Forget the Commonwealth Games. They will pass. Our national capital – occupied, abandoned, rebuilt over centuries – will remain and this may be the right week to 'celebrate' Delhi, considering it has just got its own logo and a theme song that exhorts every resident to sing from a heart that beats in time with their restless city.
Khushwant Singh's account "My father, the builder" kicks off Celebrating Delhi. Anyone who bought the book for just this one essay might be justly pleased. It is a simple and heartfelt story told by a man who disarmingly confesses at the outset that he has "done no research on the building of New Delhi" from "barren waste". But Singh, of course, has "lived" the building of the new capital of the Raj, internalizing the travails of converting "brick kilns" into a stately imperial seat of government. "My memory goes back to the time when there was no city but a lot of brick kilns," he writes, recounting the miniature train that ran from Badarpur "up to what is now Connaught Circus...it brought sand, gravel, stones and other building material and deposited them at different sites...my grandparents, parents and my elder brother and I lived in a large shack. My earliest recollection is of being woken up by the deafening roar of the 'ara' machines cutting stones with iron saws into different sizes, and the tick, tick, tick of masons chiselling stones into patterns..."
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