City Library - Author Qurratulain Hyder Archives, Jamia Millia Islamia University

City Library – Author Qurratulain Hyder Archives, Jamia Millia Islamia University

A room of her own. [Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi] Aakh ki thandak—cooling comfort to the eye. This is the meaning of her Arabic name, though friends called her Ainee Apa. Qurratulain Hyder herself also preferred this nickname….

City Library - Raghu Rai's Collection of Books, Mehrauli

City Library – Raghu Rai’s Collection of Books, Mehrauli

Photographer’s company. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] The first impulse is to click his gaze, zoom up the photo on the screen and study it in detail. These eyes of Raghu Rai have not only recorded some of…

City Library - Premchand's Archives, Premchand Archives & Literary Center

City Library – Premchand’s Archives, Premchand Archives & Literary Center

Author’s home. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] Dainty and dense, and tidy enough to be decipherable. This is his hastlipi (handwriting) in Hindi. And his likhai (handwriting) in Urdu, ditto. The writing of Premchand (1880-1936) is a sangam…

City Library - Ashis Nandy's and Uma Nandy's Library, Hazrat Nizamuddin East

City Library – Ashis Nandy’s and Uma Nandy’s Library, Hazrat Nizamuddin East

Couple’s collection. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] One day, some years ago, an academic from abroad entered their house. He was courteously told to sit. He replied, “But where?” The books are on the sofa, and on the…

City Library - American Center Library, Kasturba Gandhi Marg

City Library – American Center Library, Kasturba Gandhi Marg

Sounds from silences. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] If you listen, the steady hum of a machine can be heard. Maybe it’s the air conditioner. Or rather a radiator, for this is the cold season. The sound is…

City Library - Diplomat Maharajakrishna Rasgotra's Books, Sapru House

City Library – Diplomat Maharajakrishna Rasgotra’s Books, Sapru House

Diplomat’s poetic side. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] “Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you what you are.” This maxim by French epicure Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin works equally well if “eat” is replaced with “read”. That…

City Library - 3L Library, Defence Colony

City Library – 3L Library, Defence Colony

An old-world lending library. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] One doesn’t always want to stumble upon the past. After all, there is so much contemporary stuff to handle. But Delhi is littered with souvenirs from yesterday. And this…

City Library - Rakhshanda Jalil's Mills & Boon Collection, Central Delhi

City Library – Rakhshanda Jalil’s Mills & Boon Collection, Central Delhi

Part of her past. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] How could any man be so mean? Could Kate really bear Adam long enough to discover the gentleness he apparently possessed? More urgently, did Rakhshanda Jalil really care? Turns…

City Library - Jawaharlal Nehru's Book Collection, Teen Murti House

City Library – Jawaharlal Nehru’s Book Collection, Teen Murti House

Statesman’s books. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] Hundreds of books have been written on India’s first prime minister. One day The Delhi Walla checked out the books that Jawaharlal Nehru kept in his home. Millions of people have…

City Library - Shalini Bahadur's Books, Gurgaon

City Library – Shalini Bahadur’s Books, Gurgaon

Life with books. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] She woke up very early in her Gurgaon condo the morning after prime minister’s first speech on janta curfew, the one that preempted the much-longer coronavirus-ridden lockdown. By 6.15 am,…