02 March, 2021

Innocents In City Primeval

Lives in the new Malayali diaspora intersect in a Delhi wracked by change and tragedy

Innocents In City Primeval

The communal frenzy that ripped apart Delhi early this year before the pandemic came as an absurd reprieve appalled many. Understandably so, because to outsiders, Delhi remains a symbol of power, affluence and culture. Its poverty and squalor, toiling migrants, or its undercurrents of bigotry have often been walled up. Much like the bamboo curtains that sought to hide the city’s slums during the Commonwealth Games. It is this scarred face of the capital that M. Mukundan chooses to reveal in his novel Delhi: A Soliloquy. Beautifully translated from the Malayalam original Delhi Gadhakal by Fathima E.V. and Nandakumar K., it dives deep into the Delhi of the 1960s through the ’80s, giving us insights into the lives of the Malayali diaspora and the epochal events that shaped the city.

As cultural attaché at the French embassy in the early ’60s, Delhi was Mukundan’s home for over four decades. Like Mukundan, the novel’s principal character, Sahadevan, arrives in Delhi from Kerala for work. Sahadevan is also an asp­iring novelist...

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