The Delhi Walla in the French capital.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Delhi Walla is spending his days in Paris walking down the streets, stopping at cafes for a 1 euro coffee and browsing for English-language novels in second-hand bookstores. This is the first time I’m discovering that Delhi is not the center of the world. There are other cities, equally rich in histories, which are more beautiful and more civilized.
In Paris, I examine the faces of people to find out what goes on in their mind as they look at me. To them, most probably, I’m just a brown man from Asia — may be from Bangladesh. They would never know that I’m a writer from India who has written four guidebooks on his city.
As I peer into the window displays of bookstores, I wonder if my new book that is to be published later in the year will find its way to France. Will it be translated into French? Will it be sold in Shakespeare & Co? Will Le Monde feature me on its books page?
To people in this part of the world, Delhi could be no more than a dot on the map. All the things that make me — Hindusim, Sufism, Bollywoodism etc — seems to have no relevance here.
I feel as if I’m made of nothing.
Today the Louvre was closed, so I went to Musée d’Orsay. Observing the minute details in the paintings of Cezanne, Monet and Manet I had seen so many times in the art books I would purchase was so overwhelming that I decided to skip Gaugin and Van Gogh, postponing them for some other day.
I then crossed the Seine, passed the souvenir shops of Rue de Rivoli, browsed at Librairie Galignani, the city’s most ancient English-language bookstore, and stopped at Angelina to have the famous chocolat a l’ancienne. (It was filled with Saudi women and their children.) At Place Vendome, I stood outside the bar of the Ritz, a haunt of Marcel Proust and Ernest Hemingway. I did not try to enter because I was not wearing a jacket.
I ended the day walking from the Jardin Des Tuileries to the Louvre, wondering if I could ever look like a Parisian.
Out and about in Paris
15. (Photo by Unknown)