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Delhi then and now

The author K Vijaya Varma compares the contemporary, chaotic Delhi with the way it was two decades ago.

india Updated: Nov 13, 2006 15:27 IST

Days And Nights In New Delhi And Other Poems And Stories
Author: K Vijaya Varma
Publisher: Rainbow
Price: Rs 150


In this chronicle of Delhi, author K Vijaya Varma compares the contemporary, chaotic city with the way it was two decades ago. His lens is poised over the middleclass, magnifying their aspirations, ambitions and the gratification of these desires.

In this nostalgically charged offering, the author says: "In their lifestyle then, there was the rhythm, the grace, the distinctive elegance of a lyric. Gone are the beauties of their life. Now that is history, a small part of the history of New Delhi."

From the paan-shop in Gol Market to the DMS milk booth, the common pursuits of the common man form a portrait in easy strokes. Big-city blues, wayward sons, Hindu mythology and birth and death form some of the themes.

The 20 poems and five short stories in this collection are unpretentious even as they ponder over the banalities of modern existence.

In the poem Said Shankara, Varma gets autobiographical:

"On the right bank of the river Poorna,
In a red-tile roofed house
Shaded by tall jack and mango trees,
On a clear, flower-fresh May morning
When the sun was blazing on the Taurus sign
Some four weeks before the monsoon month,
Into the village schoolmaster's family of eight
I came, as the first baby-boy."

The slim volume of 138 pages, carries footnotes on every page, describing the meanings of all the desi words used. This practice, though passé now in Indian literature, should go down well with the diaspora and NRI generation.

Despite the author's obsession with ellipses and the month of May, Days And Nights In New Delhi, based mostly on events and occurrences between 1985 and 1987, provides an insight of what-had-been and how-it-used-to-be in the capital city.