Delhi’s Proust Questionnaire – Sushma Seth, New Friends Colony
The parlour confession.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
She’s 85 and so elegant, stately, regal and her white hair is so beautiful—even on the phone screen. Actor Sushma Seth is chatting on WhatsApp video from the home in New Friends Colony that she shares with her daughter and her family. “I haven’t stepped out since the start of the first lockdown,” she says in her archetypical authoritative and yet supremely soothing voice that is familiar to so many of us who grew up watching her in films and iconic TV serials. “Most people are not aware that my background is theatre,” observes the lady, as she gamely agrees 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. (Also see down under: black & white snapshots of Ms Seth’s theatre days that she so generously agreed to share with me!)
Your favorite virtue or the principal aspect of your personality
Emotional strength and calm acceptance
Your favorite qualities in a man
Empathy, integrity, generosity, a sense of humor
Your favorite qualities in a woman
Strength, grace, kindness
Your chief characteristic
Determination, positive attitude
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
Understanding. Sharing joyous moments. Sorrows have to be endured – physical and emotional
Your main fault
Your favorite occupation
Acting, directing – plays. Music. Painting
Your idea of happiness
Peace and harmony in the environment. Aesthetic surroundings
Your idea of misery or what would be your greatest misfortune?
Misery – squalor and dirty surroundings. Misfortune- losing a loved one
If not yourself, who would you be?
An improved version of Sushma Seth!
Where would you like to live?
New Delhi – India
Your favourite colour and flower
Red. Roses. Fragrance of Indian roses and mogra
Your favorite bird
The vibrantly colored birds and the ones who sing sweetly, and koel
Your favorite prose authors
Bharat Muni, the author of Natya Shastra, a treatise on the performing arts, which also discloses the theory of Ras. A. Parthasarthy, who authored Vedanta Treatise. Devdutt Patnaik. Anuja Chauhan
Your favorite poets
Pandit Satyakam Vidyalankar, Rabindranath Tagore
Your favorite heroes in fiction
Rhett Butler – hero of my teen years!
Your favorite heroines in fiction
All the heroines I’ve played on stage–Gurdafrid, the warrior princess in Rustam Sohrab. Rano in Ek Chadar Maili Si, Shen Te in Good Woman of Sezuan, Champa in Sakharam Binder, Kate in The Taming of the Shrew
Your favorite composers
Pandit Jasraj, Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Shiv Kumar Sharma, Kishori Amonkar, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Edvard Greig, A.R. Rahman
Your favorite painters
All the gifted enterprising artists/painters of group shows who are unknown – whose works do not have buyers
Your heroes/heroines in real life
The Medical fraternity , which has served selflessly and tirelessly during this pandemic. All those who have suffered and endured this pandemic, primarily the women
What characters in history do you most dislike?
Hitler, Osama bin Laden, Idi Amin. Rapists
Your heroines in World history
Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, Rukmini Devi Arundale, Marie Curie, Florence Nightingale, Kalpana Chawla
Your favorite food and drink
Shahi paneer, papri chaat, Thai curry, cheesecake and all the desserts!! Water, milk, red wine!
Your favorite names
Kavi, Divya, Priya
What do you hate the most?
The military event you admire the most
Kargil War. And our armed forces’s preparedness to combat ambush/violation without disclosing their strategies
The reform you admire the most
Abolition of child marriage, sati, caste system
The natural talent you’d like to be gifted with
My own singing voice of teen years!
How do you wish to die?
Swiftly and peacefully – after a bath
What is your present state of mind?
In learning mode of the incredible but complex mobile and computer technology
Faults for which you have the most tolerance
Health and economic suffering
Your motto in life
Live life to the fullest and positively, without any regrettable actions
Into the citizen’s heart