Summarising a city which has seen drastic changes over the decades in a short biography is an extremely tough job. Aleph Book Company is coming up with these short biographies about cities that are intriguing, informative and interesting to say the least. I have read A Matter Of Rats ( A short biography of Patna) by Amitava Kumar, Degree Coffee By The Yard (A short biography of Madras) by Nandita Lakshmanan and Perpetual City (A short biography of Delhi) is what I read recently. All three books have managed to impress me because they are very well written and takes you on a virtual tour of the cities through written words.
Delhi is the city where I have spent a better part of my life. I connect with this city at so many levels and yet I feel I do not know the city too well. Malvika Singh came to Delhi in 1950s from Bombay and instantly fell in love with it. She found it spacious, serene, calm and grand. Delhi has this certain character that makes you fall in love with the city despite all its negative elements. Having left behind Bombay, Madras and Calcutta, Delhi has become nation’s first city in the 21st century.
The book is divided into two sections namely, perpetual city & changing city. In the first section, the author talks about Delhi right after the independence and how it was a legacy that had once been capital to successive empires. From Tomars-Chauhans, the Mamluks, the Khiljis, the Tughlaks, the Sayyids, the Lodis, the Mughals, the Nehrus, the Gandhis, the list has some heavy weight names who are responsible in shaping up the Delhi of today’s times.
While describing the Delhi of 50s and 60s, the author paints a vivid picture of the city through her description about the city and how enchanting the city was. Being is Delhi was all about experiencing the monuments, music and food of the city. This book is a part family memoir where Malvika Singh shares how her family and friends used to hangout together from the labyrinthian gullies of Old Delhi for late night food walks, Tughlakabad, Qutab Minar, Nizamuddin. Going to musical evenings at Siri Fort and how Delhi where Amir Khusro lived is a centre of qawwali, sufi music and poetry. Interesting and informative anecdotes from her life made the book rich in content and added various dimensions to it.
In the second section of the book, Malvika Singh talks about the Delhi and its evolution to become what it is today. Describing my favourite hangout place of Delhi, Connaught Place that used to a nice quaint place once upon a time transforming into a gigantic corporate and shopping hub of what it is today. How in the name of building infrastructure, many of the ancient buildings of historic significance were destroyed on the whims of politicians and babus for no rhyme and reason and a lot more.
The author also talks of the times when Late Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was an accessible prime minister of the country, how much people loved him and the times after that when several other prime ministers took the seat and failed to deliver till Indira Gandhi came into the picture and how quickly things changed after her death. Corruption came into picture, corporate giants seeping into the city taking away its serenity and turning it into a metropolitan. How lives of people changed during the evolution and a lot more.
Malvika Singh has said a lot in 136 pages of this book and there were times when I seriously wanted to time travel to the Delhi of 50s and 60s. For me, this book was a perfect concoction of what Delhi is all about. This is one book that you would love to devour while sitting in the winter sun, sipping on some cardamom flavoured tea in your garden or may be at some monument in the city to soak in what all has been said in the book.
Book Source : Personal Copy
Publisher : Aleph Book Company
Genre : Non-Fiction
Price : Rs. 295/-