An untitled journey

Vasu was off to a great start today. She was ready for office, well in advance to relish a steaming cup of chai and eat two parathas at an appreciate-each-morsel pace. On most days, breakfast was a paratha–jam roll, gobbled on the march to the bus stop. Today she had fifteen opulent minutes to reach the bus stop instead of the usual eight minutes that commanded dusty shortcuts, hasty footsteps and frantic waving to stop the bus. If only any of that had made a difference.

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

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

This City, Other Cities

This is the first piece commissioned by Chiragh Dilli, hopefully there will be more, to open up conversations with others who write on and engage with cities in intimate ways. I wanted Sailen to write this piece, even as he was unsure how it would fit into the framework of our blog, for various reasons.… Continue reading This City, Other Cities