And a new take on Dilli’s 96
At a time when the whole country has its eyes peeled for Dilli 6, Miller’s new book bucks the Chandni Chowk obsession to look at the greater, living Delhi — all 96 post codes worth of it.delhi Updated: Feb 15, 2009 00:03 IST
Keep Walking — Johnny Walker’s motto is an article of faith for journalist Sam Miller. At a time when the whole country has its eyes peeled for Dilli 6, Miller’s new book bucks the Chandni Chowk obsession to look at the greater, living Delhi — all 96 post codes worth of it.
“Most people seem interested in the city’s past. But Delhi has a fascinating present, too, and is full of searing human stories. Only, its stories are less known than those of Mumbai or Kolkata. You have to go and discover them,” says Miller.
So, the book — Delhi: Adventures in a Mega City — is the fruit of Miller’s walks about the Capital over three years: from 2005 to 2008.
Miller’s interest in the city was first roused by afternoon walks around his office on Barakhamba Road. But to explore the city more thoroughly, he needed to devise a plan. Delhi’s sprawl — “as wide as it is long, and vaguely circular” — posed a challenge. So, Miller decided to walk in a spiral “which was both a metaphor and a model for my wanderings; it would take me everywhere and, at the same time, keep me away from the places I had already visited.”
More than the places, what fascinated Miller was the people he met on his walks.
The most interesting ‘character’ Miller met was a man called Bir Singh, who “seemed the most eccentric cyclist to me. A car speaker hung from his kerb-side handlebar, almost skimming the road. He was pedaling ever so slowly, so that the speaker magnet would pick up iron bits, which sell for Rs 15 a kilo.”
In Connaught Place, Miller discovered the “shit-squirters — a scam”.
“They squirt excrement onto foreigners’ shoes. They are in cahoots with the shoeshine men and compel foreigners to get a polish.”
Miller is married to an Indian, and Delhi is his home now. So, he does have some strong feelings about the way Delhiites behave.
“There is a lot of anger and aggression on the streets and a visible lack of respect for women in the city,” he laments. He also feels Delhiites are not as committed to their city as residents of Mumbai or Kolkata.