“Delhi Mostly Harmless” – I think the first thing that sprang to mind when I read the title in the review request was – “Really?” As someone who has not been to Delhi in over a decade, the title felt odd to me, given that the news coming out from Delhi wasn’t that harmless those days, some of which, well, was covered the world-over, let alone the country! I guess that’s what made me take the book without thinking. Oh, and the cover played a big part in the choice too. Mostly, I thought it might be fiction, and I didn’t realize it was a non-fiction till after I got the book. I may not have paid attention to the nuances after the title and cover made me choose it. It happens!
The book takes a look at Delhi through the eyes of the author, who has not stayed there, and just moved there. The author is partly Indian, but never stayed in Delhi or India, and comes to Delhi for her studies. Not a very fun thing, but non-fiction is not always fun and games. Through her book, she shows the reader Delhi as she sees it, straight up, nothing held back, as it happened. The good thing about her perspective is that it isn’t biased by staying there, and the thing that holds it back perhaps is that though it is her experience, it may not be the Delhi that everyone else may know and agree with.
What Elizabeth does well with the book, I feel, is that she writes as she sees it, experiences it. And she does it with a dash of wit and much insight as well. I liked the quotes at the start of each chapter, which helps to start it off. I’m not sure whether I agree or disagree with her on her points though, having, like I said earlier, spent over a decade away from the city, and even back then, experienced it just as a kid visiting his relatives. I’ve experienced none of it, but I guess even long-term resident Delhi citizens may feel the same confusion, since they’d have felt both and made up their minds long back. To have this book put a speck of doubt on that may not be all that nice.
For me, non-fiction is most of the times, a one-time read, and this book is no different at this moment. Maybe if the future holds a long spell for me in Delhi, I might read through then to see if my experiences are similar to how Elizabeth sees the city.
In A Gist:
Positives: Cover, title and witty narration
About the author:
Born and raised in Yorkshire, Elizabeth Chatterjee is a perpetual student. After a History degree, she moved on to study contemporary Indian politics. She is currently working on her doctorate.
Title: Delhi Mostly Harmless
Author: Elizabeth Chatterjee
Publisher: Ebury Press / Random House India
Price: INR. 299
(2nd March, 2014)