Inside the walls.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One evening The Delhi Walla knocked at the door of D Bhattacharjya Tato. His one-room house is on the roof of a single-floor bungalow in BK Dutt Colony, a quiet neighbourhood across the road from the quieter Jorbagh.
Mr Tato, 34, works as a deputy to the book attaché in the French embassy’s cultural center in 2 Aurangzeb Road. He learned French in Chandannagar, a former French colony, which is near Calcutta, his hometown. He lives with his collection of more than a thousand books.
Mr Tato’s desk is like Delhi, a functioning anarchy. It has an Apple Mac, a gum pot, a bottle of aftershave, a pen stand, and a book of verses by Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib. Mr Tato can read the Urdu script. “Every day I copy down one verse of Ghalib and mug it up,” he says. The desk has a glass top under which Mr Tato has preserved a photograph of footballer David Beckham, cut from a newspaper. There’s also a poem by Octavio Paz and a 10-rupee note showing Mahatma Gandhi’s image. Mr Tato has drawn a few lines on Mahatma’s face to make him “look like Michael Jackson.” The tabletop display includes Mr Tato’s collection of his visiting cards. Each has a different god: Shiva, Guru Nanak, Jesus Christ and since prophet Muhammad’s representation is forbidden in Islam, the card dedicated to that religion has the shrine of Mecca. “I don’t like atheists,” says Mr Tato. “They and leftists are always nitpicking about what others ought to think and how they ought to behave. The problem is that they never examine their own conduct.”
The walls of Mr Tato’s room are scrawled with Urdu calligraphy. Pointing to a pair of words, arranged one below the other, he says, “Both these words have almost the same spelling. Due to the different placement of a dot, one is read as Khuda (God) and the other as Juda (separation).”
David Beckham is also on the wall. “A rich and successful sport star, he has no need to model for underwears and display his nakedness to the world,” Mr Tato says. ” But defying the bourgeois concept of not exposing one’s body when there’s no real compulsion, Beckham has taken the art of body aesthetics to a different level.”
Why freedom fighter Bhagat Singh’s illustration on the wall does not have a face? “Bhagat Singh reminds me of many heroes who fought to make our society more equal but remain unknown.”
The reason for Che Guevara’s presence on Mr Tato’s wall is less intellectual. “When I was a child, I saw a video in which Michael Jackson was crawling on a wall that had a portrait of Che. This poster is for those childhood memories.”
Perhaps the most dramatic possession in Mr Tato’s room is a stack of The Statesman, a rare sight. The Times of India and Hindustan Times are Delhi’s largest-selling English-language dailies, followed by The Indian Express and The Hindu. Mr Tato says, “It feels good to tease the market leaders.”
D Bhattacharjya Tato
Bhagat Singh, lest we forget
Delhi isn’t far
Home sweet home