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City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi
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Manufacturer: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5

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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 954.56052
EAN: 9780142001004
ISBN: 0142001007
Label: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Manufacturer: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 352
Publication Date: 2003-03-25
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Release Date: 2003-03-25
Studio: Penguin (Non-Classics)

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Editorial Reviews:

Sparkling with irrepressible wit, City of Djinns peels back the layers of Delhi's centuries-old history, revealing an extraordinary array of characters along the way-from eunuchs to descendants of great Moguls. With refreshingly open-minded curiosity, William Dalrymple explores the seven "dead" cities of Delhi as well as the eighth city-today's Delhi. Underlying his quest is the legend of the djinns, fire-formed spirits that are said to assure the city's Phoenix-like regeneration no matter how many times it is destroyed. Entertaining, fascinating, and informative, City of Djinns is an irresistible blend of research and adventure.

Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Excellent book to get a glimpse of Delhi's history
Comment: I loved reading all the three books by this author - The last Mughal, The White Mughal and City of Djinns. Unlike the other two, City of Djinns , is a little fast paced, more readable and is not as much detailed. If you have lived in Delhi and wondered about its history or a tourist heading for Delhi, you will look at things differently if you have read this book. The book is so readable that I would have liked more details especially Mughal and pre-Mughal history. Overall this is a great book.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Fantastic travel writing
Comment: The first thing that is incredibly interesting about this book is the way it is approached. To call it a travel book, I feel, is diminishing the many other aspects & experiences this book is about.

This book is kind of a diary of Dalrymple & wife's year in Delhi. And it is also a book of history scattered behind the sights, the people, & the culture. Dalrymple narrates compellingly, candidly, without biases & with plentiful humour. Stories abound - of the destitute but historically cultured 'old Delhi-wallahs' & the loutish Punjabi nouveau rich, of Anglo-Indians living in reminisce & poverty, of the Delhi eunuchs, of Dervishes that speak in parables, of partridge fights, of khalifas, of Balwinder Singh's buoyancy & lust, of Mr & Mrs Puri's idiosyncrasies.

And while you're drifting from one of these interludes to the other, you're taken centuries back to the Kingdom of Shah Jehan, Aurangzeb's treachery & network of spies, of incest in Royal Harems, of Englishmen who smoked hookahs - some who became Indian in their ways beyond recognition, some who continued their English ways, of the partition, of Tughlak's barbaric ways, of the refined mannerisms of a mirza during the Mughal period, of the Red Fort & what lies beneath.

Dalrymple is also an astute recorder of conversations. Some of the 'Indian English' that is spoken is in such sharp contrast to Dalrymple's speech, that you cannot help but get tickled. However, I do not think that Dalrymple's intention is mockery for there are plentiful other examples to the contrary.

I definitely learned & relearned a lot from this book. I also developed a sense of Delhi's history & a empathy for it's present. And I smiled a lot.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Thank you for the Sufi and Muslim
Comment: I lived in Delhi for just under a year in the eighties, and if I had had this book then, it would have been a completely different experience for me. I walked by so much history in puraani delhi, and understood little of its significance. When I return to Delhi, this book will light my way into Mughal, British and Sufi Delhi.

I agree with another reviewer that Dalrymple says relatively little about Hindu Delhi, but I think Delhi is one of the most historically cosmopolitan of cities in a subcontinent that is often painted as Hindu in broad strokes. I hope no reader takes as disrespect when I say that Hindu India gets plenty of attention; I am glad that Dalrymple focused on what cultural roads are less traveled. He does tell, and beautifully so, the story of the role of Delhi's ancestral settlement in the Mahabharata.

What I loved most about the book was its portrayal of the vibrant Sufi community in India; the life of a Sufi dargah; the Qawwali singers. Learning about Sufi Delhi was a great and valuable revelation to me.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: A great book for insight on multi-layered cultures of Delhi
Comment: I was born and brought up in Delhi, and lived there for 21 years of my life, after which I emigrated to the United States. This book made me feel that how oblivious many of us 'locals' are, of the many riches and insights that my home city has to offer.

William Dalrymple peels the multilayered culture of the historical city of Delhi - seven times the capital of empires - ruined and rebuilt again. He spans from the Punjabi immigrants that've filled the newer parts of economically booming Delhi sice the partition of India in 1947; to the more historic but now decrepit old Delhi - where the legendary age old 'Persian' customs such as the 'Kabootar' (Pegion) fights, the 'Chor' (Thief) Bazaars and the mysterious 'Hakims' (Doctors practicing an old school of medicine) are unquestioned parts of the daily lives of many. Dalrymple also describes the curious and unique collision of history leading to the current day fate of the Indian Hijras (Eunuchs), who ring the door bells of apartments of Delhi's denizens, in the old city and the new, on any kind of festivity. He describes the fascinating history and architecture of the tomb of Himayun and Hazrat Nizam-ud-din, the charming old 'Quawaalis' (musical forums) still alive there, and many other monuments that I visited umpteen times as a kid, the 'Sadhus', an ancient culture intact with flavors... the list is endless. Somehow, I missed making the connections, and could see the beauty of the entire kaliedoscope when I read this book. I find my visits to Delhi so much more fascinating. One thing that the readers must be made aware though is the overt focus on history of Mughal (Persian) Delhi - which is for a reason - that all the pre-Mughal monuments were destroyed. The Delhi that exists is newer than the spirit of the city really is.

Since I read this book I always try to find such books on the cities I've visited. A strong recommend for anyone visiting Delhi -- you can choose to be put off by the seeming boorishness of the existing 'New' Delhi, or scratch beneath the surface and discover magic!

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: The Legacy of Partition
Comment: « City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi » William Dalrymple HarperCollins 1993

« City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi » was my travel reading for my first trip to India in the summer of 2007, a trip which began and ended in Delhi. Having read other writers and other Dalrymple books on India before I set out, I read « City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi » first on my outward journey, and then reviewed it again as we made our way back to Delhi on the last stage of our tour. The book was an invaluable resource, supplementing the ill-informed and poorly spoken guides who were difficult to understand and unable to answer questions in any depth. Dalrymple's book helped me to tie the city and its sites and history together into some sort of coherent whole. I also found the pen-and-ink illustrations by Dalrymple's wife Olivia Fraser very illuminating. Although at first sight they struck me as much too calm and uncluttered to convey the true image of the places they posed, I later came to appreciate how they captured the inherent essence of their subject and spoke volumes in their simple way.

As a journalist, Dalrymple has a knack for finding the right people to talk with - people with living memories of the time he writes about, who can bring to life the crumbling ruins they inhabit and instil us with visions of the beauty that once radiated in Delhi. It is certainly difficult to see today but reading the stories did help me to understand the sensibilities of some of the « Delhi-wallahs » we encountered in our travels.

My one criticism of the book is that he reuses material that has appeared elsewhere, which broke the rhythm of my involvement with his story and made me feel uncomfortable. These passages were extensive, and not changed sufficiently to feel new in any way. I was surprised that his editors allowed this to pass, unless there were deadline difficulties.

The overall impression that I was left with is that India today is still suffering from the reverberations of the devastation of partition, which brought incomprehensible tragedy and hardship and touched almost every family in India in one way or another. As we watch India vie for its place in the globalised technological marketplace, we will understand her better if we remember this recent back-story in her development.

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