Delhi’s Proust Questionnaire – Anil Jain, Connaught Place
The parlour confession.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
If the big wide national capital region were a human body, then its heart would be the historic Connaught Place (CP) in central Delhi. The colonial-era commercial district has always moved with the times. Naturally, most longtime landmarks are gone. But a few, borne along its long timeline, have proved to be dogged survivors. Their owners ought to be considered CP’s living treasures. The genial Anil Jain is one such figure. The 60-year-old bookseller has been manning his corridor establishment, Jain Book Center, in G block for 30 years—it all started with 850 rupees. He agreed to be a part of our Proust Questionnaire series in which citizens are nudged to make “Parisian parlour confessions”, all to explore our distinct experiences.
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
Lack of swarth (selfishness).
Your favorite occupation.
My occupation is the best occupation. I love stocking the books, selling them, and over the years, I have also grown to love reading them.
Your idea of happiness.
To find new ways in nurturing meaningful relationships with family and friends.
What would be your greatest misfortune?
It has already happened. Loss of my parents—My mataji, Shrimati Chameli Devi, and my pitaji, Shri Vishambhar Dayal Jain.
Where would you like to live?
Any place in south Delhi, if I get the chance. Right now I live in Shakarpur in the east, across the Yamuna.
Your favorite bird.
Chhoti wali chidiya. As a child in Agra, while mataji would cook meals, I would feed those little birds with atta balls.
Your favorite food.
Mataji ke haath ka khana. I especially loved my late mother’s aloo bari.
What do you hate the most?
The natural talent you’d like to be gifted with.
To talk like a motivational speaker.
Your present state of mind?
I’m thinking that this interview might help me promote my business.
Faults for which you have the most tolerance.
People doing mol-bhaav (bargain) over books. You would not think twice before paying 400 rupees for a cup of coffee, but you’ll hesitate to pay 300 rupees for the first edition hardbound of Salman Rushdie’s Ground Beneath Her Feet. Why?