Capital News – The Delhi Walla Gets Jane Austen-ised

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Becoming Jane

An honour too good to be true.

[Picture by Rahul Sabharwal; text by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Is there a greater delight than being referred to in a book on Jane Austen? The Delhi Walla can no longer defer his raptures. In April, 2009, UK’s Canongate Books published Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World. Written by Jane Austen scholar Ms Claire Harman, this is a “history of Jane Austen’s fame, the changing status of her work and what it has stood for, or been made to stand for, in English culture in the two hundred years since her death.”

The book has received rave reviews in the best of UK newspapers like Sunday Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Time Literary Supplement and more.

In the book’s preface, Ms Harman has talked about yours truly. Here are the excerpts:

An ardent Indian blogger with a tribute middle name, Mayank Austen Soofi, has imagined what it would be like if his dream of establishing a Jane Austen Society in Delhi came true:

Each Sunday evening, after completing their purchases in Daryaganj’s Sunday Book Bazaar, Austen admirers would gather in front of Urdu Bazaar and sit on the Jama Masjid stairs. Over doodh-waali chai and biskut, they would enjoy and appreciate Austen’s novels. There would also be a guest of honour at each meet. For instance, firangi backpackers from the unsanitary bowels of Paharganj would be invited to share how Delhi belly keeps them ‘in a continual state of inelegance’ while residents of North Delhi would complain of snobbish south Delhi’s myopic belief that their Delhi is the only Delhi (ah, ‘one half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other’). . . . The society would also occasionally conduct walking tours in the city where you might pretend as if you are strolling the grassy verdant grounds of England, and not the sunny smoggy steamy lanes of Delhi. You can also hop by landmarks like Ghalib’s haveli in Ballimaran and recite his verses as passionately as Marianne Dashwood recited Shakespeare’s in Sense and Sensibility.

Thank you, Ms Harman. You are kind.

At the time of writing this piece, the book has still not hit the Delhi stores. Not done.