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Old Delhi Living Traditions

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Item Code: HAJ831
Author: S. Y. Quraishi
Publisher: Shubhi Publications, Gurgaon
Language: English
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 9788182902312
Pages: 131 (With Color Illustrations)
Other Details 11.50 X 9.00 inch
Weight 880 gm
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Shipped to 153 countries
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Book Description
I find it hard to express how intrinsic Delhi is to my life and my identity. Delhi is special not just because I have been fortunate to have been at her service for so many years, but also because I feel that there is no other place quite like it And yet, I find it difficult to express these feelings to another person, who may not see the city the way I do.

This book by Dr SY Quraish is going to be my reply from now I have found words to tell others why I like Delhi so much.

While I went through this beautifully created book I found in it all the things that I like in Delhi. I found the constant buzz of activity that is there in its markets, and the serenity that are in its mosques and temples, as well as the caringly prepared food in her homes. There was nothing that didn't resonate with my image of my city-our city.

And as this book says, Delhi's way of life has been hale and hearty through the ages, and the traditions and customs are still preserved by its people. But, something else that Delhi has, which not many cities have, is a vast and fabulous landscape of monuments. This too has been beautifully presented in this book-telling us how visiting monuments are part of weekend holidays for families of Delhi. I hope, that for many, many years to come we will love and preserve them These monuments are gifts from our past and they cannot be regained if lost. We received them from our ancestors, as we received Delhi's traditions and Old Delhi itself To these, we may add our love and thoughts and pass them on to our children.

A remarkable feature of all great cities is that while they are graced by power and wealth, they also manage to include beauty and diversity within community life. Ancient Rome was not only the city of the Caesars, but also of the gladiators, lyricists, inn-keepers, and many such ordinary people.

Among the historic cities across the world, Delhi has held its head high as one of the few which are still alive, and very much kicking. If you dig deep into the soil of Delhi you will find remains of human history that is over 3000 years old. When you read the great Mahabharata, you learn about Delhi as a capital city back then. And if you look at European travelers' accounts of their stay in Delhi, you will be amazed at how Delhi was a world-class city even during those times. just as it is trying to become so once again.

Delhi is supposed to be a collection of seven cities, each being a new settlement built by a new king, but in close proximity to each other. And each time a new city was set up, the previous one invariably got described as the old.

This is how the present Old Delhi came to be.

Shahjahanabad, that constitutes the core of Old Delhi, is actually the youngest of the so-called seven cities, which incidentally do not include New Delhi in their count. It was the capital of India for almost 300 years. When it was built in the 17th century, by the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, it was the richest and grandest city anyone had ever seen. Its streets were gloriously wide, its palaces resplendent and its people were well on their way to great prosperity.

A city so great was also a city of great culture. Being part of a pre-globalised world, the nature of the city was unique. The shops were never identical (unlike malls), food was cooked for hours (not fast), transport was usually by foot, or cart, which meant that one would only bump into people, not cars! And while all this is true of any place in India in the same period, Delhi's advantage was that, being the capital, it was setting the trend while also becoming a confluence of trends from all over. So a Chandni Chowk here gave rise to similar chowks elsewhere. At the same time, rich handicraft from across India came and found space on the shelves here.

The same was true for the people. They found their calling and their livelihood in this city of dreams. It was like a New York and a Mumbai combined into one. Traders became bankers, and wrestlers became superstars. The rich became richer, and grocers became poets. Strangers were drawn into evening games of chess on the steps of the Jama Masjid, and Hindu and Muslim residents shared tea at the bookshops.

The city was beautifully composed of members of every religion living together. The promise of a better future that the city held, appealed to all people, and they settled in droves - Muslims, Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs all together. History does bear witness to instances of violence, and broken peace here, that cannot be denied. The event that shook the city the most was probably the partition of India in 1947, which prompted sizeable relocation of settlements, dealing a blow to the composite culture of Old Delhi. It affected the camaraderie of shared language, and the joy of shared festivals. Partition actually affected Delhi the most and yet I can never believe that in a city where a Temple, a Gurudwara and a Mosque stand side- by-side, violence can ever have popular support. It took a Hindu merchant to protect a mosque, while the Muslim king protected Christians in the city. The remaining wounds too will get filled over time. The healing treatment in the Old Delhi neighbourhood comes from the living traditions, which bear an undeniable stamp of a multiple culture.

A dose of modern intervention like the recent metro-rail has of course enlivened the place. There should be more such regeneration initiatives. But it is my firm belief that the essence of Old Delhi is still derived from its rich past, and this spirit is immortal. The traditions are alive, and the Old Delhi remains as new as ever.

I grew up in this city, thanks to my ancestors who have been living in Shahjahanabad since it was conceived. My childhood was like anyone else's-living in a 300 year old neighbourhood, studying in a 300 year old school. I used to listen to Cliff Richard on the record-player, while I could also hear tabla playing in the neighbour's house. There was no difficulty in absorbing both at the same time. Old Delhi taught me how to harmonize. Yet I managed to observe the city from a distance, through a career in civil service which took me to several locations. Even while in the Capital, I have been ordained to live in the highly fancied Lutyen's Delhi, truly away from my Old Delhi. I know that somewhere in me is still a teenager longing to watch movies in theatres that are now long-gone, or who thinks of running over to Urdu Bazaar to buy a copy of Ghalib's poetry.

What appears in the following pages cannot be called a tribute to Old Delhi, as was suggested by many good friends. Doing that would be indeed an onerous task. But these pages are a way to re-live my feelings for this great place. These are born out of the six decades of my life, of the many tales that my grandmother told me, of the anecdotes that my beloved father, Maulana Zubair Quraishi shared with me. At the same time, in order not to fail my readers, I personally did over thirty interviews with real 'Dilliwalas' ranging from 45 to 95 years (sorry to have excluded the young for this purpose) and consulted as many books as I could. I hope not to disappoint my readers as I take them along on 'Purani Dilli Ki Sair'.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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