The Forgotten Cities of Delh: A reader’s review

Dil o Dilli dono’n agar hain Kharab

P’a kuch luft is ujde ghar mein bhi hain’

Both heart & Delhi may have been damaged

But some pleasures still remain in these ruins

The  Forgotten Cities Of Delhi” a treatise by a noted author & historian Rana Safvi, photographs by Syed Mohammad Qasim, and publication by HarperCollins India was launched at Amazon on 04 May/2018. I was among one of the early readers who booked it on the same day. The beautiful front cover has an endorsement of art historian Catherine Asher & abstract on the flap commenced with the lovely couplet of Mir Taqi Mir cited above. Chapter one started with the title  “Siri” covering twenty-four known & unknown monuments located in the premises of Sultan Alauddin Khilji late thirteenth and early fourteenth-century capital built to defend it from Mongols. Every section within the chapter started with the name of the monument, its picture and contextual poetic verse of Urdu/Hindustani & Persian with its English translation. With an architectural description, the text includes the succinct historical accounts, narratives from locals and descriptive citations from nineteenth-century sources “Asar Us Sanadid “& “Archeology and Monumental remains of Delhi”. More or less the similar pattern was followed for all the subsequent chapters in the book. From seventh century Suraj Kund up to the nineteenth century Mirza Ghalib tomb, the manuscript covered a diverse range of monuments located in the five cities of Delhi that came up after Mehrauli. A book two in the trilogy of “Where Stone Speaks“., it’s an outcome of hard work, research, exploration and passionate Journey of more than two years in form of historical trails conducted by author & fellow photographer. In the recent talk with Indian express, while telling tales of Sufi Saint Hazrat Nizamuddin & Sultan Ghyasuddin Tughlaq Shah at Tughlaqabad, she recalled her journey for the exploration of one hundred sixty-six monuments depicted in the account.

A book excerpt articulating mysteries and stories on the resting place of the 18th-century Persian poet and Sufi Saint Abdul Qadir Bedil published by the  @iamrana in @DailyO_.

Similarly, in one of the chapters, the author marked a location as “Mehdiyan” on the site of Maulana Azad Medical College where a fourteenth-century Nawab built an iconic structure to commemorate “Urs” of the Saint of Baghdad, Shiekh Abdul Qadir Gilani. In a similar manner, many unknown monuments and the stories built around it has been recollected in the book.

The last chapter historical trails are the great addon to the book. Its a reflective account of fifteen historical walks in a concise manner depicting the monuments in relation with important landmarks. It will serve as a guidebook for anyone who wants to reach the monuments described in the book. In the changing landscape of growing Delhi, the author also reflected the plight of many monuments ruined by encroachment, illegal human settlements and ignorance of civic authorities. Other than interested readers, the accounts in the book can be used as one reference for the bodies volunteering the monumental protection in addition to ASI. The serene and awesome pictures by Syed Mohammad Qasim (@EvolveLeadLove) gave an enlightenment from the visual perspective to the readers. Short accounts within the sections of the chapters, easy language, and integration of stories made it more interesting while the usage of standard oriental and English reference reflected its scholarly rigor. 

The Full Circle Bookstore, Cafe Turtle, and Harper Collins India organized a book launch for “The Forgotten Cities of Delhi” at Greater Kailash I, New Delhi on 22 June. I would like to deliver heartiest congratulations and thanks to Rana Safvi and Syed Mohammad Qasim for the great compilation and upcoming launch. 

Note: The translation of Mir Taqi Mir cited above is taken from the account of Rana Safvi “The Forgotten Cities of Delhi“.

My review for the “Where Stone Speak: The first City of Delhi“: