Delhi, in Thy Name – Adrija Rowchoudhury: Book Review by Asha Seth

Author: Adrija Rowchoudhury | Genre: Non-fiction | Pages: 295 | Publisher: Rupa Publications

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To tell us the story of Delhi, journalist Adrija Roychowdhury takes a deep dive into the legends behind the names of its many streets. Delhi, in Thy Name is a compelling account of the many emotions, aspirations, desires, identities, histories and memories that went behind the naming of places in the national capital of India.

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When you’ve loved a city as long as you’ve known it, you can’t help it but unearth everything there is to know about it. Needless to say, its history allures you the most. Delhi has always been that city for me and I haven’t been able to read enough on it. The more I read, the more I craved. So when I came across Adrija Rowchoudhury’s ‘Delhi, in Thy Name’, I knew I was going to pick it up soon. And I did.

This book is the journalist-turned-author Adrija Roychowdhury’s debut novel excavating the history behind the capital’s famous localities and streets. In a very short span of time, you get to learn almost everything of importance of some of the famous places nestled in the city. Written with a flair that only a local could display, the book delves right at the heart of what was, why, and the now of the places she’s chosen to shed light on – from a historical lens.

Right from the uber-striking Chandni Chowk to the bustling Connaught Place, Shaheen Bagh to Saket, and Chittranjan Park to Pamposh Enclave. A detailed glimpse of the places has been allowed through the author’s passionate observation and smart knowledge of the subject, unveiling the era, the kings or emperors, and the period the places were named, and the stories behind it. She herself belongs to the capital city and has seen it better than most. As she says, it is impossible to not hear the echoes of a traumatic past left behind by the tragic partition, no matter which lane you take or soul you talk to. And as harrowing as that sounds, it stands true that everyone and everything is dyed in the colors of the past and still wear it either with pride or pain, but won’t be bereaved of it, and that much is evident from the very many life snippets she has captured in her book.

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The book is well-researched, even well-written and one does feel the past peeling off layers as you traverse through its pages. It’s an admirable attempt to lay bare what lies underneath the skin of a city that has been much exploited through all of world history and how! But the reader remains unsatisfied as apart from the six neighborhoods covered, most of the places have been left out without a mention. I would’ve loved to read more about Hauz Khas, Old Delhi, and certain places of passion and poise.

Exhaustively researched and passionately told, the book is an attempt to decode what the act of naming and renaming means both to those in power and to those being governed. The book provides a key to Delhi, opening its doors to the readers in the very way that the city likes to think of itself—as alluring, energetic, infuriating, lyrical, nostalgic, frustrating, unforgettable, magical. Recommended for all ages; especially, travel enthusiasts and history buffs .

Have you read ‘Delhi, in Thy Name’? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

Happy reading till we meet next. Until then, carpe diem!