Imagine yourself in the lanes of 18th-century Delhi, playing a pipe as you are walking along and getting invited to a popular coffee haunt in the city. This is the arrival scene of James Allen (b. 1734), a ‘celebrated’ Northumberland piper, as described in an 1828 book on his travels and adventures (A New, Improved,… Continue reading One more cup of coffee ‘fore I go
‘Walking shares with making and working that crucial element of engagement of the body and the mind with the world, of knowing the world through the body and the body through the world.’—Rebecca Solnit I keep hearing many people in Delhi grumble that the city is not meant to be walked in—pavements are perpetually ‘in-repair’… Continue reading To walk or not to walk
‘Have you seen this ethnography on the erstwhile Volga restaurant of Connaught Place?’ I asked someone during a conversation. ‘Is it a movie, since you are asking about seeing it?’ was the immediate response. Somewhere in the last few decades, we have started using ‘seeing’ with reference to text, meaning anything from ‘coming across’ something… Continue reading Seeing the city, one mug at a time
birdwatcher a person who watches and identifies wild birds (Merriam-Webster) a person who watches birds in their natural environment and identifies different breeds, as a hobby (Oxford Learner’s Dictionary) I am not sure if I qualify as a birdwatcher according to the above dictionary meanings—I love watching birds and observing their antics but struggle with… Continue reading It’s not about birds
The buildings are tall. They are densely packed together. Some go really high, adding yet another half-floor, covered by a slanted tin-shade. Others fall short in claiming their position in the skyline, only because they are next to tall ones. Yet, two-thirds of this watercolour is devoted to depiction of the sky, covered in dark… Continue reading How many houses can you count in Jhabvala’s portrayal of this Old Delhi lane?
Delhi, like all cities, is animated by its large numbers and diverse kinds of vendors who populate its streets, alleys, pavements and bazaars. These vendors provide cheap (or not so cheap) goods and services and make for convenient shopping across classes, but more importantly, they enliven and embellish the otherwise plain streets, creating their raunaq.… Continue reading Dilli ke Dukaan
For all my years in Delhi, my encounter with Jantar Mantar has been as a landmark to guide autowallas, a road where protests take place in Delhi or as a locality to have a cheap snack at the South Indian Snack Centre aka Kutty’s, popularly identified as the Jantar Mantar South Indian joint. I had… Continue reading Becoming of and in Jantar Mantar
Walking in the lane from Chitli Qabar to Turkman Gate, you will probably miss what is perhaps the oldest surviving structure in Shahjahanabad. Now hidden in a narrow alley and surrounded by tall buildings, Kalan Masjid used to be known as one of the tallest mosques of the city. Unlike other mosques, you cannot see… Continue reading Kalan Masjid: A Pre-Mughal Structure in Mughal Delhi