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What if Delhi had its own Jane Austen Society?
[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s such happiness when good people get together — and they always should. Everyone — young and not-so-young, straight and not-so-straight, single and not-so-single — should be invited to join the Jane Austen Society club. The only condition being that you must have read all six of Austen novels at least six times each.
Each Sunday evening, after completing their purchases in Daryaganj’s Sunday Book Bazaar, Austen admirers would gather in front of Urdu Bazaar and sit on the Jama Masjid stairs.
Over doodh-waali chai and biskut, they would enjoy and appreciate Austen’s novels. There would also be a guest of honour at each meet. For instance, firangi backpackers from the unsanitary bowels of Paharganj would be invited to share how Delhi belly keeps them “in a continual state of inelegance” while residents of North Delhi would complain of snobbish south Delhi’s myopic belief that their Delhi is the only Delhi (ah, “one half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other”).
The Society would also be a platform for young people, especially pretty gals, to share their delights and disappointments. After all, any girl, whether she is from Vasant Kunj or Vikas Puri, “likes to be crossed in love a little now and then.” The boy friends are only too obliging. The society, it is hoped, would “certainly be the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.”
Who could deny that an Austen admirer in possession of some spare time must be in want of lace and needles, in addition to Page 3 gossip? Delhi, fortunately, has no dearth of some elegant tailors. This Jane Austen Society would host an eminent fashion designer, a new one each week, teaching you how to stitch petticoats. Learning to make lehengas, achkans, and sherwanis, however, would require extra payment.
The society would aim to make Jane as cool as J K Rowling. It is a truth universally acknowledged that the English departments of our colleges have been rather unfair to Jane and have actually dumped her in the classics section. Delhi’s Jane Austen Society would show our professors and parents that she is too sexy for classrooms.
Perhaps the following inelegant multiple-choice questions as shown below should be included in the exam papers:
What unprintable act is Austen describing in the phrase, “Astonished and shocked, she was almost ready to cry out, but checking her desire, confined herself to this silent ejaculation”?
Where was Austen jogging when she felt that “We do not look in our great cities for our best morality”?
Buddha Jayanti Park
Ansal Plaza Parking
What was Austen referring to when she confessed that “I am afraid that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety”?
The society would also occasionally conduct walking tours in the city where you might pretend as if you are strolling the grassy verdant grounds of England, and not the sunny smoggy steamy lanes of Delhi. You can also hop by landmarks like Ghalib’s haveli in Ballimaran and recite his verses as passionately as Marianne Dashwood recited Shakespeare’s in Sense and Sensibility.
At the end of each meet, the members would, of course, have a discussion to determine what weather they should expect next Sunday.