Which is probably why Penguin's monthly Hindi book readings are so welcome. On March 22, the first of these was rolled out starring Mridula Garg and Uday Prakash. For Uday, who's bagged a pen award recently for a translation of his novella, Girl With A Golden Parasol, the event was a triumph almost equal to what he felt when he read Salman Rushdie's words of praise for his novella. As a PEN jury member, Rushdie was forced to eat his derisive words about writing in Indian languages other than English. With two hours to go for his first-ever public reading from his short story collection, Areba Pareba, Uday had a strange worry: a boil he had suddenly sprouted on his nose!
The entry of regional writers into the book launch circuit may well shake the IWE out of their customary complacency. The chief of a bookchain was heard complaining that despite repeated invitations to star writers like Vikram Seth to hold launches in bookstores like his, they still insist on five-star venues which are out of reach of "genuine" readers.