Delhi’s Proust Questionnaire – Jaya Jaitly, Hazrat Nizamuddin East
The parlour confession.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Proust Questionnaire represents a confessional game that owes its structure to answers given by celebrated French writer Marcel Proust in two parties that he attended at ages 13 and 20 in the late 19th century.
The Delhi Walla have brought these Parisian parlour confessions into the Indian capital to explore people’s lives, thoughts, values and experiences. The series interview folks from diverse backgrounds.
So today, say hello to Jaya Jaitly. The founder president of Dastkari Haat Samiti, an association of crafts people, she also helped found the craft market of Dilli Haat. Many of us may also recall her as a politician. Ms Jaitly lives in a beautifully decked up apartment in central Delhi’s Nizamuddin East. She is 77 and this evening she is having tea with madeleine, the cake that Proust made famous in his great novel.
Your favorite virtue or the principal aspect of your personality
Positivity, sometimes in excess
Your favorite qualities in a man
Intelligence, compassion, integrity
Your favorite qualities in a woman
Graciousness, intelligence, independence
Your chief characteristic
I have reached that stage in life where I really don’t care about anything. People can speak ill of me, or harm my work, and I will just shrug and laugh and walk away
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
Your main fault
Trusting too many and expecting too much
Your favorite occupation
Thinking creatively, reading and writing
Your idea of happiness
“Happiness is a warm puppy” – ever heard of that? And enjoying the achievements of my children and grandchildren
Your idea of misery or what would be your greatest misfortune?
To be accused of corruption or treason
If not yourself, who would you be?
A very effective author whose writing would live on for ever
Where would you like to live?
In a wood and bamboo house by the sea
Your favourite colour and flower
Golden yellow and jasmine
Your favorite bird
The most exotically coloured one
Your favorite prose authors
Frank McCourt, John Steinbeck, Pico Iyer, Yuval Noah Harari, Simone de Beauvoir
Your favorite poets
Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, Robert Bly’s In the month of May, Maya Angelou, Rabindranath Tagore
Your favorite heroes in fiction
The ones who love and suffer like Cyrano de Bergerac
Your favorite heroines in fiction
Charulata by Rabindranath Tagore. It’s about a woman who tries to find her own way out of conservatism
Your favorite composers
Antonín Dvořák, Jeff Beal, Pandit Jasraj and Vilayat Khan
Your favorite painters
Hokusai, Paul Gaugin, Singh Twins who live in England
Your heroes/heroines in real life
HH the Dalai Lama because he is an embodiment of a truly good human being, Edward Snowden because his ultimate purpose in the revelations was to protect individual freedoms and prevent excesses during war
What characters in history do you most dislike?
Hitler, Idi Amin
Your heroines in World history
Pandita Ramabai, Lakshmi Bai, the Rani of Jhansi, Eleanor Roosevelt
Your favorite food and drink
Kerala cuisine, mangoes and salty buttermilk
Your favorite names
Persian and Sanskrit ones. My grandson’s name Aiman means fearless in Persian
What do you hate the most?
Greed and arrogance
The military event you admire the most
Honouring fallen heroes but hate war
The reform you admire the most
Reform of the inner self. You cannot change the world but you can change yourself in order to deal with it
The natural talent you’d like to be gifted with
The ability to pick up a number of languages. I know some well but I want to be fluent in many. I read Proust in French way back in 1963 as a student in Smith College (the US)
How do you wish to die?
Well-organized and peacefully
What is your present state of mind?
Calm —presently and always
Faults for which you have the most tolerance
Your motto in life
Never give up
Into the citizen’s heart