It was Ashok Chopra, formerly of UBSBD and now head of HarperCollins, who laid the foundations of what’s now a flourishing cottage industry: recycled books by Khushwant Singh. For over a year Chopra watched helplessly as rival Penguin India milked their cash-cow author for every out-of-print article and book of his they could lay their hands on. Four of the five Khushwant bestsellers Penguin produced came from forgotten columns collected by devoted fans while the latest, Hymns of the Gurus
, is the unnoticed appendix of his magnum opus, History of the Sikhs
, and an even more unread booklet he wrote for UNESCO decades ago. But Chopra’s now out with his own: a set of nine compact hardbound Khushwant Singhs almost unrecognisable in their new glossy covers: Sex, Scotch & Scholarship, Women & Men In My Life, Malicious Gossip, More Malicious Gossip, The Sikhs, Gods And Godmen of India, India—An Introduction, Nature Watch
and a translation of Umrao Jan Ada
Roli Books, famous for its illustrated Kama Sutra coffeetablers, has gone in for a drastic makeover. Roli’s Pramod Kapoor spared no expense in hiring a clutchful of independent editors: Ira Pande from the Penguin stable, Renuka Chatterjee from HarperCollins and Kishwar Ahluwalia from the Star network, not to speak of Harinder Baweja from India Today and Namita Gokhale, who does her own imprint of books for him. Roli is also revamping its list with a new fiction line, books on films, bios, non-fiction. Of course, Roli’s bread-and-butter will still be the Kama Sutras in every language on earth.
There is nothing an Indian writer hates as much as ‘the label’. At the recent Poetry International festival in Rotterdam, poet Arundhati Subramaniam slammed the western quest for the "identifiably Indian": "Brandished like a visa (to what might seem like Destination Literary Paradise, but is actually a literary ghetto)."