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VIBGYOR in Print

Dipavali Sen

By Nita Berry
Snab Publishers, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 95, Rs.650.00


Historians have written about Delhi in authentic detail but it needed a writer for children to paint it in the seven colours of the rainbow. This is what Nita Berry, a freelance journalist and writer of fiction and non-fiction for children, has done. Her book The Story of Time (CBT) was awarded the prestigious Shankar's medal. A member of the Executive Committee of the Association of Writers and Illustrators (AWIC) and for several years the editor of its journal Writers and Illustrators, she is 'a homegrown Delhiwallah'. Nita Berry tells the story of Delhi in its various phases, mythical to modern. Her book opens with a simple but colourful double-page map of Delhi showing its seven cities and their dates. The short Prologue makes an important statement: 'Many a dream turned to dust here, and many a dynasty crumbled through periods of darkness and despair. But nothing could crush the spirit of Delhi. It was always there to resurrect, for the adventurous, the brilliant and the brave. And so it survived, Delhi defied history. Indeed it seems as old as time itself. Here, every niche and stone tells a tale-of terror and valour, of violence and sacrifice. The eternal Yamuna that has flowed by the city through the ages, sometimes quiet sometimes raging, bears witness to the glorious and tumultuous years of Delhi's chequered past and its living link with the future.' In the first chapter, 'Before the Dawn of History', there is a reference to the Mahabharata: 'They called it Khandavaprastha, or the city of ruins. Desolate and overgrown, it was a settlement long forgotten-a veritable ghost city, occupied only by birds and beasts, and very likely a hideout for thieves' (p.11). This is what the sons of King Pandu had received from their uncle Dhritarashtra, de-barred by his disability from being king himself. With their united efforts (and some superhuman intervention), they built an Indraprastha on it that was the envy of Duryodhana, and which certainly contributed to the Kurukshetra War. After their victory, the Pandavas built a temple to Krishna's sister Yogamaya in Mehrauli. In the 19th century, Queen Mumtaz Mahal sought the favour of the goddess for her son Mirza Jehangir who had fired at the British Resident from the Red Fort. The favour granted, she placed a pankha or fan made of flowers at the Yogamaya temple (and a chaadar at the shrine of ...

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