Homing and unhoming: taxonomies of living

‘Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.’ —James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room What is a home? Is it a feeling, a habit, a set of relationships or a combination of materials and floor plans? The idea of this essay was triggered three months back, when I was asked to shift from the… Continue reading Homing and unhoming: taxonomies of living

Corona Diaries

The hour from night to day. The hour from side to side. The hour for those past thirty. The hour swept clean to the crowing of cocks. The hour when earth betrays us. The hour when wind blows from extinguished stars. The hour of and-what-if-nothing-remains-after-us. The hollow hour. Blank, empty. The very pit of all… Continue reading Corona Diaries

If on a winter’s night, azadi…

They’re selling postcards of the hanging They’re painting the passports brown The beauty parlor is filled with sailors The circus is in town Here comes the blind commissioner They’ve got him in a trance One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker The other is in his pants And the riot squad, they’re restless They… Continue reading If on a winter’s night, azadi…

Smell and the City II

Is the future odourless? How would Delhi’s zealous planners chasing the idea of world-classness imagine the future of Khari Baoli, Asia’s oldest spice market? Would it be in the form of an ordered set of malls rising in the midst of Old Delhi, reeking of heady European perfumes and caramel popcorn, with clean marble corridors… Continue reading Smell and the City II

Smell and the City I

In the Foreword to Alain Corbin’s The Foul and the Fragrant: French Social Imagination (1986),[1] Roy Porter writes that ‘Today’s history comes deodorized. Thanks to experts in art, architecture, and artifacts, our eyes have been opened to what the past looked like; and all who have immersed themselves in diaries, novels, and letters will have their… Continue reading Smell and the City I

Et tu, brutalism: of anxious rooms and modernist architecture

Grafting utopias The annual festival of Delhi’s oldest architecture school is called Utopia. When I ask the students why it is called so and if they know what it means, they look confused. One exclaims, ‘Utopia is what we will create... it’s the perfect place, the perfect city...’ So I ask them, ‘But does it… Continue reading Et tu, brutalism: of anxious rooms and modernist architecture

But does their form have an essence: on actually existing modernism

When photographing modernist buildings, I would move back and forward and sideways in an effort to frame them without the cars parked all around. I was trying to capture them a little removed from the city to which they now belong. I love modernist buildings for their defined edges and their utopian social ambition. But… Continue reading But does their form have an essence: on actually existing modernism

The city extended: Growing in and with Surat

‘A person does not end with the limits of his physical body or with the area to which his physical activity is immediately confined but embraces, rather, the totality of meaningful effects which emanates from him temporally and spatially. In the same way the city exists only in the totality of the effects which transcend… Continue reading The city extended: Growing in and with Surat

There’s something about the street

‘I? I walk alone; The midnight street Spins itself from under my feet; When my eyes shut These dreaming houses all snuff out; Through a whim of mine Over gables the moon's celestial onion Hangs high.’ —‘Soliloquy of the Solipsist’, Sylvia Plath, 1956 ‘I do not know which of us has written this page.’ —Jorge… Continue reading There’s something about the street

Letters from Karachi

ab toh yahaan ke mausam mujhse aisi umeedein rakhte hain jaise hamesha se main yahin hoon Gangaji aur Jamunaji Amrohe mein Baan nadi ke paas jo ladka rehta tha ab woh kahan hai? Main toh wahin hoon Gangaji aur Jamunaji [Now even the seasons here have such expectations of me as if I have always been here, Gangaji and… Continue reading Letters from Karachi

I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle…

I was gifted a cycle last year by a ‘cyclist’ friend but have used it only a couple of times, sometimes in a large park a few kilometres away from my house and a few times to buy vegetables and groceries closer home. Even as I had been warned by friends—part of a tiny minority… Continue reading I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle…

When a Dilliwali Rides a Cycle in Ahmedabad

As our blog evolves into a growing archive on writing the city, we are keen have people write for us on their very personal experiences of cities and unique ways of seeing cities. As an anthropologist interested in the realm of the quotidian, I am fascinated by stories of ordinary city dwellers, which is why… Continue reading When a Dilliwali Rides a Cycle in Ahmedabad