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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Delhiwale: Summer’s cold comfort, filled with books

A library offering not only a great selection to read but also an escape from summer

delhi Updated: Jun 07, 2018 09:36 IST

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The British Council library on Delhi’s KG Marg is just the right place to while away a long horrible summer afternoon—for free.
The British Council library on Delhi’s KG Marg is just the right place to while away a long horrible summer afternoon—for free.(HT photo)

Here’s just the right place to while away a long horrible summer afternoon—for free.

But, to be fair, the books at British Council also tempt, with a pleasing collection of writers from the vast English-speaking world.

As you’d expect, there are two entire shelves devoted to Shakespeare. Perhaps more surprising is the impressive poetry section featuring works by almost all major non-American contemporary poets (there’s a vast collection of handsome poetry paperbacks published by the famed Faber & Faber).

Many patrons seem to be content tapping on their laptops rather than inspecting the book shelves themselves.

You may particularly enjoy settling down with the very latest print editions of leading British newspapers. There’s probably no other place in Delhi where you can do this so easily and feel like just any common Londoner turning over the pages of her city’s daily. Also delightful is to settle down on one of the library’s comfy chairs with a novel and occasionally look towards the window, marvelling at the brutal heat raging outside this snug Eskimo shelter.

While only members can borrow books, nobody asks for membership card if you simply wish to hang out there.

Before exiting, try to lounge for sometime in one of the library’s yellow bean bags. Perfect spot for a quick nap.


Her eyes close slowly, suggesting that she’s immersed in deep thoughts. Her still arm suddenly stirs, rising up, and now she finally opens her lips--the robust voice filling the south Delhi drawing room with a soothing feeling.

This is just another noon in the life of vocalist Madhumita Ray. Every day, from 11am to 1 pm, she negotiates her way through Hindustani classical music. Her tabla partner, Utpal Ghoshal, who also plays with the great Birju Maharaj, usually joins her. Today, he isn’t present, and his absence is being felt.

Twice a week, Ms Ray also teaches music to a few young women. Right now she is giving lessons in Raag Bhairav to Shruti, a homemaker, and Diksha, a college student. Her dog, Elsa, is snoozing under the dining table.

Wearing an emerald green Gadwal sari rimmed with golden zari work, Ms Ray, 62, is sitting on a straight-backed arm chair. “But sometimes I do riyaz sitting down on the carpet... sometimes I might be in the study where the window looks out onto a champa tree...”

Perhaps because her voice is so powerful, Ms Ray instinctively commands awe. Rather than the sweet hostess of the house, you’d imagine her to be a stern performer on the stage, under whose gaze it is impossible to leave the hall mid-way through recital.

She stares down hard towards her students as they begun a rendition. Suddenly, she shakes her head. Something is amiss. A feeling of disapproval hangs in the drawing room air. Ms Ray advices a slightly altered approach to one of her students, who nods her head gratefully.

Very soon the singer is to leave for London for a few weeks of performances and workshops. But no worries, there will still be music in the house. Ms Ray’s daughter, Shreya, is a professional jazz crooner.

First Published: Jun 07, 2018 09:34 IST