Letter from Islamabad – On the Delhi Walla Books
A Pakistani artist introduces the The Delhi Walla books.
[By Faiza A Khan]
Our own self is composed of some very vital elements, like our physical body, our soul, and our minds packed with diverse thoughts. This is our own self, our first identity. When I roam about in the cities whose history is as rich as Delhi’s, I wonder who can capture the true identity of such places, where empires fell and arose, monuments destroyed and built, religions clashed and sustained. It is a difficult job to remain honest in capturing everything and portray its true character.
Delhi was one of my veins once, which completed the circulation of life in my whole body, ‘Hindustan’. Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb or Jamia Masjid and many other such places, not less in beauty than Calat Alhamra of Granada, were not inaccessible to me. Then the batvara (partition) of 1947 changed everything. The looting, killing and the influx of refugees must have changed the way the cities actually looked like. Massive population exchange between Pakistan and India must have caused chaos, not only literally but also culturally and emotionally. The word heritage must have lost its meaning for a while. Violence and slaughter must have destroyed the serenity of even the most sacred places. Purana Qila must have been noisy and congested, weighed down with the grief of refugees who lost their loved ones in this battle of independence.
Independence separated India into two. My uncle, Narinder Nath, migrated from Abbottabad, Pakistan, my birth place, to Delhi. He still remembers each corner of every street of Abbottabad and still recalls good memories with my mother via letters. He tells us about Delhi but each time compares it with Abbottabad. How can one forget about a place where one is born and raised and then forced out? Same is the case with some of my friends here in Islamabad who migrated from Delhi. The sweetness of the place and its food and traditions as heard from them is so alluring that I can feel the depth of love and attachment they have with the place.
It would be a difficult job to capture the true essence of the place to which people of different beliefs have such associations with. It’s culture, traditions, landscape, food, the history and the recent developments is such a vast subject to cover in a single volume. Considering how young Mayank Austen Soofi is, I really appreciate how he took up a challenging project like this.
Mayank’s writings in The Delhi Walla has put the fragrance of emotions into even the most despised neighborhoods. The misunderstood found their voice in Mayank. The scaling monuments got permanence in his words and images. He has even added the aroma of the most common flavors of food found at every corner of the city that is something you crave for when you are far from home. Mayank has treid to deliver the whole identity of this city, its soul, body and mind. I look forward to seeing Delhi though his eyes.
I wish that he doesn’t stop at this, as Delhi’s physical attributes are not all that are to be explored. I hope to read, someday, a book about true stories happened in Delhi, by The Delhi Walla.
[The author is a painter in Islamabad]
The Delhi Walla with date cake and toffee sauce