him to “get out.”
Using all his savings (Rs.7000), he published his first novel titled Nayi Duniya Ki Nayi Kahani in 1979. As a self-publisher, Laxman had to sell his books himself. He would ride across the city on bicycle, stopping by at libraries and schools, asking people if they would like to read his book. He also went on to register his publishing company known as Bhartiya Sahitya Kala Prakashan.
At present, he publishes 500 copies each of 4 different titles a year. Rs. 25,000-30,000 is spent in publishing a title. According to Laxman, he sells about 100 copies from the tea shop alone in a month while the rest are sold via e-commerce websites, and he is currently working on two more novels.
He gradually began gaining recognition as an author after publishing his first book. A senior Congress party member learned about him in 1984 after reading an article based on his life. He informed the PM of India as at the time, Indira Gandhi, about Laxman, and he was invited to present his books to her. He was encouraged to continue writing. When Laxman talked about also wanting to write a book about the life of Indira Gandhi, she asked him to write about her tenure instead. This lead him to write a play called Pradhanmantri.
“I wanted to present it to Mrs. Indira Gandhi, but her unfortunate death took this opportunity from me,” Laxman said. As a good writer, Laxman still had the zeal to learn and is still continuing his education up to this day. At 40, he passed the Class 12 CBSE exam from Patrachar School in Delhi and went on to complete his graduation through a correspondence course from Delhi University. He is presently studying for an MA in Hindi from IGNOU.
The reason I decided to write in Hindi was that I wanted my books to be read all over the country. This led me into reading a lot of Hindi books. I always visited Daryaganj’s old books’ market on Sunday’s to purchase Hindi books,” said Laxman. All of Laxman’s books were based on real life events. He went on to mention saying “Some boys at my stall used to talk about a female classmate, who did not speak much. I asked to meet her, and she turned out to be a character (and title) of one of my books — Renu. A book he presented to the former Indian president, Pratibha Patil, who impressed by his work she had invited him and his family to Rashtrapati Bhavan on July 23, 2009.
He lives with his wife and two sons, both of whom are pursuing higher studies. According to Laxman, he presently has no intention of closing his tea shop. As he mentioned that with the money he uses the money he earns from his books to publish more books while the tea shop helps run my household. He no longer goes around selling his books. His first book titled “Ramdas” still stands to be his best seller to this day and is already in its 3rd edition. It has sold over 3,000 copies, and it has also been converted into play.
At the moment, Laxman is working on his forthcoming books —Barrister Gandhi, which focuses on the life of Mahatma Gandhi, and DANSH, a social novel. Other notable books by Laxman include Narmada, Parampara Se Judi Bhartiya Rajneeti, Ahankaar, and Abhivyakti. Laxman Rao had always refused to receive donations and funds from people, but rather he asks politely that they should buy one of his books instead.
“I am satisfied with my life, and I want to move ahead. I am hopeful that my books shall earn me a lot of money someday. Then I’ll stop selling tea and engage in full-time writing. That day is not too far away now,” Laxman says.