Penguin India has just come up with a set of quick-reads for Delhi Metro commuters.

Train journeys and novels have a long-standing camaraderie. And we all, at some point of time, have gladly chipped in to keep this association sailing. Now, with shifting times, trains have journeyed from that experience of an occasional ride with friends and family to an average Delhiite's daily life. Boarding a train to get to one's workplace is no more the distinctiveness of a Mumbaikar or a Kolkattan alone. Over a million Delhiites reportedly use the Delhi Metro every day. So why keep the ‘novel' idea away, reflected Penguin India.

Vaishali Mathur, senior commissioning editor of the ever expanding publishing house, throws light on the ‘whys' and the ‘hows' behind the introduction of the concept to the city's commuters. “We have been studying the market and felt that there was a gap as far as literature for the people on the move with busy lifestyles and shortage of time, was concerned. These are people who like to read but don't have the patience to carry around heavy tomes.”

And so Metro Reads come to life. Penguin has introduced the series with a trio — “Love Over Coffee” by Delhiite Amrit N. Shetty, “Where Girls Dare” by Roorkee-resident Bhavna Chauhan, and “Dreams in Prussian Blue” by Pune-based Paritosh Uttam. Sticking to the concept of racy quickies, none of the novels spans beyond 250 pages, and the stories are severely metro-ish.

Amrit's protagonist Anup, a happy-go-lucky city slicker, with a pack of friends to help him out of sticky situations, finds himself a misfit in an IT company. He also has a quiet love affair with a colleague tucked away from the notice of other colleagues, and of course, his parents, who thinks he is too young to take important decisions of his life, such as marriage.

Then there are Bhavna's fun-loving women cadets at the Officers' Training Academy at Chennai. They fight, they bicker, they cry and raise hell. But the journey to become officers in the army, they realise eventually, is also a learning experience.

In “Dreams in Prussian Blue”, Paritosh features young Naina utterly smitten by Michael, her senior at Fine Arts College, Mumbai. They decide to live in, but life soon turns into a rollercoaster.

States Mathur, “This series is focused more on what the reader wants. A good, gripping story line, simplicity of thought and diverse topics have been the criteria.” And to bring them to the notice of its clientele — “the people on the move” — the publishing house has put up hoardings at many Metro stations.

Three more

Pinning a lot of hope on the series, Penguin has already lined up three more books for the year. Mathur elaborates, “We are looking at six books a year under the series. The next set should be coming later this year. The stories are a whodunit with a background of cricket, and one is based in the corporate world tracing a life of blind ambitions, etc.”

Time will tell how they would fare, but if the series indeed fills up the gap pointed out by Penguin's market survey, it will certainly be proof that the enduring alliance between trains and novels is is in no danger from developing technology.

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