Delhi’s Proust Questionnaire – Shalini Bahadur, Park Place, Gurgaon
The parlour confession.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
Along with her two daughters, original paintings, a lot many novels, and with coffee cups from across the world thar her Chandigarh-based parents gift to her from their holidays, Shalini Bahadur lives amid the clouds, literally. Her home is on 26th floor, somewhere high above Gurugram. This magical afternoon—it is always magical in her high altitude balcony—she, dressed in green chiffon, agrees to be a part of the Proust Questionnaire series in which citizens are nudged to make “Parisian parlour confessions”, all to explore our distinct experiences.
Your favorite virtue or the principal aspect of your personality.
I’m very disciplined and organized. I like to get things done. I make a list and tackle things step by step.
Your favorite qualities in a man.
Honesty. Being knowledgeable and dependable too.
Your favorite qualities in a woman.
Graciousness. It’s so often overlooked now.
Your chief characteristic.
I’m a quiet person. Always tried to change it, but now I relish it. I’m happy in my own company.
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
How we can pick up from where we left off, maybe even after many years. That sense of ease that comes with old friendships.
Your main fault.
Worrying. I’m reading about the Stoics and one quote that resonates is by Seneca who said that we suffer more in imagination than in reality.
Your favorite occupation.
I worked in retail and merchandising which I loved then, but now I relish my occupation of reading and creating art.
Your idea of happiness.
Having coffee with loved ones.
Your idea of misery or what would be your greatest misfortune?
Living without books, art, plants and flowers.
If not yourself, who would you be?
Another version of myself! Like in The Midnight Library.
Where would you like to live?
I love Gurgaon and Chandigarh but for the sake of dreaming, why not Florence! Himachal is special and I’d love to live there again.
Your favourite colour and flower.
Rani pink and mustard. Bougainvillea and Nasturtiums, simply because I grow them and they give me such joy.
Your favorite bird.
Sparrows. In boarding school, as little kids we were called Sparrows and given numbers for our cubby holes for kit. I think I was Sparrow 8.
Your favorite prose authors.
It keeps changing. Fredrik Backman, Kristin Hannah, Amor Towles, Anthony Doerr and Daniel Silva at present. John Steinbeck’s East of Eden remains one of my old favourites.
Your favorite poets
Dhiman and Morgan Harper Nichols. Its not traditional poetry but rather a philosophy of life and living.
Your favorite heroes in fiction.
Recently, Gabriel Allon, the Israeli intelligence officer and art restorer from Daniel Silva’s books.
Your favorite heroines in fiction.
Marie-Laure LeBlanc from All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is one that stands out despite having read the book over 2 years ago.
Your favorite composers.
Something magical about listening to classical music in the mountains. Its quite lovely to imagine fragments of Mozart and Vivaldi being carried by the wind.
Your favorite painters.
I love art. I love a life surrounded by it. While my early favorites were the Impressionists like Monet and Renoir, now my taste is wider. At present, I love still life representations.
Your heroes/heroines in real life.
Definitely my parents. At every moment of my life, they have inspired me, stood by me and loved me no matter what. And my friend Divya Babu and our art group, for the most fabulous discovery that my long cherished dream of creating art is actually possible!
What characters in history do you most dislike?
All the known evil characters of course but also those who didn’t partake themselves but helped cover up.
Your heroines in World history.
In The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah writes about a woman who helped the downed Allied airmen in France during WWII. She saved many lives by providing supplies, disguises and safe passage till the British Embassy in Spain. Her codename was “Nightingale”. Its based on a true story about a Belgian woman.
Your favorite food and drink.
Coffee and Tea. Baked treats and cheesecakes. I used to bake every week and love the smell of something baking.
Your favorite names.
Quaint names of places from my childhood. Katrain, Tillasharni, Laran, Juneo, Gajebas, Carignano, Ser Jagas, Pabiyana, Matnali, Habban. They bring back those glorious childhood days.
What do you hate the most?
The military event you admire the most.
Growing up in a military style boarding school, marches and parades were a normal part of our lives. I always look forward to Beating of the Retreat, though this year I missed Abide With Me. The Trooping of the Colors during our Founders is always special.
The reform you admire the most.
The natural talent you’d like to be gifted with.
Better drawing skills.
How do you wish to die?
What is your present state of mind?
Faults for which you have the most tolerance.
With kids, one has learned to let the small things be.
Your motto in life.
Never Give in.
If not now, then when.
Do the harder right, than the easier wrong.