It’s grown in stature as the National Capital Region. But Delhi is still Delhi, the same old place with its aura of mystery and charm, the offspring of a hundred histories. To Delhiites, the place is simply “our Dillee”, or “Dillee vahee puranee Dillee hai” (Delhi is the same old Delhi). Those who went once longed to go back and those who settled down never cared to go back. There’s plenty to go against the place, plenty to sent your heart pounding. Yet, Delhi is a sensation you need to feel.
The place is a confluence of cultures … a melting pot of the heritage and traditions of all 29 states of the country. It’s borne witness to the sorrows and agonies of people from lands far away. It holds the secrets of bygone histories and allows life to go on. It’s a stand-alone symbol, a monument, quite unlike Mumbai, the city of dreams or the city that never sleeps, or even Calcutta, the city of joy.
It’s difficult to trace the history and lineage of Malayalis who have made Delhi their home. But there’s that unmistakable imprint of Kerala’s culture and heritage in Delhi. It’s very much alive today. What’s more, Delhi and its memories have found a permanent place in Kerala’s art and literature. Delhi has enriched our books, poems and stories.
As a tribute to this seamless integration of cultures comes a book, Njangalude Delhi, compiling an ocean of memories, brought out by the State Government’s Malayalam Mission.
The book is coming out as part of the heritage and cultural fest organized by the Kerala Government. The volume which showcases the works of 16 literary luminaries from Kerala as also their Delhi experiences has been edited by Jomi Thomas, Special Correspondent of Malayala Manorama.
The book stands out for bringing out the life and times of Delhi as seen through several phases. It brings to light the pleasant fact that our literary figures were closely associated with Delhi and the exposure it had to offer. Pumping in some mojo are the words of all who were associated with the book … brightening up life in the city.
Here are a few snippets from some of the works included in the collection.
Nagarathile Pranayam: From K. Sachidanandan’s 1992 serialized work Dilli-Daly
Love in a city is like a pair of chappals wandering around for a room to sleep in, ripped and worn out by hard and pointy stones, till only a hole is left in them. Her agonizing ordeal over, she strips herself of all other memories and disappears down the hole.
Delhi -1981: M.Mukundan
A small pathway cuts across the maidan. If you take it, you can soon be at the main centre which will take you fast to Chirag Delhi. The maidan is always deserted. People walk by only once in a while.
The place is the haunt of pigs by day. To its west lies an old tomb in ruins … from the Mughal times, now home to hordes of doves. As you walk by you can hear the coo of the doves and the flap of their wings.
Pandey stood by the window, clutching the bars, gazing out. His room-mate Kishore Lal has switched on the radio and is listening to songs. Pandey, bored and least interested in film songs, knows not what to do. He’s still at the window, clutching the bars, looking out.
He could see Raghuveer and Nanak Chand walking by down below. They were the local goons.
Both are young. Raghuveer was in lockup for two days for assaulting girls, students of IP College while they were at the bus stop. Nanak has been in jail five times, the last, for chain-snatching.
Aswaroodnaya Varante Varavum Pokkum – Zachariah
I was also one among the crowd who saw the white horse being brought in for the bridegroom to ride on in his wedding procession. I was at the bus stop waiting for the bus to Yusuf Sara, when through the autumnal twilight and the mellow lights of a thousand bulbs and the rush of the mad traffic I saw the outline of a horse galloping toward us.
Head bound in a white scarf and clad in a zari-laced kurta, the man riding the horse trotted up to me, bowed down and asked: “How far to Yususf Sara?”
The white horse, mouth slightly open from the reins which held him, stood close to me striking a touched-you, touched-you-not pose. I could see the goosebumps running all over his shiny body.
“Not too far, just about a mile,” I told him. The horse’s breath rolled out towards me in vapors on that cold night. On an impulse I asked him: “I’m also headed that way. Can I ride with you?” I’d fancied a horse ride right from childhood and this for me was the finest chance.
“Hold on tight. You may not be quite familiar with such a ride. It’s okay”, said the horseman. With my legs shivering and my breath almost choking on me, I croaked: “I’ll hold on to your waist.”
Indiaye Kandupidikkal – VKN
The scene shifts to Delhi. Private Secretary M.O.Mathai summons the Ambassador to Soviet Russia, who has just been in to see Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Courtesy talks over, the PS asked him:
“What’s up, how’s everything, Mr Ambassador?”
The Ambassador replied: “Everything’s fine. Besides, the Soviet Union has decided to translate ‘Discovery of India’ into Russian and publish it.
“Not bad. Is Nehruji okay with it?”
“Thrice over”. He spat out the red beetel juice and continued: “Shubasya shighram, which means, the earlier the better.”
“How about the royalty….?”
“Not a word. Even otherwise what financial deals are we talking about, especially with regard to such a sprawling land like the Soviet Union with its myriad linguistic variations?
“You guessed it. The Soviet Union has so many languages.”
“Take Page 7 of a daily and glance at the local news… a collection of snippets in over 40 languages…”