Skip to main content


This month, the Canadian booksellers, Indigo, celebrate Indian authors with a series of interviews, guest bloggers, essays. 
My father was a field geologist and in my childhood he was away half the year in remote places. The months he was home in Calcutta, rules and routine were jettisoned. There were cream rolls for dinner, concerts, and tram rides with no fixed destinations.  And soon AbolTabol, Sukumar Ray’s Bengali book of nonsense verse, was dug out and dusted off. We knew the poems backward, but our anticipation of my father’s characteristic intonations made us laugh even before he started reading. That is my earliest, happiest memory of a book.
I didn’t know then that books would be the bricks of my adult life. My husband and I run an independent press. My father-in-law, at 91, has been running his own bookshop for over sixty years. For some years I ran a newspaper’s book reviews page. And I also write books. Whatever we do to stem the tide, books advance into every corner of our home-office like a stealthy guerilla army. We’re almost afraid to move some of them: what if the house fell down, what if our walls were held up by that corner stack of The Small Voice of History (hardback, 600 pages)?
I may be biased of course—but working in the world of the books is the best kind of work. It’s certainly one where you get to know the most interesting people, and do the kind of work together that encourages long friendships (or enmities). The first real publisher I encountered was Ravi Dayal, who used to head Oxford University Press, Delhi. By the time I joined it as an editorial slave, he had left to start his own imprint, but he strolled in some days to cast an appraising eye over his old patch.  He operated in chaotic solitude from a tree-fringed, wood-panelled study in his bungalow. Out of this room emanated the books on his distinguished list, all edited and proof-read by him, and clothed in jackets he designed with ink and crayon, innocent of technology. He had strong views on type and book design, loving statuesque fonts like Bembo and scorning pallid, sans-serif upstarts such as Arial. I was stunned by the honour when, after years of observing my work,he asked me to design a book jacket for him.This, I thought, was what soldiers felt when medals were pinned to their chests.
Ravi Dayal is not the only quirky publishing person I’ve known. My British publisher, Christopher MacLehose, goes on epic drives across Europe every year, with his dog Miska, and a bag of manuscripts. He camps in various towns en route meeting authors and agentswho have got used to the idea that if they want to talk books with him, they might need to trot across a meadow in wild pursuit of a publisher who is chasing his hound, who is chasing a frisbee.
There are water diviners who roam the arid stretches of rural India, using no more than rudimentary loops of wire to predict where underground aquifers lie. Christopher has a similar ability to pinpoint those points in a manuscript where seams of untapped possibility lurk, to which the author needs to return, rethink, rewrite. He has the diviner’s ability too, to grasp the potential of manuscripts that everyone else thinks worthless. In this way, most recently, he published the Stieg Larsson trilogy in English when about eight other publishers had turned it down.
I met my husband because of books, and our first conversations were about manuscripts—but that’s another kind of story.
In Delhi all those years ago, after two numbing years of editorial plodding through scholarly manuscripts, the classical singer Sheila Dhar turned up in my room one day. Her book Raga n’ Josh is unmatched for its rich blend of observation, learning, and story-telling. We met as strangers—author and editor—and in a few months both my husband and I were under the spell of her great wit and intellect, and her infectious sense of fun. She could turn dreary days into carnivals, stealing us from our desks for long lunches where she sang, mimicked, and planned future books.  Dutifully, we scribbled deadlines and outlines into diaries, sustaining the pretence that these were working lunches.
Because it wasn’t really pretence. This is how books get made: in an alchemical process, through chance collisions of people, places, energies, thoughts, ideas. Many of those books make it to our shelves. A few make their homes within us.

Popular posts from this blog


"...some people have the mountains in them while some have the sea. The ocean exerts an inexorable pull over sea-people wherever they are – in a bright-lit, inland city or the dead centre of a desert – and when they feel the tug there is no choice but somehow to reach it and stand at its immense, earth-dissolving edge, straightaway calmed. Hill-people, even if they are born in flatlands, cannot be parted for long from the mountains. Anywhere else is exile. Anywhere else, the ground is too flat, the air too dense, the trees too broad-leaved for beauty. The colour of the light is all wrong, the sounds nothing but noise." The Folded Earth For three days it had rained as if the sky had turned into a giant shower. It was my third trip to Ranikhet and yet again I was leaving without a glimpse of the high peaks. It didn’t matter. The sound of rain on a tin roof, the dry spells when the hills were honey-coloured in the newly-washed air: who needs more? Then someone sa

Language, Lost and Found

In France for a long spell earlier this year, everyone around me speaking in a language I didn’t speak or read, I began to think about the many streams of language I've swum in. My mother tongue, Bengali, was the language of home and of intimacy. Yet somewhere along those years, with a sigh drowned out by babel, the language had left me. I tried to find my way back to it through writers like Leela Majumdar and Bibhutibhushan. In "Language, Lost and Found" out now in Noema Magazine, I write of how I found it again, and of language in alien contexts. I'm not sure if this essay is travelogue or memoir or a bunch of stories. But here it is, and I hope you will read it.  It was a red paperback with a green, winking cat spread across its large front. Just a few taps pulls it up on my screen now, and I wonder if my mental image of the day my father came with it as a gift for my brother and me is the work of memory or imagination. He walks in as if he has a happy secret and l

All the Lives We Never Lived wins the Sahitya Akademi Award 2022

  Anuradha Roy bags coveted Sahitya Akademi Award, 22 others feted Anuradha Roy bagged the coveted Sahitya Akademi Award on Thursday. The author of 'All The Lives We Never Lived ' was felicitated along with 22 other authors for their exemplary contribution in the field of literature. This is the fourth book penned by the 40-something Roy. This book also won the prestigious Tata Book of the Year Award for Fiction in 2018. The book revolves around the life and times of a horticulturalist Myshkin, who narrates his life story, and his unending wait for letters from etters from the mother who abandoned him, for greener pastures in another country. Roy, who lives in Ranikhet, has previously written 'An Atlas of Impossible Longing', 'The Folded Earth' and 'Sleeping on Jupiter' which won the DSC Prize for Fiction 2016. It was also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in the year 2015. Read more at: