Rajendra is a former journalist who is the author of Halt Station India, which is the narrative of the first railway line in India. Rajendra talks about his love for trains since his childhood days, how he researched for the book, interaction with railway officials, and finding a publisher, and why authors should take an active part in promoting their books.
In his 20 year career as a journalist, Rajendra worked with leading newspapers in Mumbai, including the Mumbai Mirror of the Times of India Group, Hindustan Times, DNA, Mid-Day, The Sunday Observer and The Daily. He is an avid train lover, and he is a part of the Bombay Railways History Group. He has trained himself in museology to document Bombay’s vanishing relics, helped the railways set up heritage galleries and worked on several prestigious projects to conserve the city’s ancient structures.
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Discussion on Book on Indian Railway
- Rajendra Aklekar’s interest in railways began started from his school days when he used to travel to school by train every day. He became curious about railways when he realized that he was traveling on not only the oldest railway line in India but also in Asia.
- Rajendra as a journalist earlier edited copies before he began reporting on transport and railways. He moved to Mantralya in Mumbai where he covered ministries and politics and also covered the Shiv Sena party for a while.
- His transition from Journalist to Author required a change in his working style. He had to get more disciplines. The pace of work for a writer slows down in comparison to journalism, the latter works on strict timelines.
- Rajendra decided to do a course in museology to provide a strong base for writing his book.
- He took around 8 to 9 years for researching his book.
- His search for publishers continued for about 2 years and during this phase he faced rejections too before he landed with Rupa Publications. He submitted his proposals to 4-5 publishers. His suggestion to new authors is not to get disappointed by the rejections and continue focused efforts.
- The name of his book Halt Station India was suggested by the publisher.
- Rajendra finds his research time very interesting as he met several descendants and even interviewed them like Norma Probert whose father served in North Western Railway as a senior driver of the Frontier Mail. Norma shared some great insights of her journey in this train and some photographs. This train ran from Bombay to Peshawar.
- Rajendra Aklelar also met the descendants of people who built VT station. Coincidently the grandfather of one of the persons he met also made Taj Hotel in Mumbai.
- In terms of timeline, Rajendra’s book got published in 12 months after submitting the final manuscript.
- Suresh Prabhu, the present railway minister released Rajendra’s book as he was excited to know that the book was written about Indian Railways. Also, due to his background in journalism he had met Suresh Prabhu on several occasions.
- Rajendra mentions that though he was new to publishing, Rupa Publications was very supportive and his queries were very well answered time and again by them.
- His enthusiasm and online presence particularly on Twitter was instrumental in helping the book getting sold off at a faster pace. Currently the publishers are planning for a third edition of the book.
- According to him, ebooks offer a better margin for the authors yet the publishers often do not give ebooks the required push.
- Halt Station India is a book that caters to a niche audience, and it has done very well across the globe, specifically London and New York which also concludes that targeted marketing will do well for such books. His book was also featured in all official Railway magazines and was bought at the Railway National Museum too. His book was also sold through the distribution points at railways.
- Rajendra said since the copy rights of his book are with the Publisher the translation work have taken a back seat, though he was approached by few people to get it translated in Marathi. At this time, Mehta Publications is in consideration for translating the book in Marathi.
- Rajendra says Indian railways need a bouquet of services and a mix of high speed and commuter trains. While the normal trains can keep running the country needs to be prepared to run bullet trains in the near future.
- Rajendra may consider an audio version of his book in the future.
- Rajendra shares interesting short clippings and videos of Mumbai railways on his YouTube channel.
- Rajendra says besides his book people must also read John Keay’s India Discovered which shares wonderful insights about the country in just 200 pages.
- His suggestion to authors is to reach credible publishers and share the first 3 chapters of their book with only those who respond to initial correspondence. Rajendra also mentions the importance of being active on social media.
Resources and References
- Rajendra B Aklekar on LinkedIn
- Halt Station India by Rajendra Aklekar
- Marathi Classic Song Jhuk Jhuk Gadi
- Rajendra’s Youtube channel
- Rajendra’s article on Railtube
- John Keay’s India Discovered
Ways to Contact Rajendra