My life’s most important speech
The book launch for The Delhi Walla series was a success. The venue was packed. People laughed and clapped. And Arundhati Roy came! This is what I said:
Hello, and thank you for coming.
Since I’m a writer, I’ve written down what I want to say. On November 25, 2009, as I was eating ram laddoos amid the ruins of Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla, while several pairs of lovers were kissing in the shrubberies, the idea of writing about the decline and fall of the this city stirred my mind. In other words, I wanted to do an Edward Gibbon.
But to write The History of the Decline and Fall of Delhi Sultanate, complete with six volumes? To do the research, to catch up with dead despots, to sort through the files of the National Archives of India, to bug the historians… to write it all in a exquisite prose … Could I do it?
And then one day in a Khan Market café, HarperCollins’s Sheema Mookerjee appeared like a djinn and – over date cake with hot toffee sauce – convinced me that if Gibbon were alive today, he would have written four slim guidebooks on the Roman Empire instead. After all, who reads nowadays? I agreed.
To complete these four books – the fourth will hit the stores in April – I travelled all around Delhi, sometimes by metro, mostly on foot. One winter morning, I snooped around in Hauz Khas ruins. One muggy afternoon, I walked down Daryaganj searching for the elusive tonga. One rainy evening, I sat around the peacocks in Teen Murti Bhawan. The most romantic was that summer night in Lajpat Nagar Central Market when, after eating gobhi manchurian at a stall, I felt the first rumblings of Delhi belly. Later, in the McDonald’s restroom, I finally became a certified Delhiwalla.
Friends, it is for you to figure out how good the books are. But one thing is certain. In the long list of people who have written on Delhi – Ibn Battuta, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, Mirza Ghalib, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Ahmad Ali, Anita Desai, Khushwant Singh, RV Smith, William Dalrymple, Sadia Dehlvi, Narayani Gupta, Pavan K Verma, Rakhshanda Jalil, Mark Tully, Aatish Taseer, Sam Miller and Pradip Krishen – my name too has been added. Thank you to my parents for loving me (look at them)! Thank you Marina for designing the books! And thank you Delhi!
[Pictures by Yajuvendra Upadhyaya, Marina Bang, Mark Williams and Surabhi Chauhan]