Laxman Rao is a chai wallah based in Delhi, but he is so much more than a chai wallah; Laxman Rao is also a prolific author.
Rao has an open-air tea shop –a few planks of wood placed on bricks, buckets of water, paper and ceramic cups, kettle and a gas stove – on a pavement. Earlier, he worked as a construction worker, a dish washer at restaurants, and as a panwaadi.
In 1975, drawn by the dream of becoming a writer, Rao left his village in Maharashtra, and came to Delhi – the hub of Hindi publishers.
Laxman Rao has a bachelor’s in Hindi and has taken a master’s exam through a distance learning program. He worked hard to get his books published but all meetings with publishers ended in disappointment as nobody wanted to risk investing in a roadside vendor.
Realizing publishers wanted money, he decided to self-publish his first novel in 1979 and started his own publishing house.
The themes of Rao’s novels, plays and political essays are turbulent lives, the struggle to rise above poverty and ordinary pleasures of life. His book ‘Ramdas’, published in 1992, is in its third edition and explores the complexities of the student-teacher relationship.
In 1984, a senior Congress party member spoke of Rao to Indira Gandhi and Rao was then invited to present his books to her.
According to Rao, Indira Gandhi appreciated his work and encouraged him to write more. When he suggested that he’d write a book on her, she asked him to focus on her work. Rao then wrote an essay on her tenure but Gandhi was assassinated before the essay could be published.
Now Rao’s books are sold on Amazon and Flipkart, but Rao still cycles to various places to sell his books.
“Authors pull different stunts to market their books, make movies and TV serials out of them. I am a simple man. I get all my mail at this footpath address. My books are available in school, college and university libraries in the city and I am often asked to lecture in various schools and colleges across the country. What more can a writer ask for?” he says.