27 July, 2021

Chapter, Verse & Watercolour

One with pictures, the other with conversations, two Dilliwalis map the changed and changing face of Delhi

Chapter, Verse & Watercolour
"What is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?" asks Alice. Two Dilliwalis’ books, one with pictures and one with conversations, the first evoking the long history of the city, the other a short history of the last 50 years. For both, 1947 is the year that marks the beginning of irrevocable change.

Jalil’s essays cover ground trodden by several others. Many buildings are seen, as in Karoki and Charles Lewis’s book, in the setting of ‘urban villages’. Like R.V. Smith, she weaves in local history and myth. There are also quotations from Rahim, Bedil, Zafar and Iqbal; given Jalil’s familiarity with Urdu, we could have asked for more, as well as for some sense of how these monuments were seen by Dargah Quli Khan, Sayyid Ahmad Khan and Bashiruddin Ahmed, writers many of us have no access to.

What makes Jalil’s book different is the photographs (by the well-known photographer-writer D.N. Chaudhuri) and the utterly delightful watercolours by Premola Ghose, whose cheerful family of animals has become as familiar to us...

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