City Diary – The Delhi Walla Books and Some Unlucky Delhiwallas
It’s a beautiful and ugly city.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Life changes in a week. On September 21, 2010, The Delhi Walla was walking on the Lodhi Road pavement with Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1st volume). A part of the stretch was lined with the ‘residential’ camps of migrant laborers who were paving the footpath for Delhi Commonwealth Games, starting on 3 October.
On September 27, I again walked on the same Lodhi Road pavement, not with Mr Gibbon, but with the first copies of my books, The Delhi Walla series. I had become a published author. Where were the laborers? Their camps along with their women and children had vanished. A day before newspapers had written about the administration’s drive to get the city rid of its migrant workforce that had no fixed addresses. During the 14-day-duration of the Games, foreigners must not see the city’s poor people.
I was seeing Lodhi Road people for months. In the summer, while the parents laid the bricks, their children lolled on the cool cement. In the monsoon, they huddled under their plastic ‘roofs’. In evenings when it would get dark, the women urinated in the bushes. To most Delhiwallas, these laborers and their families were a road-side blur.
Earlier in the day I had taken the art director of The Delhi Walla series, Solveig Marina Bang, on a tour to the Walled City. We met at the Indian Coffee House in Connaught Place, took an auto to Urdu Bazaar, climbed Old Delhi’s tallest rooftop, walked through Matia Mahal street and ended the excursion at Empress Razia Sultan’s tomb in Bulbuli Khana. I felt beautiful but the mood changed a few hours later when I saw the Lodhi Road pavement sanitized of its people. These are tough times to be a Delhiwalla.
Hangout at the Indian Coffee House
Am I there?
Reading The Delhi Walla
Not bad, eh?