April 03, 2020
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Festschrift? Some sort of orgy? So thought Ruskin Bond, but there were other bare and dare tales from the house of Roli, as well...

Roli Books are still at it. The proud co-inventors of the book-launch party culture decided to celebrate their 25th birthday with what else but a lavish five-star party. An unusual addition to the usual cocktail speeches was a list of anecdotes that were read aloud. Every publisher has a fund of these crisis stories mostly revolving around the egos of authors. But few dare to bare them so publicly. The story, for example, of the battle of egos between star author Khushwant Singh and even starrier photographer Raghu Rai. The collaboration for The Sikhs, one of Roli's first coffee-tablers, was smooth, according to Roli, until it came to the billing. Rai felt this was a picture book, and he deserved to go first. Khushwant, on the other hand, insisted that since the book was about Sikhs, his name should go on the top. The compromise: Khushwant's name on top, while Raghu's name on the jacket was two points larger.

It came as a surprise to no one at the gathering to hear how many books are born out of bouts of drinking. Whether it was John Lall/D.N. Dubey's coffee-tabler on the Taj, or Kailash Sangala's Return of the Tiger or Khushwant Singh's Nature Watch, or Mussoorie & Landour: Days of Wine and Roses, it was patiala pegfuls of whiskey that aided their conception, writing and launch. Knowing their reputation for wining and dining, Ruskin Bond wasn't far off the mark when he said about the festschrift Roli brought out for him: "At first, I thought a festschrift was some sort of orgy."

Rivalling the Roli do was the 50th birthday bash Bahrisons held with all of Delhi's p3p assembled to toast their favourite bookshop. While Bahri junior Anuj has expanded the family bookshop into a publishing house on the premises, another famous bookshop in Delhi's Khan Market is about to lose its best-known face behind the counter. Rachna Singh is about to accompany her husband, publisher David Davidar, on his new assignment abroad as head of Penguin in Canada.

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