An Anthology of Writings on Delhi
Witness to the rise and fall of several empires, Delhi has often been compared to the phoenix that rises from the ashes of its previous self. Three thousand years of eventful history have made it one of the greatest capitals of the world-also an old-young city full of contradictions that inspire as much love as loathing.
This anthology brings together writings on Delhi by residents, refugees, travellers and invaders who have engaged with the city at various moments in its long history. Amir Khusrau, Ibn Battuta, Samsam-ud-Daula and Niccolao Manucci record the glories and follies of prominent kings and emperors, from Anangpal Tomar to Shah Jahan. Timur Lane tells the story of his own bloody invasion of the city, Khushwant Singh of an untouchable in the time of Aurangzeb, William Dalrymple of the first intrepid Englishmen in Delhi, and Ghalib and Hodson of the war of 1857. There are also vignettes of everyday life-a Jat household in the nineteenth century; vendors and housewives in Ballimaran during the Second World War; lovers and joggers in Lodi Garden; happy parties at the discos.
The contemporary pieces, most of them specially commissioned for the collection, constitute a bitter-sweet ode to modern Delhi. Ruskin Bond, Manjula Padmanabhan, Anees Jung, Mrinal Pande, Dhiren Bhagat, and Rukmini Bhaya Nair, among others, write on subjects as diverse as Punjabi joint families, the dying cuisine of Delhi, the infuriating bureaucracy, the Sufi legacy, the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, and the benighted citizens of a capital city gone wrong.
Edited by Khushwant Singh, City Improbable is a collection as varied and lively-sometimes serious, sometimes richly humorous-as Delhi itself.