‘Words: with them you can do and undo as you please.’
—Elena Ferrante, The Story of a New Name
Chiragh Dilli has completed six years. This anniversary post is a couple of months late, and it happens to be the first piece on the blog this year. It’s strange to start the year in April and that too with an anniversary post rather than a ‘proper’ blog piece, but maybe it’s good to tweak rituals as much as keep up with them. With the last post of 2022, we completed 50 posts on the blog. We have, over the years, continuously endeavored and struggled to post with some regularity and consistency, sometimes failing, sometimes not. Numbers have not really mattered for us, even as we don’t want to take our readers, and their love, for granted. How many pieces we put up on the blog or how frequently we post on our social media has been a conscious choice to not get caught up in the frenzy of ‘more is better’, to not put up something because we have to put up something on account of some abstract standard of measure. But it has also been shaped by the practical challenges of being a tiny team that expands and contracts depending on who has time and where else life is taking us. But 50 feels like a nice number, a milestone of sorts and an occasion to reflect on and celebrate the journey of the blog even as it is still unfolding.
At the beginning of every year, when I’m looking back upon the year gone by, the things done and not done, the choices made and the plans dropped in my life, I’m simultaneously thinking of Chiragh Dilli: What have we done so far? What kind of pieces would I like to write or get others to write for the blog? And also, more existential questions: What is my relationship with Chiragh Dilli? Why does it matter to me? I deliberately move between ‘we’ and ‘I’ because this is as much about a collective journey, involving writers, readers, friends, research collaborators and interlocutors, strangers on the street who make their way into our stories, cities we dwell in and pass by, as about a unique personal relationship I have with the blog as its editor. The latter is a relationship that is both fulfilling and frustrating because while there is a little bit or a lot of me in every piece that gets published on the blog, it is also up to me to think of where the next piece will come from and how it will make its journey into the world through the blog.
Is love and concern for writing and for cities enough to continuously create, manage, steer, and run something? And what is this ‘something’? The blog is just the form, but what is it that I am, we are, making? Is it an archive that holds together a scatter of words woven into stories connecting space–times? Is it a process of collaborative thinking and doing? Is it a ‘meeting place’, much like the street corner, where ideas, people, and relationships intersect, partly by intentionality and partly by chance? Does the blog just hold together writings, cities, and forms of writing the city, or is it also an entity in itself, travelling and circulating without us, yet demanding love and nurturing? And who is this us? Whose labour, how much, goes into writing, rewriting, editing, proofreading, discussing, following up, inspiring, cajoling, sharing, keeping at it? Who makes this space and who gets to claim this space? I don’t have the answers. Chiragh Dilli has evolved through its doing, word by word, piece by piece, read by read. And like with any practice, whether it’s walking or writing or something else, the doing of this blog will, hopefully, continue to evolve not through questions resolved in advance, but rather through the many detours that this doing will suggest. Happy anniversary to us!
Cover image: ‘The street-corner meeting place’, photograph by Samprati Pani.
Complement this piece with Samprati Pani’s ‘It’s not about birds’ on ways of seeing the city, a piece from the first year of the blog.