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Delhiwale: The nightcrawler’s pass

In his late 70s, the city’s much-loved storyteller spends most of his time in his drawing room, which is filled with several copies of his half-a- dozen books and with hundreds of his yellowing newspaper articles.

delhi Updated: Jun 23, 2017 11:16 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
RV Smith now rarely steps outside his second-floor flat in which he lives with his wife and four children
RV Smith now rarely steps outside his second-floor flat in which he lives with his wife and four children(Mayank Austen Soofi / HT Photo)

Until a few decades ago, author and columnist, Mr Smith, contemporary Delhi’s great chronicler, was in the habit of walking across the streets of Old Delhi every day in search of stories about people and places. An identity card issued to him as a journalist by his employers in 1978 announced to whomever it may concern: “Mr R.V. Smith is employed by The Statesman Ltd., as Sub-Editor and his work involves attendance at night.”

He showed it to us at his home in west Delhi’s Mayapuri.

Today, Mr Smith rarely steps outside his second-floor flat in which he lives with his wife and four children. In his late 70s, the city’s much-loved storyteller spends most of his time in his drawing room, which is filled with several copies of his half-a- dozen books and with hundreds of his yellowing newspaper articles.

Mr Smith also showed us his family album. The photographs, fished from inside a dusty drawer, were stacked with old letters. He had something to say about each picture. Holding a small black-and-white photograph, he said, “This little girl is now 88.” Taking out another picture, he said, “This man was the Archbishop of Agra. We were waiting for the train to Bombay, where we were going to attend a conference of Anglo-Indians. He is dead now.” Coming across a photograph that shows him holding a large box, he says, “It was my farewell party in office when I was retiring in December 1996. They gifted me an electric heater.”

One framed photograph occupied a place of pride in the drawing room. It shows Mr Smith posing with his brand-new Master’s of Arts degree in 1962.