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Delhi By Heart Kindle Edition
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`Delhi By Heart' is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the history of the subcontinent. Though written in the smooth, simple language of a travelogue, it still has the potency of a history book that draws the reader in right from the start.
"I grew up and lived in a milieu that conditioned me to resent India, especially its role in dismembering the Pakistani state in 1971. At the same time, I also lived in the semi-schizophrenic state of being part of the `enemy' landscape. The cultural references, historical threads and many other bonds were far too strong".
As the name suggests, the book traces the travels of the author through Delhi at various stages of his life. What makes it an interesting read is that the author speaks about how his impressions of the city and its people change with every trip that he makes - starting as a student and continuing on through his career as a young civil servant and beyond.
An important aspect explored in the book is the cold distance that exists between Pakistan and India despite their heavily intertwined histories and strong cultural similarities. The author discusses how he, as a Pakistani, is perceived in India; and how he in turn sees them under the similar shadow of years of conflict and strained relationships. Yet, all it takes is one quick conversation, one friendly joke made in a shared language, to break years of ice and realize that the geography that separates us holds no power against the history that irrevocably connects us.
"The predominantly Muslim locality reminds me that this part of the city is at the core of my cultural heritage. For a second I am not an alien even though I have filled in the form some hours ago under a law that regulates foreigners of Pakistani origin. I am there yet not there. Elemental yet separate.
In his travels, the author visits tombs and shrines littered throughout Delhi - relics of the past now largely forgotten and falling into disrepair as life moves on around them. With Sadia Dehlvi as his guide, the author explores Delhi's past, and attempts to understand the threads of history torn apart by the trauma of partition.
"Partition in India, Pakistan, and especially in Bangladesh have not undergone the much-needed healing process. Truth and reconciliation of the South African type still remains a vague dream perhaps never to be realized."
The history of India and Pakistan taught to their people have both been tailored to suit the needs of the ones in power - an abhorrent phenomenon equally prevalent on both sides of the border. In `Delhi By Heart', the author discusses this:
"...India's Muslim rulers have been portrayed as barbarous invaders and the medieval period set as the dark age of Islamic colonial rule which erased the glories of the Hindu empires that preceded it"
The book takes a lighthearted turn as the author sets about to sample the many tastes of Delhi. In a mouthwatering chapter, he talks about the scores of delicacies available on the streets of the city, and how they differ only subtly from the street food of Pakistan.
"Delhi's street food is wondrous, a world unto itself, found everywhere and not necessarily in the most hygienic conditions despite court orders. While samosas and tikkis are no novelties for Pakistanis, the chutneys and flavours have subtle differences."
`Delhi By Heart' is Raza Rumi's first novel. In a world where the politics of India and Pakistan almost always overshadow the history and culture, it is a refreshing read. Consisting of only three hundred something pages of a smooth and flowing writing style, it is a quick read; yet manages to fill the reader's mind with vivid images of everything the author sees and feels during his sojourn into the heart of India.