Don’t feel safe in Delhi. Not even if you’re a guy who’s as harmless as an aspiring author can possibly be. Or at least if you’re to listen to 30-year-old Rahul Saini, who has been there seen that and now spills all the dirty secrets of the city’s publishing scene into a piece of semi-autobiographical fiction.
“Delhi is to publishing what Mumbai is to movies. It’s the casting couch capital,” says Saini, not mincing words and in fact, hinting clearly at one of the popular publishers in the city known in the circles for soliciting sexual favours from unassuming young male writers in lieu of a publishing deal and the ‘big book break’.
“It was a couple of years ago that Iwas faced with this situation, and Ihad no clue it could get this bad. Until then, I had only heard of manuscript rejections and royalty problems, but this left me horrified. Later, Igot to know this was common knowledge in the industry and that I wasn’t warned,” says Saini.
His book, Paperback Dreams (Penguin, Rs 140), traces the tale of three young men struggling to establish themselves as authors albeit with very different ambitions, and the troubles that come their way. Every now and then, the chapters throw at you interesting one-line titles, hate mail in SMSlingo, high-brow lit fests, ethic conflicts and a Cliff Richard song that all put in perspective that writing dream.
What about accusations that he’s settling personal score with this book and the fear that the fellow might come for him? “What’s to fear? There’s proof, and I have only woven a story around what many already know is happening,” he says, unfazed.