notes on delhi, vol.1

Have decided to share interesting observations on Delhi. Book/blog/movie/etc. recommendations are most welcome!


Writer/journalist Jai Arjun Singh runs an interesting weblog called Jabberwock. He’s lived in Delhi all his life, in Saket, and thus has been privy to its metamorphosis. Some quotes from his many posts on Delhi:

From PVR Talkies!, May 2005

“Bhai saab, yeh PVR taakis kahan hai?” one asked me, or at least that’s what it sounded like.

I figured they meant the movie hall but couldn’t be completely sure; for all I knew, any number of new buildings/offices/dhabas might have come up in the colony that were informally called PVR-something-or-the-other. When I hesitated momentarily, one of the other men said “jahan phillum lagti hai” and simultaneously the first one said “PVR taakis” again. I directed them to the hall and walked off, realizing that what the first guy had meant was “PVR Talkies”. That was so cool. PVR Talkies. Jahan talking picture dekhne ko milta hai. Takes you right back to another era, doesn’t it, while also serving as a reminder that many movie theatres outside of the big cities are still referred to that way.

From The Saket Column, July 2007

We moved to Saket in September 1987. Still years away from acquiring road sense, I had little idea then of where this quiet colony placed on the map in relation to the rest of South Delhi, but I’d heard the area was once a forestland where people went fox-hunting, and it seemed a very adventurous thing to live in such a place.

From Flyover down under, January 2008

I’ve concluded that the multi-level underground parking lots in Delhi’s newest malls are versions of the clover leaf-shaped flyovers that are staples in big cities around the world. In fact, if you can picture a clover flyover that goes deep down into the ground, it’s practically the same thing.

From In Praise of the Delhi Metro, March 2011

Now the Metro is changing this to an extent. When I wrotethis post in 2008, it seemed like the construction would go on forever and we’d never get to see actual trains (all we saw then were hordes of solemn-faced, helmeted men wandering about our park with giant measuring instruments, occasionally visiting houses to take photos of every crack on every wall so we couldn’t subsequently blame the damage on the vibrations). But it’s all in working order now, and a huge convenience – these days I sometimes find an excuse to get out for a while even if I don’t strictly have to.

and from his latest On Dave Prager’s Delirious Delhi (which led to all the others), December 2011

The structure of each south Delhi neighborhood, observes Prager, is such that it focuses life “squarely towards the centre. Residents are both figuratively and physically forced to turn their backs towards everything outside. It’s introversion by municipal design…we can’t help but see south Delhi as isolated islands separated by seas of traffic”.

which almost exactly echoes SPA faculty Henri Arthur Fanthome‘s views on the issue, and

Delirious Delhi is a mixed bag overall. Prager has a broad sense of humour that usually works, his enthusiasm is infectious and I enjoyed his obsessive interest in such things as the intonations of the word “bhaiya” by women trying to hectorsabzi-wallahs.

and, my favourite bit:

The nearly 400 pages of Delirious Delhi are more than enough to show that Delhi is a place where anything (and its opposite) is possible, and in fact this book is a little like the city itself: sprawling, unruly, continuing to expand alarmingly just when you think you might have reached the border (or in this case, the end of a chapter).