Shweta’s Review – On Nobody Can Love You More
Life in a red light district.
[By Shweta; photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Critic Shweta discussed Nobody Can Love You More: Life in Delhi’s Red Light District, a book by The Delhi Walla, in the social-cataloging website Good Reads. Click here to read the review, or see below.
IT HAS always been easy to read fiction as it magically takes you to a place comfortable, safe and happy. After a long day at work when you wish to unwind, you grab a book that would wipe away all the stress of the day. Surprisingly, Mayank Austen Soofi’s book does the exact same thing albeit the fact that it is gazillion miles away from magic land, fairies and wizards. The said book is a compelling portrait of GB Road – the red light district of the nation’s capital.
I am a fan of the author but on a different platform. His blog The Delhi Walla was my ‘go-to’ guide during the years I spent in Delhi. His love affair with the city and the sheer enthusiasm of exploration is contagious and why wouldn’t it be? Delhi is a beautiful city, one with a soul that charms its way into the hearts of its explorers.
Mayank Austen Soofi has chronicled near about every aspect of Delhi — the monuments that tell the tales of a bygone era, the food that is reflective of merging cultures, and a secret literary world that is sometimes over shadowed by Delhi’s inherent glamour. All these elements are beautifully captured by his camera and brought to life by his posts. I must say I wasn’t much surprised when I heard about the theme of his new book. If you love a city as much, you will love it for all that it has got to offer. With its pretty streets and queer book nooks you will also find a GB Road full of stories waiting to be written. However, I was unsure as to how much I would like it but it took all of two pages and I just couldn’t stop reading.
Private lives of sex workers and kotha maliks of GB Road, which is camouflaged by the bright lights at night, is chronicled by the author with such finesse that it is difficult to let go of the book until you are done with it.
The kotha No. 300, whose residents are some of the people we get to see through the author’s vision, are representative of all those living in the crumbling two or three storied buildings in the infamous quarter.
Instead of just talking about the present state of affairs in the kothas, Soofi — as he is mostly referred to in the book — takes a keen interest in their history and the courtesan culture. He searches through the bylanes of the Walled City’s Chawri Bazaar looking for the houses that were home to some of the earliest known tawaifs (dancing women) in Delhi.
He tracks down families of musicians who have been playing in the kothas for generations. He convinces the women and sometimes their kotha maliks to come out with their stories. He traces their past, their present, their aspirations and their fears. The urge of somehow decoding the mystery of the lives of these men and women takes the author and his readers through streets of Old Delhi and into the tiny cubicles that they call ‘home’. In bits and pieces we also get to know the author. His interest in the lives of women of Kotha number 300 and his need to get away from their bleak world gradually gets understandable.
It is hard to summarize my feelings for the book that brings out a world seemingly alien even though it is right there in public view. I will not go overboard praising it because the book itself does a wonderful job of convincing the reader of its true worth.
Available in book stores and shopping websites across India
Nobody Can Love You More