Nikita Singh talks of her passion for romance, books and food over a great meal
Before she arrives, I pick up a few of Nikita Singh’s books and flip through them. The latest, “Right Here Right Now”, sits in the general fiction shelf, probably a little out of place, with Penguin’s Inked logo marking it a Young Adult fiction. The rest, including “Accidentally in Love” and “The Promise”, look attractive, their cover illustrations colourful and interesting. I’m told by Oxford Book Store’s Nimisha Mishra that Nikita’s book launch for “Right Here Right Now”, held at the bookstore, was a roaring success, and the writer had barely a moment to herself between fans requesting photographs, signatures, or just a quick chat.
And then this popular, successful and prolific author shows up, and suddenly I’m sitting opposite a young, vibrant 22-year-old, fresh out of college and into her first job. Of course, the fact that she has seven successful books to her name is hard to forget. We sit down at the Oxford Cha Bar, and she tells me that while not entirely familiar with the place, she has been here to meet people before, including Anuja (Chauhan) and Ravinder (Singh). “I like the ambience; it’s an easy going, casual but really nice place”. She’s young, yes, but there is something very self-contained, assured and mature about Nikita’s manner. She talks easily, taking breaks to scan the menu. “My friends have told me that this place has many types of really good tea,” she says, but when I suggest that she try one, she laughs. “I don’t really have tea.” The conversation is speeding up, and we pause between the names of Nikita’s favourite authors to order a couple of plates of cold smoked chicken and mustard sandwiches, and a glass of kokum soda.
“Everyone reads in my family, which means that I had a ready library to turn to when I started reading.” And interestingly, Nikita tells me that she only started reading after passing out of school. “I had around seven months of nothing to do between school and college. And I didn’t have any friends in Indore, having recently shifted from Ranchi, where I had been living.” So Nikita raided her father’s library, picking up books at random and slowly discovering that she really enjoyed it. “After that, once college started, the first couple of years my reading slowed again, because there was just so much to do. But then, I felt like this was something I didn’t want to give up.” Nikita discovered her love for romances in college, turning to books that she says made her feel happy. “And when I read these books, I felt like maybe it was something I could try and write too. I started, and got two chapters ready.” The sandwiches arrive and we dig in, the cold, mustard slathered chicken and the iced drinks a respite from the heat. “I sent off my chapters to several publishers, and in two days, I got my first response. It was from Pustak Mahal, and they asked me about the book.” Young and excited about this break, Nikita was unwilling to let the opportunity slip away. “I told them I had almost the entire book ready.” The deadline given to her by the publisher, and the fact that it was on the other side of her exams, left Nikita with fifteen days to finish the book. “I finished ‘Love@Facebook’ in 14 days. And ever since then, I have been able to stick to that and write all my books quite fast.”
Nikita is currently working her last week with independent publishers Wisdom Tree India. In August, she leaves to study creative writing in America, and as of now, says that her plans are fluid. “I don’t really know what I want to do. I think it will help to get away from everything and be just another student. It’ll give me the perspective that will help both my writing and life.”
The sandwiches are disappearing and the afternoon grows hotter, more languid. The Cha Bar is filling up, their busiest hour about to begin. Nikita takes a few sips of her drink and then talks about the books she has co-authored with the popular writer Durjoy Dutta. “I don’t know if we will be able to do it now, since Durjoy is writing for TV, but back then, it was okay. We’d write and edit together, and it was an easy, informal communication where I could tell him what I liked and what I didn’t.”
For Nikita, the idea of not being labelled a literary author is hardly a problem. “I pay attention to criticism from people who have read my books, but not from people who judge from afar just because they look down upon the mass market section of publishing. I write what I do because I love happy endings and books that are feel good. That’s the kind of writing I’ve been doing, and thankfully so far my books have all done well.”
The conversation moves to food, and Nikita talks about discovering Delhi food. “It can make a foodie out of anyone”, she says of the Capital. “I also travel a lot because of launches, and end up trying food from different cities.”
As we wrap up the meal, I realise that while she is definitely a pretty girl, her face also shines with a sort of innocence and intelligence that is reflected in the quiet, calm voice. While success has come early, her hold on it has been both mature and measured. We leave the cool, comfortable café, and I mean it when I say that it has been a pleasure to meet her.