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India that she knows

"The Red Carpet", Lavanya Sankaran's debut book released this week, widens the focus on contemporary urban India


With many publishing houses showing interest on her book, a three-day auction took place



SHIFTING BASE: Author Lavanya Sankaran

She has a story to tell you. In fact two stories. One about how she ended up as a writer after a successful stint as a Manhattan investment banker. The other is about how her debut book "The Red Carpet" created ripples in New York both before and after its publication in many countries.

In New Delhi this week for the India release of "The Red Carpet", a collection of eight short stories, Lavanya Sankaran gives an account of the seed that transformed itself into a book in about two years, and a wanted one at that.

"I was writing long before I was studying in Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania to become an investment banker. I used to write articles in The Atlantic Monthly and The Wall Street Journal, but they were related to banking. This book came about without any plan. I was writing these short stories because I wanted to write them. I had stories to tell, stories where I could recognise the characters. When friends saw them, they suggested I consult an agent and so I did," explains Lavanya.

And it came to such a pass that she had five agents vying to represent her all of a sudden. Lavanya finally settled for Lane Zachary, who counts Pulitzer and National Award winners and the Kennedy family among her clients. When so many publishing houses showed interest in her book, a three-day auction took place for the title. Finally, Lavanya settled for The Dial Press (Random House), which got mentioned in the Publisher's Weekly magazine as "a hot deal" that went up to the "six figure mark."

"Even before the book got published, my title story `The Red Carpet: Bangalore Stories' was selected by the prestigious bookstore Barnes and Nobles as part of their Discover Great New Authors Program for Summer 2005 and Borders in their `Original Voices' section," mentions the Bangalorean.

`Incredibly fresh'

Giving her take on why her book has got such sweeping acceptance in the West, Lavanya says, "All told me that this is incredibly fresh. Unlike the misery of women, grinding poverty or mystery and magic, the subjects that one usually gets to see from India." Fresh it surely is as it spins life around Bangalore, an important urban face of contemporary India. Laced with "easy to recognise" slices of the city.

"There is also some talk about turning it into a film. But the discussions with directors are at a nascent stage," says Lavanya, now residing in Bangalore with her husband and eight-year-old daughter. After two years of working on "The Red Carpet", her next roll-out is to be a novel.

"Short story writing is a difficult genre. My next move will be a novel surely. I have something in mind but that is not enough to talk about," she states. Now that the morning has shown the day, we won't mind waiting, Lavanya.

SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY

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