Delhiwale: No.1 Shakespeare walla



This retired English Literature professor is India’s greatest living Shakespeare scholar (he is also an authority on Yeats!). Rupin Walter Desai founded the legendary Hamlet Studies, “an international journal of research on The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke”. A festschrift dedicated to him is coming out next week—the all-knowing Wikipedia describes this German term as “a book honouring a respected person, especially an academic, and presented during their lifetime.” Turning 90 in two months, the professor’s current project is “Poems I often revisit.” Ensconced in his book-filled East Patel Nagar apartment, he agrees to become a part of our Proust Questionnaire series in which citizens are nudged to make “Parisian parlour confessions”, all to explore our distinct experiences.

Rupin Walter Desai will be 90 in two months.
Rupin Walter Desai will be 90 in two months.

The principal aspect of your personality.

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Tolerant of everyone.

Your main fault.

Impatience with stupidity.

Your favourite occupation.

When I was much younger, it was tinkering with cars. Now, reading and writing.

Your idea of happiness.

Living with Jyoti, my wife.

Your idea of misery.

Good academic work going unappreciated.

Your favourite bird.


Your favourite prose authors.

Doctor Johnson, Jonathan Swift.

Your favourite poets.

Yeats, Andrew Marvell, EE Cummings.

Your favourite heroes in fiction.

Robin Hood, and the protagonist of Moby Dick who calls himself “Call me Ishmael”.

Your favourite heroines in fiction.

Elizabeth Bennet, Clarissa.

Your heroes in real life.

SS Chawla, my professor at Hindu College during the 1950s.

Your favourite food and drink.

Fish curry, beer.

The natural talent you’d like to be gifted with.

Playing the violin.

How do you wish to die?

Not of old age, not by being a burden. In sleep.

Faults for which you have the most tolerance.


Your motto in life.

These words of Hamlet: “We defy augury. There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ‘tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come—the

readiness is all. Since no man, of aught he leaves, knows what is’t to leave betimes, let be.”

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