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Walking Delhi


Malvika Maheshwari

DELHI: ADVENTURES IN A MEGACITY
By Sam Miller
Penguin Books, New Delhi, India, 2010, pp. 291, Rs.350.00

VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 1 January 2012

I picked up Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity with much excitement and expectation. Excitement came from personal reasons for reading something new on 'my' city, a home that I returned to after some years of living out. Expectations grew by reading its cover and the first two printed pages dedicated to the praises for the book by some of the authors whose own writings on Delhi have received substantial critical acclaim. This book, indeed, offers something extraordinary. The author, Sam Miller, is a British journalist and has been, for over two decades, a frequent visitor, traveller and a resident of Delhi. This contributes to the book in an important way: it offers at the same time a curious outsider's gaze, opinions and experiences of the capital (and the country) and an insider's observation, knowledge and caution. Miller sets out to explore Delhi by walking-he knows it will be an adventure, laden with enough hardships and amusements. He thus embarks on it with meticulous precision-a pair of good walking shoes, a well-designed walking route, courage and advises. Indeed, this is what the book is worth, for there are hardly any writings (or writers) and travelogues (or travellers) that have braved to explore Delhi by foot, a megacity-a huge city, a crowded city, a dirty city, an attractive yet pedestrian unfriendly urban gathering. It is interesting to read that despite making elaborate plans and taking precautions, Miller knows the city enough to preempt that the plans on paper would hardly match up to the reality on the ground, and therefore the title. The book's greatest contribution lies not so much in informing the reader about Delhi's history, politics or its present but rather in making the reader think about travel itself-ways of doing it, reasons for indulging in it and when and how. It does not do so in the conventional travel guide-book style. Rather it urges us to discover the city, not just Delhi, 'our' way: its longitudes and latitudes, its popular and the shady, well known and ignored, old and new, rich and poor, its hierarchies and pitfalls. In this way the author makes the city his own, without prejudices-knowing and experiencing it the way few can lay claim to. After considering the 'W', the 'S' the '8' and more geometrical patterns to ably and creatively cover the expanse of the city, Miller decided to go around Delhi by ...


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