Favorite Blogs: The Delhi Wallah

10 May

The Delhi Wallah: Your gateway to alternate Delhi, the city of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and Arundhati Roy is one of my favorite sub-continental blogs and even has the endorsement of the great historian and travel writer Walter Dalrymple: “The Delhi Walla is Delhi’s most idiosyncratic and eccentric website, and reflects a real love of this great but under-loved and underrated city.”  The work of the assumedly pseudonymed Mayank Austen Soofi, the blog really is written with the true tenderness that only a great city fallen on slightly hard times can inspire.  One thinks of Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul, written about his youth in that city before it became the ISTANBUL! it’s become since the 1990’s.

Delhi’s Jama Masjid in the 1890’s

Anyone who knows me, and some who don’t but might have already picked it out from this blog, know that I’m interested in all of India and even engage in certain Hindu practices and rites but that my true fascination is the Mughal culture of the northern Doab heartland.  This comes from — just among myriad things — the composite, deeply syncretic and super-elegant aesthetic of that culture and, more personally, from a deep affinity for lost worlds and for the dignity maintained in the face of the most tragic circumstances under which Indian Islam, much like the Byzantines, not only laboured but continued to flourish for so long.

Bahadur Shah, the last reigning member of the Mughal dynasty

When I read Dalrymple’s masterpiece, The Last Mughal, The Fall of A Dynasty 1857 I was left shell-shocked, not just by the sheer scale of the Indian Rebellion’s violence, but by the mindless, post-conflict destruction of the vindictive and obviously terrified Brits, determined to teach Indian Muslims a lesson for their “mutiny.”  Even the outer walls of the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid itself were saved at the eleventh hour by the orders of more intelligent superiors.  It makes my head spin to think that had the cooler heads that the British so pride themselves on prevailed, Delhi today would still be a showcase of Muslim art and architecture on a par with Isfahan and Cairo or even Istanbul.

The Red Fort in Delhi, once the largest palace complex in the world, eighty per cent of which was dynamited by the British after the Indian rebellion was crushed. (click)

One can read about how upper-class Muslim life in north India proudly soldiered on into the twentieth century in books like Ahmed Ali’s beautiful Twilight in Delhi or made it through the trauma of Partition and modernity in films like Garm Hawa and Sardari Begum.  (For a fairly insightful look — but one that doesn’t really tackle the most radical questions — at Indian Muslim life in the cinema seeIslamicate Cultures of Bombay Cinema by Ira Bhaskar and Richard Allen but all these can’t help but strike a certain elegiac tone.

But…what I love about the Delhi Wallah is what detailled coverage he brings you of how alive and well Muslim life and culture in Delhi still are: mushairas, qawwali gatherings, celebrations at sufi tombs — and not just Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s — old ruins and mausoleums he’s constantly digging up among the chaos of the modern city — and the glorious food.  He has a four-volume guidebook to the city and he’s recently done a beautiful four-part photo op and piece of his trip to Kashmir.  Don’t miss this blog!


Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

One Response to “Favorite Blogs: The Delhi Wallah”

  1. Ayk Orman August 16, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    Gia sou Niko,

    Watch this out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdOS-0sIW-Y A immortal dance and love revolt from a Indian Movie Mughal E Azam

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