A la recherche du temps perdu.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Today is the 26th 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 Dilli Gate, one of the four surviving gateways of the Mughal-era Walled City. A man is sleeping nearby. The sound of the traffic soars and fades at irregular intervals.
This evening is special. I am on the last page of Swann’s Way, the first of the seven volumes of Lost Time. These are the final two sentences.
The places we have known do not belong only to the world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. They were only a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; the memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.
When I arrived in Delhi a few years ago, I had not heard of Marcel Proust. I was a Jane Austen virgin. I had no feelings for Leo Tolstoy. One summer evening – I remember clearly – I purchased a hardbound of Toni Morrison’s Beloved from the Crossword bookstore in South Extension-II. The following week I passed my evenings here in Dilli Gate, reading Morrison’s novel. I imagined her to be the greatest living writer on the planet.
Today, my passion for Toni Morrison has died. That Crossword bookstore, too, is no longer there. But this Dilli Gate monument gives me an impression as if it will continue to stand even beyond the end of time. A friend had first taken me here… he lived nearby… not long after he turned 21, he was diagnosed with cancer. I did not attend his burial.
The second volume is called Within a Budding Grove. It begins with Madame Swann at Home. I will read the first passage in the company of my departed friend, sitting by his grave. See you there.
The 27th meeting of The Delhi Proustians will take place in the graveyard behind the Times of India building in ITO on August 13, 2012.
Where Graveyard, ITO Time 7 pm Nearest Metro Station Pragiti Maidan
In search of lost time