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The booklover of Hauz Khas

Approaching the table where two new guests have seated, he looks curiously at the book one of them has placed beside the flower vase. It is Sam Miller’s Delhi: The Adventures in the Megacity. While presenting them the menu, he asks if he can borrow the book for a minute.

entertainment Updated: Nov 04, 2010 00:43 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi

Approaching the table where two new guests have seated, he looks curiously at the book one of them has placed beside the flower vase. It is Sam Miller’s

Delhi: The Adventures in the Megacity

. While presenting them the menu, he asks if he can borrow the book for a minute. They oblige.



We met Raghavendra Vanjre, 31, in Naivedyam, a south Indian speciality restaurant in Hauz Khas Village. A staff captain, he is fond of reading. In the restaurant, he has established bonds with regular patrons, who are fellow book lovers. If they happen to be dining alone, Vanjre spends a few moments, discussing with them the issues of the day: Khushwant Singh’s latest Sunday column, Arundhati Roy’s new essay on Kashmir, Chetan Bhagat’s fourth novel, and if the guest insists — the curries in the Maharaja

thali

.



Missing his Kannada

It is 11pm and the duty hours have just ended. We are walking towards Vanjre’s one-room apartment in the village. He is carrying a book on Afghanistan. “I don’t get Kannada books in Delhi,” he tells us. Kannada is the language of his home state, Karnataka. A stocky man, Vanjre hails from the city of Davangere. He arrived in Delhi a year ago, in November 2009. His two beloved authors write in Kannada and are largely unknown in Hindi-speaking Delhi: columnist Ravi Belagere and film director Nagathihalli Chandrashekar.



“Belagere’s non-fiction deals with what an individual can give to the society. Chandrashekar, besides working in films, is a short story writer. His tales tell you how man is changing with times.”



When settling in Delhi, Vanjre decided not to buy a television. “That would have distracted me from my reading.” His neighbours are fellow employees from the restaurant. Most are single like him, and almost all are from south India. “Their thinking is different. They like watching TV. But I don’t miss the bookish conversations I would have with my friends back home. I keep busy in my own world.”



For intellectual simulation, the captain depends on his younger brother, Ramakrishna, who is pursuing business studies in Bangalore. “Currently, we are fighting over Arundhati Roy.” The Booker prize-winning author has written essays on nuclear bombs, big dams,

adivasi

struggles and Kashmir’s separatist movement. “My brother says that her statements on Kashmir are anti-national. I think that somebody has to talk about the injustices there.” Roy is a regular to his outlet. “She always asks me how I am doing. But I’m hesitant to talk to her.”



The lone explorer

Vanjre has no close friend in Delhi. On his days off, he sets about exploring the city alone. “I like Akshardham temple, especially the slogans about vegetarianism that the temple authorities have put up at different places. There is also a slogan by George Bernard Shaw.”



One evening, Vanjre had taken the Metro to Chandni Chowk station, from where he walked to the Red Fort. But the monument had closed for the day. So, he settled for a

biryani

from a street stall.



A reader’s view


Vanjre doesn’t frequent Delhi’s bookstores. “They sell only English novels.” He does, however, enjoy reading best-sellers by Chetan Bhagat and Khushwant Singh. “When you start reading any of Bhagat’s novels, you don’t wish to do anything else until you finish. His plots are engaging and his language is so easy. While with Singh, you get the point in the first line itself.”



Recently, Vanjre finished reading two famous works of the Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez. “I liked the ending of

Love in the Time of Cholera

, when the two lovers unite after so many years. In

One Hundred Years of Solitude

, the description of the jungle was very vivid. It was like watching a movie.”



Despite his passion for books, Vanjre hasn’t let them overtake the burning ambition of his life. “Some day, I want to open my own fruit juice stall.”