World Book Day: Strolling Delhi through the pages

- April 23, 2024
| By : Patriot Bureau |

From Rushdie's Booker winning 'Midnight's Children', to Dalrymple's 'City of Djinns' here are the top books that take a plunge into the culture and heritage of Delhi through literature

World Book Day, observed annually on April 23, serves as a celebration of reading, aiming to inspire and cultivate a love for literature. It underscores the significance of books as vessels of knowledge, and its role in shaping societies and preserving cultural heritage.

Delhi, a city steeped in history, cultural richness, and rapid urbanisation, has long served as a muse for writers. Its dynamic landscape, vibrant culture, and complex history have provided fertile ground for storytellers to weave compelling narratives.

Here are our top picks of books set in Delhi, each offering a unique glimpse into the city’s multifaceted identity:

Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children” is a sprawling epic that intertwines the personal and political narratives of Saleem Sinai, a boy born at the stroke of midnight on India’s independence day. Through Saleem’s magical realism-infused journey, Rushdie vividly captures the tumultuous history of post-colonial India.

Winner of the Booker Prize, “Midnight’s Children” is a kaleidoscopic exploration of the country’s cultural and political landscape.

City of Djinns – William Dalrymple

It explores Delhi’s layered history and intricately weaves together historical anecdotes, personal experiences, and cultural observations to paint a vivid portrait of the city. From ancient ruins to bustling streets, the book offers a fascinating journey through Delhi’s rich tapestry of narratives.

Delhi: A Novel – Khushwant Singh

In this novel, through rich characterisations and vivid storytelling, Singh takes readers on a captivating journey spanning centuries, offering a compelling narrative that mirrors the city’s tumultuous evolution and enduring spirit.

Shahjahanabad: The living city of Old Delhi – Rana Safvi

“Shahjahanabad” offers a detailed glimpse into the heart of the historical and cultural heritage of Old Delhi – what is today the overcrowded, neglected region was once the magnificent capital of the Mughal Empire. Safvi’s meticulous research and evocative storytelling bring to life the splendor of the Mughal era and the vibrancy of life within the walls of Old Delhi, known as Shahjahanabad.

Ishq Mein Shahar Hona – Ravish Kumar

This collection of nano love stories offers a captivating glimpse into the intricacies of human relationships. With keen observations reminiscent of journalist Ravish Kumar’s insightful style, the stories delve into the often unseen but deeply resonant aspects of love that permeate everyday life. The book masterfully intertwines urban experiences with the nuances of love, offering a compelling exploration of contemporary relationships and the human experience.

Twilight in Delhi’ (1940) – Ahmed Ali

“Twilight in Delhi” paints a poignant portrait of pre-partition Delhi, capturing the city’s fading glory amidst the encroaching shadows of colonialism. Through evocative prose and vivid imagery, Ali delves into the lives of the inhabitants of Delhi’s old quarters, exploring themes of tradition, change, and identity. With lyrical beauty and profound insight, the novel transports readers to a bygone era, offering a window into the complexities of Indian society and the human condition.

Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity – Sam Miller

With keen observation and humour, Miller unravels the city’s rich tapestry, from its historical landmarks to its contemporary chaos, offering readers an immersive journey through the heart of urban India. Through encounters with Delhi’s denizens and anecdotes of everyday life, the author presents a multifaceted portrait of this dynamic metropolis, revealing its contradictions, complexities, and enduring allure.

Clear Light of Day – Anita Desai

Against the backdrop of India’s post-independence era, the novel navigates the complexities of sibling relationships and the ghosts of the past that haunt the present. Through the lens of the Das family, Desai intricately weaves together past and present, delving into themes of loss, longing, and reconciliation.

Desai’s lyrical prose and vivid imagery evoke the sensory richness of Old Delhi, creating a compelling narrative that resonates with themes of identity, tradition, and the search for meaning.

White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

Aravind Adiga’s “White Tiger” is a searing indictment of India’s class struggle and corruption. Through the eyes of Balram Halwai, a chauffeur-turned-entrepreneur, the novel exposes the harsh realities of social inequality and the ruthless pursuit of success in modern-day India.

Set against the backdrop of Bengaluru’s bustling streets and Delhi’s opulent mansions, Adiga’s narrative delves deep into the dark underbelly of Indian society, offering a compelling critique of power, privilege, and the cost of ambition. With its sharp wit and biting satire, “White Tiger” illuminates the stark divide between the haves and the have-nots in the world’s largest democracy.

“Delirious Delhi” – Dave Prager

It is a humorous and insightful exploration of the chaos and charm of India’s capital. Through witty anecdotes and keen observations, Prager navigates Delhi’s labyrinthine streets, bustling markets, and vibrant culture, offering readers a glimpse into the city’s contradictions and complexities. From the quirks of daily life to the challenges of navigating its frenetic energy, the book captures the essence of Delhi with warmth and wit.

Trees of Delhi – Pradeep Krishen

With meticulous detail and rich imagery, Krishen explores the diverse flora that adorns the city’s streets, parks, and monuments. From majestic banyans to delicate jacarandas, each tree tells a story of Delhi’s history, ecology, and culture. “Trees of Delhi” is not just a botanical guide, but a celebration of the intrinsic connection between humans and the natural world.