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Appetite for success

BUDHADITYA BHATTACHARYA
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TABLE FOR TWO Author Ravinder Singh believes marketing is everything, in the world of books as well as food

Surfeit of ideasRavinder Singh at The Café in New Delhi’s Hyatt RegencyPhoto: Rajeev Bhatt
Surfeit of ideasRavinder Singh at The Café in New Delhi’s Hyatt RegencyPhoto: Rajeev Bhatt

In the editor’s note that prefaces Love Stories That Touched My Heart , a recent anthology of love stories by Penguin, Ravinder Singh explains the book’s provenance by channelling Spiderman. “With great power comes great responsibility,” he writes. “This anthology is my way of using my power and moving a step towards accomplishing my responsibility to create a platform for many of the upcoming debutant authors.”

The author of I Too Had a Love Story and Can Love Happen Twice? has often been described as a bestseller, which for many has become a dirty word. But Ravinder offers a different perspective. “I think it’s a very easy word. In a densely populated country like ours, selling 10,000 copies of a book is very easy. Everyone is a bestseller. The bar should be higher, and there should be a definite time frame.”

This, clearly, is a man who doesn’t like playing coy. And some of this trait extends to his food habits too, as he demonstrates over lunch at The Café in Hyatt Regency.

Eggs on demand

Born in Calcutta, Ravinder moved to Burla in Orissa, and after a lengthy stay there, shifted to the South. Now, he lives in Chandigarh. A substantial part of his life has been spent in hostels, first in Guru Nanak Dev Engineering College in Karnataka and later in Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, and his memories of food there are predictably bittersweet. He remembers, for instance, his dismay at the rubbery preparation of palak paneer in his first hostel, and the delight at the eggs on demand for breakfast in the second. “Somewhere the idea that someone was customising the eggs, rather than offering the generic stuff, made me opt for it.”

At The Café, he opts for the buffet over the a-la-carte, choosing a variety of salads, some rice, the dhaba murg and the spit roast chicken, and washes them down with the kiwi-banana juice. His favourite beverage, however, is tea — indispensable especially during the writing process. “If I don’t get my two cups of tea daily, I feel very strange. And coffee is not a substitute.”

He remembers being at the same venue for his interview with ISB. His second book, the fastest selling book in the history of Penguin Books India, was written here. “I never believed in scoring good grades, I achieved whatever I wanted to achieve when they said ‘we are taking you’,” he says. It may not have made him a better writer, but the experience of an MBA wasn’t completely useless.

“My entire marketing strategy for the second book was derived from that. I always used to wonder ‘How can I implement this to improve my sales? How can I broaden my audience?’” he says.

“There is a long way to go, not just for myself but for all authors. Have you seen authors endorsing products? How many authors do you see on television panels? Why didn’t we know about Vikas Swarup’s book before Slumdog Millionaire ?” he asks.

Choosing to end with an assortment of fruits, Ravinder reveals that his “next novel is not a love story.” “It is my way of proving to myself that I have different tales to narrate.” This confidence is unusual for someone who claims he is an “author by chance.” “I never even wanted to become one. I am seldom a reader; I will probably take four months to read a book. So I am surprised when people read my books in four hours.”

BUDHADITYA BHATTACHARYA

If I don’t get my two cups of tea daily, I feel very strange. And coffee is not a substitute

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