The remarkable Delhi instant.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One afternoon The Delhi Walla enters the Indian Coffee House in Connaught Place.
I’m carrying London-based photographer Stuart Freedman’s new book, The Palaces of Memory: Tales from the Indian Coffee House. The book is printed in Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet. It has photographs of this Coffee House, too.
On entering the coffee house’s east-facing room, a steward takes the book from me and starts to flip through the pages. Suddenly he stops. Pointing his finger on a photograph, he says, “This man used to come here daily. He died. He was a very good man.”
The steward takes the book to the other hall and shows it to his colleagues. They gather around him, looking in amazement at the photographs of their own workplace. Some recognize their colleagues working in the other coffee houses in the country. Suddenly, a gasp.
“Arre, he is our Yadav!”
Brijnandan Kumar Yadav is summoned. He is holding a plate of toast. He is shown page 13. It is indeed him. He looks shocked. He smiles. He blushes. He laughs.
Vinod Kumar is summoned. He is shown page 89. He is speechless.
Mr Yadav and Mr Kumar kindly agree to write their names against their respective portraits.
Just then a guest in the terrace asks the stewards to shoo off an approaching monkey. The stewards, however, continue to flip through the pages of the book, stopping to gaze at every page for a long time.
The guest looks hurt. It is a beautiful moment.
Seeing Stuart Freedman’s The Palaces of Memory