Writer, publisher and tea-seller caters to a readership thirsting for Hindi

From The Guardian:Laxman1

For two decades, evening commuters have come to sip coppery brown tea at Laxman Rao’s roadside stall on a busy South Delhi main road, to the sound of the blaring horns of passing traffic. But in recent years, customers come not for sugary chai but for a taste of Rao’s bittersweet words. Rao is the author of 18 novels, plays and political essays in Hindi, India’s national language which is thought to vie with Spanish to be the world’s third most-spoken mother tongue. Like most Hindi novelists he considers writing stories a calling, one he supports with the 4,000 rupees (£50) a month he makes from selling tea. “For 20 years I have made no money from my books.”

In the last few years English, which bound together a nation of 800 tongues and dialects and connected India to the outside world, has faced a challenge from native languages. As literacy levels rise in India, there is a palpable shift to a more subcontinental lingua franca and Hindi’s reach is lengthening. Although it is spoken by half of India’s 1 billion people, its writing is absent in the literary canon of India, which is dominated by exiles such as Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth. “I do not read these books. They do not talk about the India I know,” says Rao. “The stories do not mean anything to me or people like me. India lives in villages, small towns, on streets. The authors do not.”

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