My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What an absolutely enchanting introduction to Delhi – the city I have spent close to 6 years in and I now know of the layers of history that lie silently, waiting to be rediscovered and revisited.
The book comes to me at a time when I couldn’t have appreciated it more. Also a chance to see most of it come alive as I explore the ruins, relics and realms that it has to offer.
Even though the book was written 20 years ago – a lot from it remains relevant and thankfully existent to this day.
So many facts, places and events that one had not even heard of came to light – many of them important in shaping the future of the Delhis that came and went.
Spanning across ancient Delhi, medieval Delhi, to Mughal Delhi, British Delhi and Modern Delhi – the book is a mysterious delight of intertwining stories, instances and explorations – that made me feel like I was there with Mr Dalrymple listening to all the people who shared its secrets and forgotten tales. Though it is the unsystematic storytelling that makes the book such a great read.
Why aren’t history books written like this?? I would certainly have taken up being a historian as a profession.
Lucky to be living in the “google” age – I left nothing that could be encountered, experienced or visited virtually.
I know that I will look at Delhi in a different light after this book and it will always have a certain something that needs to be explored. The explorations are already underway 🙂
A must read for anyone who has lived here and everyone who hasn’t!
Update: Two weeks after I had finished reading the book, I happened to take on a photography assignment for a travel company. They wanted me to cover Delhi and take pictures of places that were historically significant / interesting but not the usual tourist spots. When I saw the list of sites they wanted covered I couldn’t believe my luck. Almost every site on the list was something I had read about in the City Of Djinns.
From the Mutiny Memorial in the ridge area to St. James Church in Kashmere Gate to the Ashoka Pillar in Feroz Shah Kotla and Bahadur Shah Zafar’s abandoned ‘haveli’ in Mehrauli… visiting these sites in person filled me with awe and wonder, I don’t think I would have had a better chance to re-experience the history I read in the book.