Delhiwale: A Joyce walla - Hindustan Times
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Delhiwale: A Joyce walla

Jun 13, 2024 07:42 AM IST

Can fiction save a life? It did for a young “jumna paar” poet and music student in east Delhi’s Mayur Vihar Phase 3

Can fiction save a life? It did for a young “jumna paar” poet and music student in east Delhi’s Mayur Vihar Phase 3. Mukul is one of those rare Delhiwale who have read “cover-to-cover” a book universally acknowledged to be among literature’s most difficult novels—James Joyce’s Ulysses. As the world prepares to celebrate the annual Bloomsday on 16th June, the date in which the great 1922 novel is set (Leopold Bloom of Dublin being the novel’s hero),this devoted Delhi Joycean gets frank on his relationship with Ulysses.

Mukul is one of those rare Delhiwale who have read “cover-to-cover” a book universally acknowledged to be among literature’s most difficult novels—James Joyce’s Ulysses. (HT photo)
Mukul is one of those rare Delhiwale who have read “cover-to-cover” a book universally acknowledged to be among literature’s most difficult novels—James Joyce’s Ulysses. (HT photo)

How was your first encounter with the novel?

It was post the monsoon of 2019. I had just quit my job, and was on the verge of losing my mind. Perhaps it was the other way around. Everything in my life was coming to pieces. And truly enough, Ulysses saved my life.

How?

Mornings are particularly difficult when you’re going through a mental breakdown. I remember waking up, stressed-out-of-my-wits, unmotivated, thoroughly upset at the world, and helplessly coming up with more and more reasons to be more and more stressed. I crashed on my bed and a few odd books lying about here-and-there. One of them was Ulysses. It was lying right here in front of me with that intimidating appearance of a hardened classic. I remember thinking to myself: “okay, I’ll read about the first thirty pages or so, and it’ll probably bore me to sleep and I’ll forget about it.” And so, I opened the first page, and I began reading.

What happened next?

The novel wasn’t yielding. It was challenging me, mocking me, inspiring me, inviting me, all at the same time. It spoke to me like nothing had spoken before. Joyce is ultimately closer to a musician than a novelist. The words sing at his command.

Matlab?

One page after another, I was diving in, peeling through the layers of textures and alliterations, humorous portmanteaus, implicit rhythms and sounds, and that glorious theme of a synecdoche. The whole contained in its parts; the mythos superimposed over the mundane. Suddenly it was as if a cloud of meaning—coming from the other side of the world, crossing seven seas and almost a century—poured over me all at once, and having drenched in it, I was somehow saved. I don’t know how it goes. But I found my feet again. My knees no longer shook at the horrors of reality. I was a hero, like Bloom, mundane and magnanimous, who was ready for the strange Odyssey of a peculiar life.

How is life post-Ulysses?

I read Joyce’s next and final novel, Finnegans Wake, and read it from time to time. It takes me to places which even Ulysses couldn’t.

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