This book is a collection of articles by the author who began writing in 1954 under the guidance of his late father, Thomas Smith, a well-known journalist. The articles were originally published in the Hindu and the Statesman over the years.
Life in the capital and its myriad hues have been deftly caught in this collection as seen through the eyes of one who must have really been in love with Delhi, particularly the Walled City which seems to have an unusual fascination for him when he first set foot in it and which has changed over the years, with the new giving place to the old. The people and their professions have altered but the monuments, an ode to the rulers of the past, stand as mute witnesses of what Delhi must have been during the different rulers who left some legacy of theirs behind for posterity to stand and admire.
In the ?Storyteller?, the first article, the author talks of the dastan goh or professional storyteller who is no longer seen in Delhi, because of the advent of radio and television. In the days of yore, the rich had their tawaifs to entertain them in their homes, while the middle class preferred the kotha (bordello) and the lovelorn poets like Ghalib and Nazir went to the kotha to enjoy the mujra performed by ?golden-voiced dancing girls?. Mir Baqar Ali of Ballimaran was the favourite dastan goh.
In the piece entitled ?Before the Wedding Began?, the author describes the experience of an old band man who used to run errands for the bandmaster and one day comes across a ghost who slaps him under a tree in place of which now stands the wall of a stadium.
In the article entitled ?Lantern Man?, the lantern-seller used to appear in the streets of Delhi at dark and whose approach was heralded by the street urchins shouting, ?Battiyonwalla buddha aa gaya? amidst his cry, ?Lantern layllo? before retiring as a street lamp-lighter. Though no longer seen, this old man is still remembered ?whenever there is a power failure,? says the author.
In the piece called ?Kabul Connection?, the author talks of Kabul'slinks with India since the days of Chandragupta who got Kabul and Baluchistan as his dowry from his father-in-law Seleucus, a General in Alexander'sarmy, his son Brindusara and grandson Ashoka retained control of Kabul.
There are many other short descriptions about Delhi'sother attractions which are caught not through the eyes of a scholar but a writer who fell in love with Delhi when he arrived here.
Here is a book for the older generation who must have passed through the lanes and by-lanes of old Delhi and who on reading this book will be able to relive the experiences of their past and notice how the transformation that has taken place over the years.
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