City Monument - Bloomsday 2024, Martello Tower

City Monument – Bloomsday 2024, Martello Tower

City Special - Bloomsday 2024, Martello Tower

Bloomdsday Mubarak.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

One evening, two nattily suited men climb a steep cobbled slope to reach a lesser-known Delhi monument.

Each of them has a copy of James Joyce’s 1922 novel Ulysses, a classic of modern literature. The duo is here to mark — in advance — the date celebrated worldwide as Bloomsday, named after Leopold Bloom, the novel’s protagonist. June 16, 2024, is the 120th anniversary of Bloomsday; this is the date on which the novel’s story, set in 1904, unfolds.

Ambassador of Ireland Kevin Kelly and Deputy Ambassador Raymond Mullen have now climbed the Martello Tower at Old Delhi’s Ansari Road. This monument has a namesake cousin in Dublin, Ireland. That Martello Tower in the Emerald Isle is where Ulysses begins. The book binds the two monuments on two continents on Bloomsday, and the Irish diplomats in Delhi are the literary pilgrims here.

“So peaceful,” says Ambassador Kelly. Deputy Ambassador Mullen nods, his coal-black hair stirring slightly in the oven-hot breeze. Kelly has a house in Dublin, a short walk from the famous Martello, which today is the Joyce Tower Museum. Mullen, in his former life as an academic, taught Joyce at Queen’s University, Belfast. He has also visited Joyce’s grave in Zurich.

Delhi and Dublin have these connected monuments because of their shared history — both lands were colonised by the British. The Martello Tower takes its name and design from a fortress in Corsica. The Brits raised these defensive Martellos across their empire. In Dublin’s Sandymount, they built the sea-facing tower in 1804. In Delhi, they built it along the destroyed city wall after crushing the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.

The diplomats sit down on a stone ledge and read aloud passages from the novel.

Ambassador Kelly: “Stephen, an elbow rested on the jagged granite…”

Deputy Ambassador Mullen: “Paris rawly waking…”

The pages of Ulysses keep being turned and read, until the heat wave of Delhi brings an end to the literary stroll through Dublin — time for the diplomats to leave the Martello Tower.

Indeed, the tower being close to Old Delhi’s legendary Sunday Book Bazaar, held weekly in Mahila Haat, it would be the perfect place for a visit on June 16 (tomorrow!) to salute this year’s Bloomsday—happily falling on a Sunday. Carry this dispatch, dear reader, and while sitting on the stone ledge, read aloud this memorable passage from Ulysses:

“Love loves to love love. Nurse loves the new chemist. Constable 14 A loves Mary Kelly. Gerty MacDowell loves the boy that has the bicycle. M. B. loves a fair gentleman. Li Chi Han lovey up kissy Cha Pu Chow. Jumbo, the elephant, loves Alice, the elephant. Old Mr Verschoyle with the ear trumpet loves old Mrs Verschoyle with the turnedin eye. The man in the brown macintosh loves a lady who is dead. His Majesty the King loves Her Majesty the Queen. Mrs Norman W. Tupper loves officer Taylor. You love a certain person. And this person loves that other person because everybody loves somebody but God loves everybody.”

Happy Bloomsday.