Delhi’s Proust Questionnaire – Aradhana Seth, Noida
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
How to describe her? Painter? Production designer? Photographer? Producer or film maker?
Oh well, Aradhana Seth is an artist. And like most members of this restless specie, she is able to rustle out pieces of creativity even under the most trying circumstances. Despite being home-bound due to the coronavirus pandemic, the lady is still occupied in her primary pursuits. Recently, she sorted out the thousands of photographs she had accumulated over the previous years. And currently she is painting with… attention please, here’s some corona-era story!
You’ll agree that the usual paint colors are not exactly the ‘essential commodities’ of these troubled days that one can get from the neighbourhood grocer. So, Ms Seth is sourcing her colouring ingredients from fruit, vegetables and flowers. For instance, she gets her red from beetroot, carrot, pomegranate and red wine; yellow from haldi and tesu ke phool; and green from papaya leaf and palak ke patte.
“See, I made my Fish on Zoom with beetroot, red cabbage, neem juice and sesame seeds,” she says, showing a panel of nine painted fish, each to its small box—the artwork is looking exactly like the laptop screen zoom meetings of our new-normal interactions. Ms Seth is chatting on WhatsApp video from the isolation of her home (which has partially been turned into a studio!) in Noida where she shares the “dinner arrangements” daily with father, Prem Nath, and brother Vikram. “With a great amount of help as well as oil” from their cook, Basanti.
Ms Seth has a house in Goa, too. “Dreaming of the sea while landlocked in Delhi,” she soon plans to fly to her other home.
She gamely agreed to become a part of the Proust Questionnaire series in which The Delhi Walla nudges folks from diverse backgrounds to make “Parisian parlour confessions”, all to explore the lives, thoughts, values and experiences of Delhi’s citizens.
Your favorite virtue or the principal aspect of your personality
Intuition. Independence of thought. Finding beauty in small things.
Your favorite qualities in a man
Humility. Intelligence. Humour. Tenderness
Your favorite qualities in a woman
Creativity. Intelligence. Humour. Sensitivity
Your chief characteristic
A visual and visceral mind
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
Warmth. Honesty. Non-judgemental
Your main fault
Impatience and being over-sensitive
Your favorite occupation
Experimenting with new materials, ideas and thoughts
Your idea of happiness
Being in water: walking in the rain, at the beach, snorkeling
Your idea of misery or what would be your greatest misfortune?
At the moment it would be living in a Covid facility
If not yourself, who would you be?
Where would you like to live?
Where I mostly live—in Goa
Your favourite colour and flower
White. Gardenia and Peony
Your favorite bird
Parrot. Beautiful, intelligent—and they mimic human speech!
Your favorite prose authors
Virginia Woolf. Jane Austen. Beatrix Potter. Satyajit Ray
Your favorite poets
Michael Ondaatje. Leonard Cohen. Vikram Seth. Bob Dylan
Your favorite heroes in fiction
The Little Prince in The Little Price. Maan Kapoor in A Suitable Boy. Snoopy by Charles M. Schulz. Dorian—though an aweful human in The Picture of Dorian Gray, he gives me an insight and understanding into temptation and destruction
Your favorite heroines in fiction
Ammu in The God of Small Things. Charulata in the novella/Ray Film. Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (the film version of it more than the book. Meryl Streep is so good and horribly real!) Cleopatra. Piyali Roy in The Hungry Tide
Your favorite composers
Giacomo Puccini. Shankar and Jaikishan. Naushad Ali. The Beatles
Your favorite painters/artists
Vermeer. Jamini Roy. Zarina Hashmi. Salman Toor. Anslem Keifer. Egon Schiele. Hasegawa Tōhaku.
Your heroes/heroines in real life
Albert Einstein. Rosa Parks. Martin Luther King. Golda Meir. Thich Naht Hanh
What characters in history do you most dislike?
Those that are inhuman, narcissistic, fascists, dictators: sadly there are so many… dead and alive
Your favorite food and drink
Sushi and Saki. Curd Rice and fish pickle. Campari
Your favorite names
Tara. Ayesha. Noor. Purnima and Graciella
What do you hate the most?
Dictirorial behavior. Unfairness. The caste system. Religious intolerance
The military event you admire the most
I don’t. I feel that it is a form of legalized killing.
“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you…
You may say I’m a dreamer”—John Lennon / Paul McCartney
The natural talent you’d like to be gifted with
To be able to sing
How do you wish to die?
Unaware and oblivious. In a flash!
What is your present state of mind?
Tortured and calm. Tortured about the world we are living in. Calm when in a cacoon!
Faults for which you have the most tolerance
Your motto in life
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
Into the citizen’s heart