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'Delhi is the modern heart of the country'

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit chronicles the most wonderful moment of her life in Delhi in a coffee table book Delhi: India in One City.

books Updated: Dec 24, 2008 17:39 IST

What is the magic of Delhi? For Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, the most wonderful moment of her life in Delhi was when she fell in love with a young man in college.

Dikshit was in Miranda House and the young man, Vinod, was in St. Stephens. "We became very close during the years we were doing our masters and we would play noughts and crosses. We got married in Delhi and then went to Uttar Pradesh where Vinod was part of the UP cadre. Later, we returned to Delhi on posting," writes Dikshit in a coffee table volume on the Capital, Delhi: India in One City.

The book was launched on Tuesday evening at the Hotel Ashok by the Chief Minister and Delhi Lieutenant-Governor Tejendra Khanna in a ceremony attended by Gursharan Kaur, wife of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The book, published by The Academic Foundation and priced at Rs 3,750, encapsulates the essence of the Capital that evolved as the ancient capital city mentioned in the epic Mahabharata to the modern day megapolis. It touches upon all aspects of the city like its history, culture, places, cuisine, arts, culture and luxury. The book begins with an introductory chapter First City written by the chief minister in which she recalls her association with the city as a child and the memories associated with it.

The book, divided into 12 chapters, also has a section by William Dalrymple, Jewel in the Crown, which captures his impressions of the city as a foreigner, along with texts by Malavika Singh and Pavan Varma.

For Sheila Dikshit, Delhi represents the "past, present and the future of India". "It is the modern heart of the country and will continue to be there. It's a happy and happening city and we will love to live on with this memory. But I would not say that this is the city to watch out for," Dikshit said later.

Dikshit, who worked closely with the foundation and the book's photo editor Uday Sahay and content provider Malavika Singh for the last one-and-a-half years, described Delhi as a city of change.

"It keeps changing all the time, the hues change with seasons, the dress changes, the food changes, the flavours change - it is an ever changing city," she wrote.

Writer William Dalrymple's longing to see the "jewel of colonial India" was kindled when he met Iris Portal, a friend of his grandmother. Between 1920s and 1940s, Iris Portal's youth had been spent in that colonial Delhi, which now seemed impossibly dated, wrote Dalrymple in the book.

"To best appreciate, I used to walk from the old city. It was superb in the dusk as the sun sank behind the great dome of the viceroy's home," Dalrymple writes.

Addressing the gathering, Tejendra Khanna said Delhi had a duty to convey to the world that it was a city of courage, compassion and a civilised society.

First Published: Dec 24, 2008 10:41 IST