There was a time when I personally knew only three authors: Manohar Malgonkar, Dom Moraes and V.S. Naipaul. Now, thanks to Penguin India, I know authors by the dozen.
The other evening, I was invited to a Penguin literary soiree to celebrate the publication of the first proof of a manuscript of a novel by business executive Gurcharan Das. All the past, present and future authors of Penguin India were present.
Now let me recall who all were there. First, there was Nissim Ezekiel, who was an author before Penguin came to India. I still remember his piece, cutting Naipaul to a quarter of his size, in an original (as against India) Penguin.
And there was Nisha Da Cunha, professor of English and writer of merit, whose existing work Penguin India is going to put into a book. Everytime somebody new entered the room and greeted her, they told her: "You must bring out a book."
And there was Rahul Singh, who, now that he has retired from day-to-day journalism, is planning to write a book or several books. If they sell one-tenth of the copies that his father's book sell, he should make a comfortable living.
Shobha De, in keeping with her status of being Penguin India's to date biggest bestseller authores, came late. The news (gossip) of the evening was not only that she has got one book published and has a second under publication, but is preparing to write her third book. Said a critic (literary), "With Ms. De everything seems to come cheaper by the dozen."
Ms. Simi Garewal was there, looking like a piece of Greek sculpture rising from Homer's wine-grey Aegean, her white dreww unwet. She was telling everyone they must see Rajiv's India (where? when? what channel?). Mr. David Davidar, chief executive of Penguin India, was persudaing her to write a book on the making of Rajiv's India. He should be careful, if he publishes those sort of books, the new regine may close Penguin in India.
Also present was Mr. Prem Shankar Jha (Mr. Dom Morraes observed him consuming chicken leg). There was some speculation on whether the Ambani paper would come out first or he would write a book first. Mr. Davidar was seen having several words with him.
Not present was Mr. Vinod Mehta, already an author three times over (he has written books on Bombay. Meena Kumari and Sanjay Gandhi in that order). These days, he is neither writing books nor editing newspapers, he is signing contracts.
I must not forget the evening's author himself, Mr. Gurcharan Das. He spent the evning seving drinks to his guests and showing them the first uncut proof copy of the manuscript of his novel. I wish his novel as big a success as Shobha De's.