City Reading – The Delhi Proustians XXXIV, Old Delhi Railway Station
A la recherche du temps perdu.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Today is the 34th 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, a multi-volume novel sometimes also known as Remembrance of Things Past.
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 outside (Old) Delhi railway station. I arrived in this city a decade ago and had disembarked at this station.
As I stand in front of this redbrick building, I wait for old memories to come back to me so that it can become possible for me to imagine my earlier self.
[About fifteen minutes pass.]
I fail to feel anything.
I open page 89 of The Guermantes Way, the third volume.
Poets claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are the most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years.
When the train entered Delhi, I remember, I was reading Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Winds.
The sun has set. Should I go inside the station? By looking at the trains, hearing the sounds of the travellers, I may reclaim some of the impressions that had formed in my mind’s eyes so many years ago.
I turn to page 90.
What once covered the earth is no longer above but beneath it; a mere excursion does not suffice for a visit to the dead city; excavation is necessary also. But we shall see how certain fugitive and fortuitous impressions carry us back even more effectively to the past, with a more delicate precision, with a more light-winged, more immaterial, more headlong, more unerring, more immortal flight, than these organic dislocations.
In other words, I must perhaps rather watch the kissing scene between Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable.
The 35th meeting of The Delhi Proustians takes place on 10 December 2012.
Where Outside the family graveyard of Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, Khwaja Qutub Kaki’s Dargah Time 7 pm Nearest Metro Station Mehrauli
In search of lost time