Delhi’s Proust Questionnaire – Arjun Sagar Gupta, Vasant Vihar
The parlour confession.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
His bedroom’s Yamaha Electone is clamouring for attention, even on Zoom. The statelier Steinway is in the drawing room, out of sight. An accomplished pianist, the enterprising Arjun Sagar Gupta, 35, is best known for giving Delhi new opportunities to experience live jazz. He opened his first music venue, the Piano Man Jazz Club, in Delhi’s Safdarjung Enclave in 2015, and the second the previous year in Gurgaon’s Sector 15. They both stayed shut in the coronavirus-triggered lockdown and reopened in September.
“I spent a bulk of my time in the lockdown practicing a new instrument, trumpet, and interviewing and live-streaming musicians from all over the world,” he says, chatting from his home in Vasant Vihar. He gamely agreed to become a part of the Proust Questionnaire series, in which folks from diverse backgrounds are nudged to make “Parisian parlour confessions”, so as to explore the lives, thoughts, values and experiences of fellow citizens.
Your favorite virtue or the principal aspect of your personality
Perpetual state of learning and I love working, I mean I genuinely enjoy being productive!
Your favorite qualities in a man
Integrity, empathy and honesty
Your favorite qualities in a woman
Why should it differ from what I expect from a man?
Your chief characteristic
A desire for creating wonderful things
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
The ability to ground me, play devils advocate and of course, a similar value system and ideology
Your main fault
Default mode – Blind trust, it’s bitten me a few times. Impatience, a bit too quick to get excited/upset
Your favorite occupation
Anything that increases my knowledge of almost anything. I have a lot of useless and some useful data stored in my head
Your idea of happiness
Hot chocolate fudge and a good movie with my partner and knowing that I did something useful today
Your idea of misery or what would be your greatest misfortune?
To fail to bring to life my ideas
If not yourself, who would you be?
I’m very content with the person I have grown to become, and I look forward to what I will evolve into. I cannot imagine wanting to be someone else
Where would you like to live?
In a beautiful house, ideally designed by me with a large garden, surrounded by kind people, with breathable air
Your favourite colour and flower
Black, and Tuberoses, I’ve grown up with their scent in my house, dad used to get them every Sunday from the flower mandi that used to be set up in CP (Connaught Place)
Your favorite bird
I’ve never thought about it, they’re all beautiful, I wouldn’t pet a pigeon or crow though, worried about diseases. Maybe parrots?
Your favorite prose authors
Ah, I exclusively read science fiction. Exclusively. Since I was 8 or 9
Your favorite poets
See above answer, though I enjoy reading the rather beautiful though rare poetry written by my father’s brothers
Your favorite heroes in fiction
Superman, always. From Golden era of comics
Your favorite heroines in fiction
Starlight – Annie from The Boys
Your favorite composers
Chopin, Liszt, Bill Evan, Oscar Peterson, Jobim… this is a really long list
Your favorite painters
Vincent Van Gogh. I can stare at his paintings indefinitely
Your heroes/heroines in real life
My piano teacher, John Raphael, who passed a few years ago, my folks, my brother… might sound silly, but I know them better than I know anyone else, and I’m grateful to be able to call them family
What characters in history do you most dislike?
Sigh, the worst of them are alive today. I think the audacity and appetite of evil grows with every generation, just gets worse, implemented by people with more powerful tools at their disposal
Your heroines in World history
History is a weak area for me… Mary Lou Williams, Rosa Parks… I should read more history
Your favorite food and drink
Difficult to answer, depends on my mood, right now I’m craving chorizos and cold water…
Your favorite names
What’s in a name? Never cared much for names
What do you hate the most?
Willful ignorance and stupidity. The lack of a desire to improve oneself and the lack of empathy
The military event you admire the most
None that I can think of, when do we get a borderless world?
The reform you admire the most
The reform that will eliminate religion
The natural talent you’d like to be gifted with
Everything. I want every part of my body to be able to deliver to the best of human potential… unfortunately their all lacking
How do you wish to die?
Good food, good sex, no pain and with the knowledge that the institutions I’m trying to build will live on
What is your present state of mind?
Stressed and worried for the future, but also hopeful and focused
Faults for which you have the most tolerance
Any fault that one is willing to address, learn and change
Your motto in life
Growing up I used to say, avoid excessive avoidance of excesses. But looking at the world today, I think we have enough excess. So now, it’s “Be kind, you don’t know what the person in front of you is going through”