Saturday, August 7, 2010

A past-present continuum

It’s time for the Delhi tome. Old and young authors turn the spotlight on unknown, valiant and humdrum aspects of the Capital

The scales are tilting in favour of Delhi. The Capital’s advantages over Mumbai are being enumerated in drawing rooms and magazine columns—wider roads, fewer slums, migrant-friendly, the Metro, etc. So Mumbaikars and their friends have taken to pointing out how theirs is a real city, the kind an author falls in love with and writes about. They back it up with weighty evidence—Maximum City by Suketu Mehta, Love and Longing in Bombay by Vikram Chandra and Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts in the last few years.

Maybe the Mumbaikar does feel more passionately for aamchi Mumbai. By contrast, many who have been in Delhi for decades still feel they are passing by and are there only to earn a livelihood. The real Dilliwala, some would argue, left the city after 1947, taking the city’s soul with him. Among them was Ahmed Ali, who moved to Karachi and wrote a celebrated novel, Twilight in Delhi.

Be that as it may, it is a truism that art follows money—and so does literature. There are signs that a generation that grew up in Delhi, or came here to study or work and stayed on, sees the city, with all its contradictions, as its own. It is finding its voice. Vishwajyoti Ghosh recently released Delhi Calm, a graphic work set during the Emergency (1975-77), and Rana Dasgupta is working on his Delhi non-fiction book, a foretaste of which was offered in a brilliant essay in Granta about a year ago.

Full report here Mint

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