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

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

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

Red is not a colour

‘Color clings more, not necessarily to the object, but to territoriality...’ —Deleuze and Guattari[1] ‘sab qatl hoke tere muqabil se aaye hain, hum log surkh-ru hain ki manzil se aaye hain’ (After being ambushed, we have returned to you, Unabashed we have come back home) —Faiz Ahmed Faiz[2] Red is not a colour[3] but a… Continue reading Red is not a colour

Love in the time of the monumental

‘The black, pensive, dense/domes of the mausoleums/suddenly shot birds/into the unanimous blue.’ —‘In the Lodi Gardens’, Octavio Paz ‘Yeh kahan aa gaye hum, yunhi saath chalte chalte...’ —Silsila (1981) As an anthropologist of space, place and architecture, I have always wondered about the monument. Moving back to Delhi, the city of monuments, a cryptographic ensemble of… Continue reading Love in the time of the monumental

A topography of survival: mnemonics and the making of a street in Delhi

This piece was originally published in The Funambulist 12 (July–August 2017) Racialized Incarcerations as part of the ‘Political Walks’. ‘Never forget 1984.’ —Poster in Bhogal Chowk, Delhi, 2017 ‘Story telling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it’ —Hannah Arendt, 1962 The idea behind this essay goes back to a conversation in a classroom… Continue reading A topography of survival: mnemonics and the making of a street in Delhi

Making horizons, making cities: reading a moment through three languages

Buildings are languages spoken at the intersections of space and time in the making of the city. Weathering languages, stealth blue concrete high-rises, sometimes speaking in Russian in the NDMC rashtra bhasha corridors. There is babble on the street, incremental refugee colonies, with Punjabi baroque and Arya Samaj façades, Bengali Victorian art deco balconies and… Continue reading Making horizons, making cities: reading a moment through three languages