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Quintessential Intizar Sahab


Shubham Mishra

DILLI THA JISKA NAAM
By Intizar Hussain
Sang-e- Meel Publications, Lahore, Pakistan, 2003

VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 1 January 2012

Brick by brick, Intizar Hussain finely constructs Delhi in Dilli Tha Jiska Naam, his own Dillinama. His characters are at times mythical, at others real. For every Yudhishthir, Krishna, demon and djinn there is a Khusro, Razia, Mir and Ghalib. And then there is our master craftsman himself, reminiscing about his times in Dilli; weaving his characters and contexts in a single beautiful whole. The story that begins in Indraprastha travels in time through Lalkot, Tughlaqabad, Dinpanah, Firauzabad and Shahjahanabad to Lutyen's New Delhi. The tale of each period unfolds through anecdotes like Anangpal Tomar's fascination with the iron pillar, Razia's romance with an Abyssinian slave and the tussle between Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq and Hazrat Nizamuddin. This chronological journey soon brings us to Shahjahanabad-one of the grandest medieval cities. It is here that Intizar Sahab leaves us in the scenic Jama Masjid Chowk to smell the kebabs, witness cock fights, pigeon and kite flying contests and delve into the magical world of Amir Hamza. While these enchantments leave us craving for more, Intizar Sahab walks us through the numerous gali-kuchas and bazaars, khanqahs and the havelis. In the bazaars we see the finest of cloth, dry fruits, sweets, exotic birds and so on. We also listen to the riddle-laden calls of the street vendors, hear the songs of different seasons and occasions, and celebrate eid, diwali, holi and navroz with the Dilliwallas. The first three and the remaining twenty odd chapters depicting the chronology of various cities of Dilli and different themes respectively, string the plot together. And yet, each chapter stands on its own making an interesting read in itself. The narrative is quintessentially Intizar Hussain-colloquial, crisp, witty, at times cryptic-aesthetically painting the life and times of Dilli. Whether it is an actual personal account or a tale of yore his fondness and yearning for Dilli is evident. Whether it be a visit to the Nizamuddin dargah and mausoleum of Ghalib immediately after the Partition, or the description of Chandni Chowk, his nostalgia for old spaces and times stands out distinctly. The metaphors for the past are numerous, each laced with tremendous finesse-we are taken back in time through a qawwali, or tales of his nani amma, or simply by calls of a peacock. Intizar sahab's mastery is such that he is able to weave a poignant tale without a trace of bitterness of any sort. This is evident when ...


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