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Oh, That Taste of Delhi!


Anusha Hariharan

THE DELHI WALLA: MONUMENTS
By Mayank Austen Soofi
HarperCollins, Delhi, 2010, pp. 105, 199.00

THE DELHI WALLA: HANGOUTS
By Mayank Austen Soofi
HarperCollins, Delhi, 2010, pp. 100, 199.00

THE DELHI WALLA: FOOD+DRINK
By Mayank Austen Soofi
HarperCollins, Delhi, 2010, pp. 97, 199.00

THE DELHI WALLA: PORTRAITS
By Mayank Austen Soofi
HarperCollins, Delhi, 2010, pp. 104, Rs.199.00

VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 1 January 2012

When I moved to Delhi five years ago, apart from the various friends I had made, the work that I did, the endless chats on barsaatis of various people (I was being introduced to barsaati culture at that point, a typically Delhi phenomenon), the one other element that really got me to explore the city and its ways was Mayank Austen Soofi's blog. Every day after lunch hour, I used to sneak a peek and catch up on his latest on the delhiwalla (and yes, I had to sneak because at that point, I worked in an NGO that did not allow us to Google chat, let alone surf blogs on cityscapes). It was with a lot of thrill and expectation that I sunk my teeth into Soofi's four part series in print, inspired of course by the delhi walla. Soofi paints vibrant images of the city, replete with its food, culture, history, and most importantly, the people! The four-part series is divided into food+drink, monuments, hangouts and people. While I would be doing a great dis-service to Soofi by attempting to review them one by one, I would still have a go. The food+drink booklet is the one that has been worked with the most consistency in writing. It reflects Soofi's love for the culinary, and evokes a sense of the city that is entirely experienced through the senses. Soofi has also taken care to pan the lengths of the city. While I am glad that the book does not zero-in on eating places in swanky South Delhi alone, and explores the other part of the city that is the usual North Delhi joints. Barring a few eateries, East and West parts of Delhi are almost entirely missing. The writing evokes nostalgia for food as an experience, rather than the food as something that you have just tasted and loved. Soofi's accounts almost border on ethnography and the cultural aspects of each of these foods and the spatial significance of these have been painstakingly worked out. The other part in the series, a favourite with me, is the booklet titled portraits. Again, Soofi has panned the diversity of class, religion, age, and gender when it comes to picking up different faces from the city and telling their stories. The stories in themselves are written throughout with grace and elan. Indeed, a lot of thought has gone into ...


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