Delhi’s Proust Questionnaire – Reggae Musician ‘Delhi Sultanate’, Man Singh Road
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 Taru Dalmia. Also called Delhi Sultanate, he is well known as the lead singer at the music band The Ska Vengers. Though these days he is busy touring the country’s big cities as well as small towns with his so-called BFR Sound System, a “hand-built Jamaican sound system playing reggae and Afro-Caribbean music.” In his 30s, Mr Dalmia lives in a book-lined home in central Delhi’s Man Singh Road. His kitchen, particularly, is full of character with a portrait of freedom fighter Chandra Shekhar Azad.
Your favourite virtue or the principal aspect of your personality
Curiosity + thinking
Your favourite qualities in a man
Must connect with animals and be curious
Your favourite qualities in a woman
Keen powers of perception, which are processed with a balance of life experience and book learning (history, behavioural and evolutionary psychology), and grounded in empathy and compassion. At the same time, to be capable of uninhibited, decisive and if required, drastic action—for instance of shooting up the place if the situation calls for it, but to do so without having to let go of an empathetic and non-dehumanising perception of one’s antagonist and staying cool
Your chief characteristic
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
Attention, care, intelligence and honesty and a sense of justice
Your main fault
Your favourite occupation
At present, long-distance driving across the country in our sound van on non-highway roads which offers me a new way to experience time and space and relativises the feeling of being trapped in a sedentary dystopian city-world experience
Your idea of happiness
Stress-free and non-solitary inspired creativity. For instance, when DJing reggae records there can be a moment when one is in the zone. This does not always happen, but when it does, one instinctively knows what tune to play next without having to deliberate and try too hard. This leads to an intensified sense of being in the present, of experiencing potently the energy and emotion contained in the music, and being able to effectively transmit this to the audience. I feel people connect more to the music when this happens. There’s an exuberant and uninhibited sensation. This can occur in other life situations as well. DJing is just a laboratory to understand what can facilitate this process. Underlying all this in some way is the alignment of perceiving, processing and acting. It can be experienced in solitude but may be amplified when one can transmit it through an act of communication or performance and experience it collectively
Your idea of misery or what would be your greatest misfortune?
To have a loved one disappeared by the state/deep-state and/or ideologically affiliated organisations and not to know their fate
If not yourself, who would you be?
I don’t want to be anyone else
Where would you like to live?
Pre-Columbian California, 1980’s Kingston Jamaica or 1990’s New Lots Brooklyn
Your favourite colour and flower
Your favourite bird
That black dancing bird with the turquoise spot from the BBC series is impressive… but I think I’ll roll with crow
Your favourite prose authors
Svetlana Alexievich, Jenny Odell, Philippe Sands, Anna Reid, Alex Ross, Iceberg Slim, Hannah Arendt
Your favourite poets
I wish I knew more poetry. I’m at a stage in my life where I feel I have the presence of mind and comprehensive capabilities to benefit from a deep engagement with poetry. Ask me again in 3 years
Your favourite heroes in fiction
Your favourite heroines in fiction
Nyai Ontosoroh in the Buru Quartet
Your favourite composers
Joe Gibbs, Bunny Lee, Donovan Germaine, The RZA, King Jammy, Yabby You, Lee Scratch Perry, Augustus Pablo, Henry Junjo Lawes, Sly and Robbie, Mulatu Astatke, Fela Kuti, Fattis Burrell
Your favourite painters
Your heroes/heroines in real life
Larry Davis, Rory Stone Love, Festus Coxsone, Muhammad Ali
What characters in history do you most dislike?
Well there are the obvious ones, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, King Leopold, Queen of England, Churchill, Cecil Rhodes… then the ones who have to an extent white-washed their image, like Elihu Yale….
Your heroines in world history
Muhumusa (and Nyabinghi)
Your favourite food and drink
My mom’s daal soup/khow suey mash up and coffee
Your favourite names
I like the ring and audacity of the names of 80’s and 90’s reggae dancehall artists and selectors… names like Sky Juice, Cocoa Tea, Ninjaman, Dr. Alimantado, Lt. Stitchie, Wolfman, Lady V Rocket, Quench Aid, Super Cat aka The Wild Apache
What do you hate the most?
Ignorance and the petty tyranny of bullies whose false sense of confidence derives from a uniform or trust in superior weaponry
The military event you admire the most
The Modoc Wars
The reform you admire the most
The Ghost Dance movement
The natural talent you’d like to be gifted with
I’m okay with what I have
How do you wish to die?
With some foreknowledge, without regrets and with equanimity and courage
What is your present state of mind?
A sense of sorrow and anxiety
Fault for which you have the most tolerance
Your motto in life
Real recognises real
Into the citizen’s heart