A vanishing world.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There are bookshelves even outside her apartment—beside the entrance door.
One afternoon The Delhi Walla enters Dayanita Singh’s library. The author-photographer lives in South Delhi’s Vasant Vihar. Her home is a maze of book-filled rooms. Some of the kitchen shelves, too, are stacked with books (see photo 5 below). A few racks are filled with nothing but pretty-looking black Moleskine diaries.
Ms Singh, however, has a relationship with only a small bundle of books. That beloved stack stands discreetly on a dark-wood shelf. She walks towards the bundle, picks up Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and opens it randomly. The slim paperback is torn into two parts. Ms Singh sighs deply.
She then takes out Virginia Woolf’s A Room of Her Own and gently places the aged Penguin edition on the table. Eventually she spreads out all her special books across this table. There is W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz among these two dozen books; she flips through the pages of the hardbound slowly, serenely, with a faint smile playing on her lips. She seems to be recalling a memory in her heart.
A minute or two later Ms Singh gets distracted by a pamphlet-sized book—He Has the Heartless Eyes of One Loved Above All Else by Alexander Kluge.
Meanwhile, Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter is waiting for its turn to be loved and caressed.
There are two Indian poets in the bundle: A.K. Ramanujan and Vikram Seth. (The lovely New York Review of Books edition of Kabir’s poetry, translated by poet Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, is worth stealing.)
Ms Singh flips through each of these books and finally she again picks up her torn Rilke.
Living with many, married to a few