The Proustian pleasure.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Soft jazz. Handmade Thangka paintings. Gentle murmurs.
Every city needs a bubble where you can pretend to be what you fancy yourself as. The Café Turtle in Delhi’s Khan Market is one such place. The book lovers read. The writer-types write. While the fashionable are supremely modest about the famous brands on their handbags.
This is actually a vegetarian coffee-shop chain and has outlets in a few other Delhi markets too, but there is something special about this Khan Market property. Its character is intensely addictive. The lighting is not harsh. The décor is not loud. The stewards are not intrusive. There are two shelves stacked with books. Black and white photographs of Jazz artistes Dizzy Gillespie (playing the sax), B.B. King (with guitar) and Billie Holiday adorn the walls.
Each table has a slender glass bottle in the centre, with tender green stems of money plant wading deep into the water. The entire effect is so soothing that the noisiest Delhiwallas lose their natural aggressiveness and start speaking in hushed undertones. The clinking of forks and knives adds to the harmony. In the winter, lounging in the al fresco area makes the mood sunnier and the skin less icy.
Every day you chance upon a famous writer or a celebrity publisher sitting on one of the tables.
The Café Turtle experience, however, is incomplete without exploring its sister concern, the Full Circle bookstore, downstairs. To browse the shelves for an hour, to buy a novel and then to walk up the stairs and sit down to start reading that book while having something as simple as pita bread with hummus is an experience almost bordering Proustian tranquility. You feel lovely, pretentious and rich.