City Reading – The Delhi Proustians XXXVII, New Delhi Rail Station
A la recherche du temps perdu.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Today is the 37th 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 in New Delhi railway station, platform number one.
But why did I chose this location to read Proust?
This week I got a mail. The sender who gave me her permission to share its contents with you wishes to remain anonymous.
Why don’t you kill The Delhi Proustians? I think there is no point if it is just to sit in places you already know. This book club should be an excuse to explore the city: the drawing rooms, the parties, the discos, the clubs, the racecourse and also the neighbourhood temples. The club must give us a peek into Delhi’s Saint Germain society. It should introduce us to the Mme Verdurin of Delhi. A Delhi garden should become the Parc Monceau and the swimming pool at the Taj Man Singh our Balbec! You also need to tell us how closely the vanishing world of Paris that Proust was documenting resembles the already extinct Old Delhi society.
Proust’s novel is like a manual on etiquette and vulgarity, sentimentalism and sexuality, painting and architecture, love and jealousy, music and literature. It should be our guide to discover Delhi, not a classroom assignment that puts one to sleep. In any event, the book should not be an excuse to sit in obscure graveyards and cheap cafes and read chunks of randomly selected passages.
The club has to be lively. Each week it must travel to a new salon in upper crust Delhi where the social protocols of manners and conversations resemble the tribal rites of a Proustian drawing room. The club must engage with Delhiwallas who are as informed, ruthless, artistic, scheming, snobbish, arrogant and sensitive as Proust’s characters.
The club should make people pick up Proust, and enable them to see Delhi through his sensibilities.
Therefore readers, The Delhi Proustians takes a month’s break to reinvent. It will return in March 2013. Fingers crossed.
In search of lost time