Delhi’s Proust Questionnaire – Satish Sundra, Ram Chander & Sons
The parlour confession.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
He sits in Connaught Place (CP) daily. This has been his routine since 1954. Indeed, he is like our dear old CP of the earlier times, when the colonial-era arcade was said to be gentler, politer and friendlier than it is today. And he speaks in whole sentences, as if reading from a book. Satish Sundra, 86, runs India’s oldest toy store, Ram Chander & Sons (founded in Ambala Cantonment in 1890, in Delhi since 1935). Over a plate of Parle-G biscuits, he agrees to be a part of the Proust Questionnaire series in which citizens are nudged to make “Parisian parlour confessions”, all to explore our distinct experiences.
Principal aspect of your personality.
I like to be a person happily smiling all the time.
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
Ability to provide comfort and peace from harsh realities for some time.
Your main fault.
I have suffered by putting trust in people, but I have not allowed those experiences to affect my trust in others.
Your favorite occupation.
I’m deeply involved in equipping pre-schools with educational toys. And I also like to share whatever I have learned about child education, due to my experience in this toy shop, with various schools in Delhi and Gurgaon, which I do for free.
If not yourself, who would you be?
A scholar of religious books, of all religions.
Where would you like to live?
I am a Himanchali by birth. I would like to be in Kasauli Cantonment where I lived like a prince for the first 23 years of my life.
Your favorite bird
Sparrow. At one time I used to see a lot of them. I would feed them with bajra.
Your favorite prose authors.
Shakespeare is my weakness. Do you want me to quote extempore from Macbeth or from Merchant of Venice?
Your favorite poets.
Firdaus. Zauq, Zafar, Ghalib.
Your favorite heroes in fiction
Your heroes/heroines in real life.
My dear mother, Yashoda Devi. During the immediate years following my father’s early demise, she managed this shop, kept my world stable, and also built our house in Sunder Nagar. She accomplished it all despite being completely illiterate.
Your favorite food.
Arhar dal tempered in desi ghee, served with mango pickle (preserved in ghee, not oil), and plain boiled basmati rice.
Your favorite names.
The only name I love is Ram.
Your present state of mind.
I’m feeling as happy as I was yesterday, and I hope to be as happy tomorrow. This might be because I do not expect anything from anybody.