By Georgette Eva
I don’t want to pressure you into commitment, but I think you’re in love with Delhi. Or you could be. It’s an irrepressible feeling, inherently part of you, though you may not realize that it’s there. Confidently, I’ll just go ahead and assume that you’ll realize it soon enough as we travel with William Dalrymple, a Scott with a last name I’d love and an experience in India I’d want.
In his travelogue, City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi, Dalrymple takes us into India’s historical capital to unravel the city’s history, myth, and archaeology. Whimsically, Dalrymple calls Delhi “a bottomless seam of stories,” and he talks about the region’s history from present day to ancient, weaving through personal experiences with specific people (from his land-lady to his taxi driver) or observations of monuments and sites (think of lavish gardens, bungalows, and palaces). Dalrymple looks at the Sikh revolt in the 80’s, the luxurious Shah Jahan period, and the East India Compans—all digressing from personal anecdotes, showing the rejuvenation of the city.
“From the very beginning I was mesmerized by the great capital, so totally unlike anything I had ever seen before,” he writes. “Delhi, is seemed at first, was full of riches and horrors. It was a labyrinth, a city of palaces, an open gutter, filtered right through a filigree lattice, a landscape of domes, an anarchy, a press of people, a choke of fumes, a whiff of spices.”
You can just see the genuine respect and admiration Dalrymple has for Delhi, looking at the glory of the past to his growing enthrallment.