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A tuneful ode to the Indian city

An anthology that shows why we love urban life.

india Updated: Nov 16, 2013 01:06 IST

The Oxford Anthology of the Modern Indian City (2 volumes) Edited by Vinay Lal;Oxford
Rs 950 each, PP382/236

The two-volume Oxford Anthology of the Modern Indian City is an interesting compilation of writing on cities as diverse as Lucknow and Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Kolkata, and includes selections from such works as Mark Twain’s Following the Equator — the first piece in the volume entitled The City in its Plenitude — Gieve Patel’s poem From Bombay Central, Rabindranath Tagore poems, Ram Rahman’s photographs of survivors of the 1984 riots in Delhi and of the streets of Old Delhi around Eid, and a paper by Herbert Baker on The New Delhi that was first read out at a meeting of the Royal Society of Arts on 7 May, 1926!

This then is an eclectic collection that includes the work of some writers that the average reader has come to expect — Suketu Mehta, Amitav Ghosh, Sarnath Banerjee... — but it also features such writing as Thomas Blom Hansen’s Shiv Sena, the City, And Communal Populism, and a fascinating essay on The Music of Hindostan by H Fox Strangways written around 1910.

There’s even a translation of Sahir Ludhianvi’s Main Bambai Ka Baabu from Naya Daur! A set that offers both insider and outsider perspectives of the country’s teeming cities, these volumes will interest everyone who wonders why the buzz of urban life in India both exhausts and enthralls.