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Expat in the City


Susanna Wickes

DELIRIOUS DELHI: INSIDE INDIA'S INCREDIBLE CAPITAL
By Dave Prager
2011, pp. 390, Rs.399.00

VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 1 January 2012

'Delhi is whatever you make of it', muses New Yorker Dave Prager in Delirious Delhi, the Capital's latest travelogue-cum-survival guide. 'Every person defines Delhi for his or her self, and no two Delhi struggles are the same. At any given point, your experience will be the exact oppo-site of my experience, and we'll both be right.' It's refreshing to read a statement like this, especially at a time when publishing houses seem to be lapping up the tales of woe and/or wisdom that expats inevitably gather as they live or travel here. There's a typical formula to these, which goes something like this: a firangi arrives in India. Hates it. Struggles. But slowly adapts, and, ultimately, loves it. And then assumes the authority to deconstruct the country and its culture, and through all sorts of sweeping statements presents his definition of the 'Real India' (whatever that is).' Delirious Delhi is delightfully different. Following the huge success of Our Delhi Struggle, a blog started by Prager's wife, Jenny, and curated by both of them during the eighteen months they spent living and working in the capital, the book covers pretty much all aspects of life in the city; from negotiating with autowallahs to sampling street food to dealing with beggars. It's an extensive collection of observations and anecdotes ranging from the hilarious to the harrowing, neatly tied together with bits of well-researched trivia and Prager's signature good humour. And that's what makes this book: the candid, unpretentious and completely open-minded attitude with which the author writes.' Prager had two specific audiences in mind when writing the book; expats hoping to demystify Delhi, and Delhiites trying to make sense of expats. So, having a close connection with the eponymous city would certainly make for a far more enjoyable read. Prager's frequent mentioning of place names-on the very first page he's in Hauz Khas market, an area known to the city's locals but probably unfamiliar elsewhere-would surely cause some geographical confusion to new-to-Delhi readers. That said, the vivid descriptions of Aurobindo Marg and MG Road create pleasing mental maps for those of us who travel regularly on the same streets.' Most 'expat in India' books begin at, well, the beginning, and then take the reader on the same bumpy journey of learning and discovery that the authors themselves experienced. Prager, though, has organized Delirious Delhi into twelve themed ...


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