Delhi’s Proust Questionnaire – Polish Ambassador Adam Burakowski , Tilak Marg
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 Adam Burakowski, the ambassador of Poland to India.
Many other foreign envoys living in Delhi might be fluent in speaking at least one of the many Indian languages as part of their professional requirements, but Mr Burakowski’s passion for Hindi is due to his love for literature. He is particular fond of writer Nirmal Verma. “I like the atmosphere of his prose,” he says, pointing out that Verma’s ‘Raat ka reporter’ is a book for these days. “It is about a man walking through the empty streets of Delhi during the Emergency.” The ambassador once wrote a review of this book stressing that “here’s an empty Delhi that you would never see in your life.”
He is now forced to eat his words.
“How could I have imagined then that one day I would see an empty Delhi with my own eyes!”
(No thank you, coronavirus!)
The ambassador is talking on WhatsApp from the isolation of his home, which happens to have a special place in history. This residence on Tilak Marg is where Dr BR Ambedkar lived, with his wife Savita, as India’s first law minister. Many of Ambedkar’s letters are datelined from this address — though Tilak Marg was then called Hardinge Avenue.
The ambassador goes on to show the rooms and gardens of the historic house. The photos are taken through the phone screen that connects him to this reporter.
Your favorite virtue or the principal aspect of your personality
Your favorite qualities in a man
Bravery and responsibility
Your favorite qualities in a woman
Your chief characteristic
I am here just for a moment
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
Ability for long discussions
Your main fault
I eat too much!
Your favorite occupation
Your idea of happiness
Kingdom of Heaven
Your idea of misery or what would be your greatest misfortune?
Loss of hope
If not yourself, who would you be?
Never thought of it
Where would you like to live?
Here and now, in this world
Your favourite colour and flower
My children often ask me about it and I always give them some ad hoc answer
Your favorite bird
Same as above
Your favorite prose authors
Witkacy, Saadat Hassan Manto, Philip K. Dick
Your favorite poets
Juliusz Słowacki, Józef Czechowicz, Lucian Blaga
Your favorite heroes in fiction
Erazm Kocmołuchowicz, Philip Marlowe, Gino Molinari
Your favorite heroines in fiction
Your favorite composers
Johann Sebastian Bach
Your favorite painters
Witkacy, Hieronymus Bosch, Thomas Cole
Your heroes/heroines in real life
What characters in history do you most dislike?
All totalitarian types – Communists, Nazis etc.
Your heroines in World history
Virgin Mary, Maria Skłodowska-Curie, St. Mother Theresa
Your favorite food and drink
Depends on mood: either Polish sausage with Polish bread or veg. biryani with some Indian cold drink
Your favorite names
Agnieszka – my wife’s name. It stands for Agni-e-Ishq, the Fire of Love.
What do you hate the most?
Sloth – acedia
The military event you admire the most
The Battle of Salamis (480 BC) and The Battle of Warsaw (1920 AD)
The reform you admire the most
Democratization and freedom of speech
The natural talent you’d like to be gifted with
Talent for writing poetry
How do you wish to die?
The way God wants me to die
What is your present state of mind?
Faults for which you have the most tolerance
Those of the others
Your motto in life
Nec Temere, Nec Timide
Into the citizen’s heart