A la recherche du temps perdu.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Today is the 25th meeting of The Delhi Proustians, a club for Delhiwallas that discusses French novelist Marcel Proust. Every Monday evening for an hour we read his masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time.
Each week we meet in a new venue to dive into the atmosphere of Marcel’s novel.
It is 7 pm and The Delhi Walla is at Appetite German Bakery in Paharganj. When I first arrived in Delhi a few years ago to work as a waiter in a hotel, this bakery was my shelter from life’s various dissatisfactions. I would come here with a book and dream of becoming a published author. Today, I am a published author of four slim guidebooks on Delhi. A new book will be published by Penguin India in November 2012.
Still, there is no satisfaction. I want to meet the person I was when I first started coming to Paharganj. Would I like to go back in time by exchange places with that person?
As a stock trader from Vasant Kunj joins me, and as we belatedly celebrate Marcel Proust’s birthday (10 July) by cutting a croissant, and as I start taking photos of the fellow Proustian, of Lost Time and of the croissant, I do not yet know that the 8 GB SDFC card in the camera would declare itself ‘seriously damaged’ the next day. The thousands of pictures stored in it would be erased mysteriously.
The immediate past that I recorded as photographic images would be gone. The Sufi dargahs of Srinagar. The palaces of Rampur. The home-sick man I met outside Red Fort. Novelist Arundhati Roy whom I sighted sitting under an Amaltas. A fellow Proustian in Khan Market. The morning sight of Ghata Masjid. And this moment, too, which I am capturing through the camera.
Nothing endures. One day a fire might destroy my library. I might be exiled from this city.
If I could have foreseen the event of the next day, I would have re-read this passage by Proust:
With a slow and rhythmical movement it led him first this way, then that, towards a state of happiness that was noble, unintelligible, and yet precise. And then suddenly, having reached a certain point from which he was preparing to follow it, after a momentary pause, abruptly it changed direction, and in a fresh movement, more rapid, fragile, melancholy, incessant, sweet, it bore him off with it towards new vistas. Then it vanished.
But why feel the loss? One day I too will disintegrate.
The 26th meeting of The Delhi Proustians will take place on 6 August 2012. The venue will be announced closer to that date.
In search of lost time