A star is born.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The place is as sparse as Hemingway’s prose. There are tables and chairs, to be sure, but no unnecessary furniture. It is, however, too early to draw conclusions. This is still a first draft in process. There will soon be more staffers, more laptops, more lunch bags, and more tables.
The Delhi Walla is in the office of the brand new Juggernaut Books, launched by publisher Chiki Sarkar. The colonial-era building looks like a snug cottage that won’t be out of place in a Jane Austen novel. Its location in the atmospheric Sujan Singh Park in Central Delhi situates it just across the road from Khan Market, which, of course, is home to some of the capital’s great bookstores.
The large airy hall has a long table (there are fish-shaped patterns on the floor). Ms Sarkar is seated with her Apple Mac, alongside some of the founding members of her team. They include the regal-mannered Nandini Mehta, who is enthroned at the head of the table. An apple (the fruit) is placed next to her laptop. Directly opposite her is the soft-voiced R Sivapriya. She has closely worked with some of the most admired novelists and poets of our time. Jayashree Ram Mohan, who commands awe among copy editors, is present, too. Renu Agal, an ex-BBC woman, is a well-known name in journalism.
All these people used to work for Penguin Random House India until a few months ago. They resigned en masse in April 2015. Ms Sarkar was the publisher there. Revealing her plans about Juggernaut Books to Vogue India’s Shahnaz Siganporia this week, she said, “We’re an Indian company and also a globally-minded international publishing house.”
The office has a separate hall for the sales department. A much smaller room is booked for the ‘tech team’. The loungey corridor has a beautiful wooden bench. The south side of the office is flanked by a sunny garden, which will undoubtedly be a boon for the team during Delhi’s brief winter. (Beyond the garden’s wall is the famed Kamal Nursery.)
All the ashtrays in the office are filled up with cigarette butts.
The little pantry has a crucial part in the emerging plot of the new publishing house. It has a coffee machine. Apparently, it is as important to the general well-being of the Juggernaut Books team as its future star authors. There are a few empty wine bottles as well. That must have been Vikram Seth angling for a book deal.
New place for new books
2. (Nandini Mehta)
4. (R Sivapriya)
5. (Chiki Sarkar)
7. (Jayashree Ram Mohan, left, and Renu Agal)
15. (R Sivapriya, Chiki Sarkar)