Some screamed as he entered. Some called out for a selfie. Some stood rooted to the spot, star-struck. Young girls had been queuing up outside Story bookstore on Elgin Road for hours to meet their ‘love guru’ — Ravinder Singh. The 32-year-old writer was in town to unveil his latest novel, Your Dreams Are Mine Now. In Calcutta after two years, Ravinder arrived looking dapper in a striped shirt, Jawahar jacket and jootis, a lot fitter and a lot more ambitious.
The young storyteller left the girls weak in the knees when he mentioned his lady love, wife Khushboo. But he didn’t want to talk much about his personal life. He read out excerpts from his new book and took questions from the eager audience. He encouraged the reading habit even though he admits he had never read a book before he wrote his debut novel, I Too Had a Love Story.
He obliged his fawning fans by taking a walk around the bookstore and signing books. “You don’t have to be romantic to prove your love, you don’t have to be creative to tell a story,” he told them. When asked by a fan what life was like for a bestselling author, he simply said, “Life is as complicated as you make it”. Not just romance tips or wisdom, Ravinder’s quick wit cracked up the crowd too. Even after the event was over, they refused to leave, prolonging their chit-chat with him, as if they had met an old friend. Ravinder seemed happy to hang out with them. He had just one request — “Please don’t make me your love guru or anything like that!”
If you go by sales, Ravinder Singh may be India’s second-most successful writer, after Chetan Bhagat. If you go by screams (of female fans) he’s surely No. 1! The writer of romantic novels like I Too Had a Love Story and Can Love Happen Twice? left a bunch of Calcutta girls — and some boys too — shaken ’n’ swooning at the launch of his fourth book, Your Dreams Are Mine Now (Penguin India, Rs 175).
In this book, Patna girl Rupali comes to Delhi to attend college. She’s an idealist but little does she know what she’s getting into when she tries to save another woman from being sexually exploited. This is the story of how Rupali gets entangled in trouble and in love at the same time. Ahead of the launch, Ravinder sat down to talk cause, dreams and G-string with t2.
What inspired this book?
It was the revolution that followed the gang rape in Delhi two years ago that drew the youth out from their coops and made them raise their voice. I was moved by the visuals around the city. So many young individuals who didn’t even know the girl took it upon themselves to bring her justice. For the first time I thought things would change, the cry of the masses gave me hope that the situation would now be different. But nothing changed. Every day I pick up the newspaper, it’s the same story with a different woman. I wanted to remind my readers to make an effort to stop crimes against women and injustice. The idea was to keep the revolution alive and keep the blood boiling through this book.
Rupali’s BFF Saloni is the typical Delhi girl — big sunglasses, chewing gum and lots of gossip. Usually these characters are portrayed as vamps in TV serials and films, but Saloni is a nice person. What made you create this character?
It’s a preconceived notion I consciously want to change. Just because a girl is looking ‘sexy’ doesn’t mean she’s inviting trouble or there’s a flaw in her character. A woman may wear whatever appeals to her, you cannot judge a book by its cover. When a woman is bold and outgoing, she is judged. But you need to understand that behind the skin of glamour there can be a very innocent heart. When Saloni gifts Rupali a G-string they both laugh because Rupali has never tried it before, not because it’s wrong to wear a G-string.
Rupali and Arjun (the boy she loves) talking about their dreams forms a huge part of this book. What are your dreams?
My dream was to quit my job and write a book (smiles). Now my dream is to launch aspiring writers and give young talent an opportunity to get published.
Is that why you started your publishing house, Black Ink?
I started this venture called ‘The three interesting storytellers’. I actually found three interesting storytellers and worked with them for eight months. By April the first impression of these storytellers will come out. The idea is to see each of them as a bestseller. There are so many young authors who reach out to me every day, it was high time I did something for them, because I have walked the same road. So I should not only give them the direction but also provide a way to get to where I am, at least.
Coming back to the book, Rupali seems to have many shades. She is brave enough to fight injustice but is sceptical of mixing with boys! She is dependent on Saloni and Arjun but has the guts to propose to him...
Rupali is a middle-class Indian girl from a small town who lives life according to the teachings of her Baba (father). In Delhi, she’s out of her comfort zone, so she is hesitant. But when she sees someone else facing injustice she gets the courage to fight. When it comes to her own self, she needs time to make a decision. At the same time when she’s convinced Arjun is nice, she is brave enough to say ‘I love you’.
Have you yourself been a part of student politics?
Engineering colleges are not that much into student politics as others. If I had the chance, I would have loved to run for elections because there are so many things that bothered me and I really wanted to do something. I couldn’t, so I made Rupali do it in this book. Rupali, who hates politics, ultimately realises that if she wants to bring about change, she needs to be a part of it.
Your books are hugely popular among the masses. Do you ever worry about critics?
I never cared who will appreciate my book. As long as I am enjoying my journey of writing a book and as long as I have told my story, I don’t care about anything else.
Do you write for yourself or do you write for your readers?
I write for my readers but I only write what I want them to read and not what they want me to write. If I want to write erotica I will, but not because Fifty Shades of Grey was a superhit. I might love to read about sex but it’s not my favourite topic to write about.
Are you a romantic person? How do you express your love?
I believe so. But my romance is being funny. I can start doing a funny dance to make my loved ones laugh. All these love letters and poems are not my kind of romance. Maybe on a special occasion candles might be a part of the picture (laughs). I travel a lot with my wife, mostly to romantic spots such as the Andamans.
What do you have to say about relationships these days?
Oh god, it’s complicated! It’s not like what it used to be 20 years back. Everyone is in a hurry, they are in a hurry to fall in love, they are in a hurry to become successful. It doesn’t work like that. People are more vocal. That’s good and bad. Fights are messy and frivolous but at least they are more expressive. They are fighting to be with the same sex, they are fighting to kiss in public. That’s good.
What are the changes you have seen in yourself from a small-town boy (Burla in Odisa) to a bestselling author (now based in New Delhi)?
A paradigm shift, for sure. I have become more expressive and ambitious. I’ve learnt how to chase my dreams.
Do you see your books making it to the big screen?
I’d love to but the people offering to take my books to the big screen were not committed enough as I was. My books are my babies, I will think a hundred times before handing over my baby to someone else.
Who is your biggest competition — Chetan Bhagat, Durjoy Datta or Novoneel Chakraborty?
I don’t see a competition because people who like reading this kind of writing will read every author in this genre. We need more authors in this category because that’s the only way we can reach out to more people. You can’t eat at your favourite restaurant every single day for all three meals because you’ll get bored, but you’ll never want it to shut down either.
Pictures: Anindya Shankar Ray
I love Ravinder because....