A vanishing world.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
You don’t usually see books lying about in Delhi restaurants, except for a few loungy places in Paharganj where foreign backpackers leave behind their India guidebooks for the benefit of other travellers.
But there is a café in south Delhi’s Basant Lok Market, which has two well-stocked bookshelves. The collection at The Piano Man suggests its collector’s strong personality — almost all books are on music.
The Definitive Illustrative Encyclopedia of Jazz and Blues is stacked against Jazz: A History of Music – the latter is co-written by Geoffrey C Ward, an award-winning American author who grew up in Delhi.
The Encyclopedia of Pop and [Rock} stands behind The Rolling Stones. Oliver Sack’s Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain looks tempting in a handsome red hardbound. There is also a Jim Morrison biography – No One Gets Out Alive.
The collector is probably a Jazz aficionado. And perhaps his first name is Arjun. The inscription on one of the jazz books says:
If you have girlfriends in future, please ensure that they’re very very jealous of the girl who gave you this book and knew you’d love it.
Our Mister Arjun should definitely keep an eye on at least three books in his little library — Miles: The Autobiography, the beautifully illustrated Aaron Copland’s America and David Hajdu’s classic Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn. You will not get these books easily in Delhi.
There are a few books on other subjects too (and some are in German). The Complete Sherlock Holmes rubs shoulders with The Illustrated Stratford Shakespeare: All 37 Plays, All 160 Sonnets and Poems. The latter looks quite well thumbed, with a bookmark placed in the middle of Venus and Adonis, one of Shakespeare’s least readable poems.
The book on Miles opens to this hand-written inscription:
Thanks for creating a space where music, good people, great food and most importantly, a culture, blend seamlessly – The Piano Man.
On making inquiries about this dearest/dear man, a steward says, “Arjun is our owner.”
But he is not to be seen. Perhaps he is away in a bookshop.
The music room