Invisible City

The Hidden Monuments of Delhi

by Rakhshanda Jalil

Niyogi Books, IndiaReview by Mridula Murgai
6 March 2011

      Delhi is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I know I am biased since I live here, but there are few other cities in the world which can combine the ancient and the modern so effortlessly. There are modern buildings which stand shoulder to shoulder with older monuments (even though by law the new homes are not supposed to be there!), there are vestiges of an ancient civilisation in every part of the city and where else can you see signs of seven cities built over the years.

I have always loved to wander around Delhi’s monuments and imbibe the ambience of a culture long gone. I have always wanted to read a book which would tell me about the lesser known monuments sprinkled around the city ? and today I have found just the right book.

Rakshanda Jalil’s book “Invisible City ? the Hidden Monuments of Delhi ” is an amazing book. It has been written in a simple style, without going to into elaborate descriptions of the monuments and their surroundings. The words are simple, the descriptions are effortless and as you read the book you learn to love this incredible city even more. When she writes about the Khirki Mosque ? one of the loveliest little places hidden inside the metropolis she says :

“Open quadrangles alternate with covered arches to create a checkerboard of darkness and light, space and enclosure, earth and sky. A vista of pillared arches stretches in every direction”

About the Jamali Kamali mosque she says:

“You might think that seeing one old mosque is as good as seeing them all. But each place has a distinctive’ feel’ and ambience.”The Jamali Kamali exudes that rare combination of striking beauty and serenity, especially since you least expect to find such a well-preserved monument in the midst of such wilderness.”

The book is divided into various sections based upon the historical period that it covers. Rakshanda Jalil uses her experience as a skilled writer to give us a gem of a book which is much more than just a coffee table book about a city. She herself has written short stories , co-authored books with Mushirul Hasan and also writes on issues of literature, culture and heritage. She has published over 15 books, and this is among her finest creations.

Prabhas Roy’s photographs are much more than just appendages to the written text. They enhance the visuals and as you read the stories and history and the narratives, his visuals make everything come to life with fabulous clarity and elegance. He has lived a traveller’s life and his Bohemian, nature-loving spirit has taught him how to see and capture the beauty even among broken down ruins covered with moss and scattered stones.

If you love Delhi, and would like to know more about it, read this book. Savour the narration and the pictures, and someday when you have the time, go and see these places. Those will be moments which you shall cherish.

Mridula Murgai is a part time freelance writer and a full time wife, mother, and grandmother (though not necessarily in that order ). Books are her lifetime companions and they have influenced the core of her life in many amazing ways.

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