What is a city – Dilli hai jiska naam IX: Sohail Hashmi

This is the final post in a series on Delhi that does not talk only of the narrow lanes of Shahjahanabad, the Mughalia, aka Mughlai delights and the lip-smacking Chaats of Chandni Chowk or the grand ruins of the seven Delhis and the wide open spaces and broad roads, but a series that also looks at the way Delhi has evolved. We wanted to explore the logic of the city and of the forces that have shaped the idea of the city itself.  It was this idea that made us approach people who have engaged with the city with love and care for decades and we requested them to write for Kafila.

This series is titled Dilli hai jiska naam and the links to the previous posts can be found at the end.

My post below is the final one in the series. It was originally presented at a seminar at the Srishti School of Art Design and Technology, Bangalore, and is included in “Radical City – Imagining Possibilities for the Indian City” (Sage Publishers).

What is a City? Sohail Hashmi

What exactly is a city, is it just a large settlement, is the size of the population living within a definable area the only criterion, is it merely a centre of production, exchange and transport, how does one distinguish it from a village or a small town?

Questions such as these have engaged scholars cutting across diverse disciplines and a large number of definitions of a city exist, A city has been defined in terms of its demographics alone – a densely populated area, through its size – a city is a large settlement, there are other definitions that try to define the city through its systems of public utilities, through the presence of centralised civic authority, as a centre of production, a site through which political power is exercised and even as a site with a continuous history cutting across centuries.

A city is all this and more and this essay would seek to present some partially formed ideas on what is this elusive ‘more’.

This more consists of many things, Time, Trade and Migration are three of them, and we will explore these through a free-wheeling narration of the developments at Delhi.

It has been said that Delhi is the site of 7 cities namely, Lal Kot or Mehrauli, Siri, Tughlaqabad, Jahanpanah, Ferozabad, Deenpanah or Shergadh and Shahjahanabad, some go to the extent of calling New Delhi the 8th city.  Why we disagree with the classification of ‘New Delhi’ as a city is something that we will take up later.  At the moment let us look at these seven capitals a little closely.

The first of the seven capitals that were set up in the region now known as Delhi was probably Lal Kot, also known as Mehrauli. This was the capital of the Slave Kings (1192-1290) and also of Jalal-ud-Din Khalji (1290-96).

This was followed by Siri, the new capital commissioned by Al’a-ud-Din Khalji 1296-1316). Siri was more like a fortified garrison town located at the present day site of the Siri Fort Auditorium and the old village of Shahpur Jat. It was built primarily to have the bulk of the Khalji army at one location in order to move it quickly against the Mongols who had begun their incursions into India from the late 13th and early 14th centuries.

The 3rd capital to come up in this area was Tughlaqabad, built by Ghazi Malik, an erstwhile Khalji governor of Punjab who took on the title of Ghyas-ud-Din Tughlaq (1321-1325) after deposing Khusrau Khan, the last Khalji King.

Mohammad bin Tughlaq (1325-1350), son and successor of Ghyas-ud-Din built his own Capital and called it Jahanpanah, but he moved the capital to Daultabad in the Deccan in 1329 and moved back to Delhi in 1335.

Mohammad Tughlaq’s nephew Ferozeshah Tughlaq (1351-88) built a new Capital and named it Ferozeabad, it used to be more popularly known as Kotla Ferozeshah and came to be identified with one of the oldest Cricket grounds in Delhi, renamed recently after someone who played for his college team. This reference to the renaming is not an unnecessary diversion; this has a bearing on the kind of ahistorical cities we are attempting to build, anyway let us go back to the chronology of the capitals that were built in the area generally known as Delhi,

After Ferozeshah Tughlaq, Delhi was sacked by Amir Temur in 1398, the Syeds took over after Temur departed, three of them ruled one after the other, the third abdicated in favour of one of his commanders, Bahlol Lodi (1451-1489) and the Lodi’s came to power.

Bahlol (r 1451-1489) was succeeded by Sikandar Lodi (r1489-1517). Sikandar moved the capital to Agra, his son Ibrahim (1517-1526) ruled from Agra and was defeated by Babur (r1526-30), Babur ruled from Agra as well but his son Humayun (r1526-1556) brought the capital back to Delhi and built his capital Deen Panah, the 6Th Capital at Delhi.

About 8 years later Humayun lost his capital to one of his commanders Sher Shah Suri. Sher Shah, renamed Deen Panah as Shergadh, ruled for 7 years and died in an accident to be succeeded by his son Islam Shah. Islam Shah ruled for 8 years before being defeated by Humayun who had returned after 15 years to avenge his defeat.

Humayun won back his capital but died within 11 months. Humayun’s son Akbar took the capital back to Agra in 1556. The Capital eventually returned to Delhi during the reign of Akbar’s favourite grandson Shahjahan 92 years later in 1648. Shahjahan built one of the most magnificent capitals in the mediaeval world and named it Shahjahanabad, this was the 7th Mediaeval Capital at Delhi.

Shahjahanabad remained the Capital of the Mughals till 1857, when the British shifted the Capital to Calcutta only to bring it back in 1912 and to eventually build the 8th capital in the city, unable to decide between George Town and Georgeabad, they let things drift and the name Nai Dilli coined by the workmen eventually gained currency.

The above narration might sound a bit too tedious but the purpose of inflicting this list upon you is to underscore the fact that out of the 7 mediaeval capitals that came up in the region, it is only Mehrauli or Lal Kot, if you prefer and Shahjahanabad that remained capitals for more than a few years, the former for 104 years and the latter for 209 years. The third longest surviving capital was the Kotla of Ferozeshah, lasting from 1351 to 1398, all of 47 years.

The point being made is that the very short life of all the other 5 capitals, Siri, Tughlaqabad, Jahanpanah, Ferozeabad and Deenpanah or Shergarh ensured that these sites never had the time to even begin to resemble a city. They were new capitals built by a king and died with him. Most of them were in fact deserted once the founder of the capital died or once the successor chose to build another capital.

The three Tughlaq Kings, Ghyas, Mohammad and Feroze built three of the seven capitals that came up in Delhi, all within a span of 30 odd years. Clearly none of them had the time or leisure to grow into a city.

So out of the 7 capitals that rose in this region only two, that is Lalkot or Mehrauli and Shahjahanabad had the time to grow into cities and we will now look at them through the viewing glass of migration and trade to see if they meet the criteria we have laid down for a city.

Mehrauli developed into a city due to several reasons, one of them was the fact that, despite the coming up of Siri, it was not deserted. Siri was more of a garrison town so Mehrauli or Lal Kot would not have been deserted. The installation of the Iron Pillar, the expansion of the Jami Mosque of Qutub-ud-Din Aibak, the start of the ambitious Al’ai Minar, the construction of the Al’ai Darwaza, the repairs carried out at the Hauz-e-Shamsi and the construction of the domed canopy in the middle of the Hauz, all initiated in the reign of Al’a-ud-Din Khalji, point to the fact that Mehrauli was not only not deserted after the coming up of the garrison town of Siri but it perhaps continued as the true capital.

All this large scale construction would have led to the flocking to Mehrauli of stone masons, stone carvers, calligraphers, carpenters, iron-smiths and tradesmen who excelled in different crafts.

In the 12th century of the common-era the new arrivals from across the Khyber brought in the technology of building with rubble masonry and plaster that was a mix of crushed bricks and slaked limestone. This would have led to the establishment of brick kilns and lime kilns. The latter to convert lime into quicklime which would then be slaked with water to produce hydrated-lime for use as mortar mixed with crushed bricks. It is these new arrivals who also introduced the True Arch and the Dome. All this combined together to transform architecture. The Indian mason began to be identified as a Sangtarash and many terms for measurement, for weighing and for names of tools used by artisans in Persian, Turkish and other central Asian languages became a part of the language spoken in the streets and thus began a process that was eventually nurture a language in the streets and bazaars.

Mehrauli thus became a centre where different crafts that drew upon diverse resources began to come together. Turks, Persians, Uzbegs, Tajiks, Pathans, Morroccans, Ehopians, Arabs, Armenians and others came to travel, to trade and to settle down. They brought with them, the tandoor and their own food and this mixed with the food of the region to gradually evolve into a cuisine that took centuries to grow into what is now known as the Mughalia Cuisine .

The Turks and the Central Asians brought with them Paper that they had learnt to make after first getting it from the Chinese through the Silk-route, they brought the Persian Wheel that had a profound impact on agriculture in semi-arid regions like Delhi, they brought the Pit-Loom and the Spinning-wheel, Yes the same spinning wheel that became a symbol of our fight against British Imperialism.  They introduced the technique of carpet making. The art of glazing ceramics originating in China, travelled through the silk route to Turkey and to central Asia and it were the central Asians who brought it to India, to Delhi and to Mehrauli.

Practitioners of diverse crafts and those skilled in the arts and new techniques of production and those who sang or played new compositions on new instruments that they had brought with them, were all mixing with their indigenous counterparts and were evolving into newer forms and techniques, of building, weaving, singing and creating music. New dresses began to be worn, Pairahan, Qaba, Jubba, Dastaar, Shalwaar, Qameez, Kurta, Paijama. Simultaneously new foods, new recipes, new fruits, new forms of poetry and new literary tradition began to emerge from the coming together of the two traditions and these processes were all part of the changes that were happening all around.

It was in Mehrauli that some of the first large-scale Karkhanas (workshops) were set up to produce robes for the court. Al’a-ud-Din Khalji used to give away thousands of robes every year and Karkhanas were set up to keep the royal Toshakhanas well stocked.

There were rough cotton robes, fine cotton robes, muslin robes, robes with a mix of cotton and silk, pure silk robes, velvet robes and brocade robes. Robes were given to those who showed exemplary valour in the battlefield, to honour guests and ambassadors, they were also given to mark promotions and on special occasions.

Along with robes were gifted all manner of head gear and all kinds of ceremonial swords, daggers encased in specially designed scabbards, at times studded with precious stones, the blades inlaid with gold calligraphy and accompanied with ornate tasselled cummerbunds to be worn around the waist.

A large number of craftsmen worked together, spinners of yarn, weavers, embroiderers, cutters, tailors, iron smiths, silver smiths, goldsmiths, engravers, embossers and others, they belonged to different castes and to different religions, spoke different languages and it was in these Karkhanas that they began to work together, perhaps for the first time, and to learn from each other and to share their skills and to draw from all the languages they knew to construct a creole, that was to be known as Hindavi or Dehlavi, the ancestor of Rekhta, Urdu and Hindi.

This is the beginning of a new work culture a new work ethic and the beginning of what was to eventually develop into urban cosmopolitanism, something that has always been absent in a village.

The continuation of the settlement in Mehrauli through the reign of the Mamluks and the Khaljis, contributed in no mean measure to helping the area develop into a city, this process was aided by an unlikely group of people, the Sufis.

The Shrine of Khwaja Qutub-ud-Din Bakhtyaar Kaaki and perhaps the even older Temple of Jog Maya ensured the continuing importance of Mehrauli despite the rise of Siri, Tughlaqabad, Jahanpanah and Ferozabad in quick succession. The fact that the two shrines are the focus around which the famous Phool Walon ki Sair, started in the 19th century, is organised clearly points to the continuing importance of these two shrines in the life of Mehrauli.

The presence of the Sufis in Mehrauli continued to attract people from far and wide and many devotees and several Sufis began to settle down in this area. Many of the Sufis were accompanied with bands of their own devotees and with them came new languages and new crafts adding to the cultural richness of the area.

The kind of cultural inputs being introduced through the Sufis were being reinforced through the arrival of large number of traders, artisans and others not only from different parts of the sub-continent but also from Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and parts of Africa, like Ethopia and Morocco among others.

Khwaja Qutub-ud-Din Bakhtyaar Kaaki arrived in Delhi in the reign of Shams-ud-Din Altamash. Among the most important Chishti Sufis in India, he was the disciple and successor of Moin-ud-Din Chishti of Ajmer and was the first Chishti to settle down in Delhi and was considered the patron saint of Delhi.

It was at the hospice -Khanqah, of Bakhtyar Kaaki in Mehrauli that the Qawwali in its nascent form began to evolve as the Qaul. Many of the characteristic principles of the Chishti tradition, including love for music, keeping one’s doors open for all faiths and staying away from those in power were ideas that owe much to Qutub-ud-Din Bakhtyaar Kaaki and it is because of this that he had an unending stream of visitors.

Bakhtyaar Kaaki was the perceptor of Fareed-ud-Din Ganj-e-Shakar known and highly venerated in the Punjab as Baba Fareed. Baba Fareed’s disciple and successor was Nizam-ud-Din Auliya.

Bahlol Lodi who has been mentioned above was a devotee of Nasir-ud-Din Raushan Chiragh-e-Dilli and is buried near his mausoleum at Chiragh Dehli. Khwaja Nasir-ud-Din was the disciple and successor of Nizam Ud Din Auliya.

The Sufis exercised great influence on the people and it is through them that the discourse of inclusion begins to be propagated, just as it was being propagated by the Nirgun poets of the same era, Kabir, Raidas, Dadu, Namdev, Guru Nanak and others.

The nobles and others with means built caravanserais, step wells, mosques and gardens all over the area to cater to the large influx of devotees, especially during the birth and death anniversaries of the Sufis. Many devotees left it in their will that they be buried near the feet of the Sufi they venerated.

The constant influx of Sufis and devotees, led to the creation of a diverse range of facilities to meet the needs of the pilgrims. Caravanserais, residential accommodations and shops catering to the daily needs of devotees like groceries, spices and grains began to come up, eating places cropped up and shops selling flowers, trinkets and amulets sprouted all around.

All this added further to the population mix as it attracted all manner of crafts persons and other professionals. This process of the arrival of the new and its mixing with the local continued well into the 19th century when the rich and powerful of Shahjahanabad began to build their summer retreats in Mehrauli, many Mughal period and earlier buildings were cannibalised initially by the British and then by those who have made a carrier out of imitating the colonisers, the net result is that Mehrauli has seen ceaseless construction over 8 centuries, a process that contributed heavily to Mehrauli developing into a mediaeval city.

Before we go on to talk about the second city that grew in this area there is one point that needs to be underlined, cities have no native populations, cities are made by migrants. A settlement that is composed only of the sons and daughters of the soil is a village. Any city that begins to divide its residents into natives and outsiders is no longer behaving like a city but is fast regressing into the opposite of the cosmopolitan.

Large scale migrations resulted from conquests, but also from rural strife, famine and such like or from major political upheavals. Traders, Artisans travelled from place to place settling down where they saw good business or work opportunities. Traders and artisans were followed or preceded by those preaching new philosophies or exploring new territories. Introduction of new products, skills and crafts and new philosophical ideas were some of the consequences of these migrations and it is these that contribute to turning a village into a city. One must remember that the transformation of a village into a city is not an overnight thing, it is a process and among other things the most important constituent of a process is time. You cannot build a city, a settlement needs time, a few hundred years at least, to grow into a City.

If one were to remove all the migrants from Mehrauli, in fact from all of Delhi, we would be left with the natives of the villages of Delhi – Jats, Gujars, Sainis, Banias, Thakurs and Brahmins carrying on with age old assigned roles and status, continuing to work with traditional implements with their old crafts and this would go on endlessly as long as an outsider does not bring in new technology and implements. Ideas of urbanism begin to grow the moment two traditions establish a dialogue and ideas begin to be exchanged. Exchange is in fact the most essential ingredient in the recipe that transforms a village into a city.

The foundations of what was to grow into the second city of Delhi, i.e Shahjahanabad were laid in 1639 and it was formally inaugurated in 1648. The inauguration of the city by Shahjahan marked the return of the capital to Delhi 92 years after Shahjahan’s grandfather Akbar had taken it to Agra, the capital of his own grandfather Babur and before him of the Lodis.

The trajectory that Shajahanabad followed in growing from a capital into a city was radically different from the one that Mehrauli or Lal Kot had followed. Mehrauli had grown perhaps from a small insignificant village, nestling on the eastern slopes of the Arravali, into a capital in the 12th century, or even earlier if popular tradition is to be believed.

Over the next few hundred years Mehrauli grew into a city, settled constantly by people who had come from far and wide, bringing with them, new crafts, technology, attire, language, food and music and all this mixed with its counterparts to create a new mix, inclusive and all-embracing and yet retaining within its many folds, little niches of unique identities.

Shahjahanabad came up as a capital with a palace fort surrounded by residential and commercial areas, there were of course large open spaces, within the retaining walls, for later expansion and for creating entirely new localities.

As opposed to Mehrauli that had grown gradually, Shahjahanabad was planned from the ground up. As opposed to Mehrauli, where new residents arrived constantly and began to contribute to what was to become a city, in the case of Shajahanabad a readymade city culture was bought from Agra, along with a large urban population and replanted. Some of those who relocated had roots in this region; their ancestors had gone to Agra from here in the 16th century, their language and culture had mixed with the language food and music of Agra and was returning a hundred years later, changed somewhat but retaining many of its original features. The exchange between the two cities was common, Nazeer, the 19th century people’s poet from Agra was born in Delhi and Meer and Ghalib, both quintessentially Delhi poets were born in Agra but came to Delhi in their teens.

In its very conception Shahjahanabad was a city that was organised along professions and specific parts of the city gradually grew to house specialised activities, not unlike mediaeval cities all over the world growing around guild masters, apprentices and suppliers of raw materials and buyers of finished goods.

An idea of the crafts that existed and professions that gradually took root in the city can be gleaned from the names of some of the old localities associated with specialised crafts or trades – Gali Sangtarashan, Gali Gandhi, Kucha Qabil Attar, Gali Saqqe Wali, Gali Hakimji, Gali Bataashaan, Gali Kababiyan, Gali Jootewaali, Sirkiwalan, Chooriwalan, Suiwalan, Gadhey Walan, Ballimaran, Dareeba Kalan, Kinari Bazar, Qasabpura[1], Chawri Bazar for Paper and kitchenware and now hardware and wedding-cards, Naya Bazar for grains and lentils, Khari Baoli for nuts, dry-fruits, spices, pickles and preserves etc, Nai Sarak for bridal-finery, sewing-machines, second-hand books, stationary and art-material. Some of these businesses like hardware, wedding cards, second hand books, art material, Sewing Machines etc. are of recent origin, but they have been around for a while as well and have built their own traditions.

When Akbar moved the capital to Agra, he had begun a major project of patronising Braj and commissioning large scale translations from Persian into Braj and from Sanskrit into Persian. The language of Delhi, had also travelled to Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Deccan, in phases and was to return to Delhi as Deccani, enriched by words, expressions and literary forms that drew from the Persian tradition like the Masnavi, the Ghazal, the Marsiya and the Qaseeda as also from the Barahmasa and the Nakh-Shikh Varnan. It had also drawn from the vocabulary of Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu and Kannada and had woven it together into a new tapestry of expression.

With the shifting of the capital from Agra to Delhi many of those associated with the court made the shift. Shahjahan made provision for scholars of Sanskrit and Persian to be on hand, they were needed to translate old documents and records from Sanskrit to Persian. Scholars who knew both languages -Kashmiri Pandits, Kayasths, Khatris, Sindhis, Multanis and others shifted to Delhi. Khatri traders both Hindus and Muslim, shifted from Punjab specially in late 17th and early 18th century, Afghans who traded in dry fruits and nuts came every year in winter and stayed through winter to give out short duration, high interest loans, before returning home to come back next winter with more dry fruits and Nuts, a practice that continues to this day.

The patronage to the arts that had begun to be extended as matter of state policy from the time of Akbar was continued, despite their strained circumstances, to the time of the later Mughals, all the way to Bahadur Shah Zafar.

Delhi attracted the finest calligraphers, miniaturists, poets, skilled craftsmen, and others that included Yogis, Sufis and travellers from far and wide. The French traveller and jeweller Tavernier and the French Physician and traveller Bernier were in Delhi in the reign of Shahjahan and Aurangzeb, they saw and wrote about the city, court life and the empire at its peak and it is through their writings that we get an idea of the intellectual engagements of the educated elite of Delhi with European philosophical concerns of the time and also of the efforts being made by the Europeans to understand the Yogic and Sufi traditions of India

The art of miniature painting was to spread out from Delhi to the princely states of Rajasthan and Punjab and other regions in later times. The Indian style of Persian Poetry (Sabk-e-Hindi) only recently recognised by Iranian Scholars of Persian, as an  important school of Persian poetry, evolved in Delhi.

Those who wrote this Persian were not only muslims like Abdul Qadir ‘Bedil’ (1642-1730), Shah Mubarak Abru (1685-1733) Siraj-ud-Din Ali Khan-i-Arzu (1689-1756) and Shah ‘Hatim’ (1699-1783) but an increasing number of Kayasths, Sindhis, Multanis and Kashmiri Pandits and others including Girdhar Das of Delhi who Translated the Ramayan into Persian, Chandra Bhan Brahmin who had a complete Anthology and also authored a biography ‘Chahr Chaman’ both were contemporaries of Shah Jahan and there were many others[2].

The other major development in the field of culture, in fact the most significant contribution of Delhi, was the evolution of Urdu. It had started in Delhi in the 13th century had travelled to Gujarat, Maharashtra, the Deccan and Karnataka with the Khaljis, the Tughlaqs and Sufi Derveshes like Banda Nawaz Gesu Daraz and had returned as Deccani in the 18th century through the earthy poetry of Wali Deccani or Wali Gujarati (whose grave was levelled and a road built upon it overnight during the Gjarat genocide of 2002). Deccani  then grew from the mixed language or Rekhta of the time of Bedil’, ‘Abru’, ‘Arzu’ and ‘Hatim’ to become the language of literary discourse through the writings of Meer, Sauda and others in the 18th century and Ghalib, Momin, Zauq and a galaxy of others in the 19th century and later.

So Mehrauli gives way to Shahjahanabad, but with a gap of a few centuries during which time capitals keep shifting and no city comes up, till Shahjahan virtually transfers a city from Agra to Delhi and the new capital, drawing upon the resources of Agra grows and develops into a city.

Through this long and meandering narration we have sought to highlight how ‘the coming together of crafts persons, diverse cultural resources of production technologies, languages, music, attire and food over a period of time through migration and trade gradually turns a  human settlement into a city.

Shahjahanabd was a city with its own way of life, language, cuisine, literary and musical tastes, its own crafts, produce, its own working class, markets and educational institutions. Shahjahanabad had many Madrasas and Pathshalas where aside from religious matters many secular disciplines like mathematics, geography, calligraphy, languages, astronomy, logic, the art of debate and philosophy were also taught, the foremost among them was the Madrasa Ghazi-ud-Din Haider, set up in 1692, an institution that continues 327 years later, today, as the Delhi College.

It is the mixing of people, their languages and cultures, an unending influx in search of a livelihood, to buy and sell or for spiritual solace following a venerated teacher, artisans and crafts persons in search of patrons, Tricksters and soothsayers in search of the gullible, great scholars, poets, writers, artists, seeking connoisseurs and myriad others all of them streaming in ceaselessly, in torrents or trickles but never drying up arriving and settling down and creating a city.

This is how two of the seven capitals became cities and that is why the 8th capital did not become a city. New Delhi was designed to be a show piece, It was to accommodate all of 53,000[3] people it was never meant to be a city. A city has to have a resident population, New Delhi had no resident population, there were the white Sahebs who came for a fixed tenure, the natives all lived in Shahjahanabad, or in the scattered villages came to New Delhi to work in the offices and went back in the evening.

New Delhi continues to be like that even today. The only permanent residents are the cooks, gardeners, drivers and other household staff of the Ministers, Senior Bureaucrats and Top Brass of the Forces. The officers, minsters and members of parliament arrive and depart; none of them live in New Delhi. Those who come to work in New Delhi now live primarily in the large number of localities that came up after partition or in those that have come up after the 70s, in Delhi and in suburbs growing all around Delhi.

New Delhi has nothing that every self-respecting city has to have, it has no wholesale market, it has no working class, it does not produce anything, it does not have food that it can call its own, it has no music, The Dehli Gharana has nothing to do with New Delhi, no culture, no lifestyle and no night life, and we are not talking of cabarets but of little tea houses and hole in the wall eating joints that remain open well past mid night, places where both the young and the sleepless can go to hang out with their peers to discuss poetry, the last great villain of cinema or politics.

New Delhi streets are dead after 7.00 pm, till a few years ago, you couldn’t even find an auto- rickshaw. The Capital of India- the 43.5 Sq. kms administered by NDMC, does not have a single institute of higher learning; it actually did not even have undergraduate colleges till the late 1960s. No University, No Public Library, not one that you can walk in, pick up a book to read, no place where a questioning and enquiring mind might find sustenance, such a place needs a lot of growing up before it develops into a city.

The so called smart cities being planned will be worse than New Delhi. They will be water tight, sealed compartments, where people will come to work and leave, like the steel and glass cages that are coming up in all big cities and also in Noida and Gurgaon. The other model will be places that will be secured on all sides, the residents will never have to step out, and all their needs will be met by those who will live and die outside. Out of the confines of the clean, green, secure smart city, not unlike the gated and walled in “colonies” that we are building all over

This is how the city and cosmopolitanism will be killed, this is how the democratic impulse will be erased, this is how the dream of an egalitarian society will cease to be, parochialism will reign supreme, sons of the soil will rule, those who are different will have no right to exist, if nothing else they can be declared non-citizens, the untouchable malechhaas of yore.

In the words of Robert Bevan, writer on architecture and a regeneration consultant

‘Ultimately, perhaps the true definition of a city can be found in the phenomenon of “urbicide” – the deliberate destruction of cities. In war and in peace, this happens where the cosmopolitan is treated with suspicion and where strangers, differences and otherness cannot be tolerated. True cities should never have such small town mentalities. Their inhabitants are worldly citizens, not parochial townsfolk’.

[1] Stonemason’s Street, Perfumer’s Street, Street of Qabil the Perfumer, Street of the Water Carrier, Hakims’s Lane , Bataasha (Candy) Street, Kabab Makers’ Street, Shoe Street, Thatch Makers’ Street, Banglemakers’ Street, Needle Workers’ Street, Donkey keeper’s Locality, Locality of the Oarsmen, Jewellers’ Market, Lace Makers’ Market, Butchers Market, Betel Leaf market,

[2]  Banwari Das Wali, close associate of Dara Shikoh who authored a Mystical Anthology and a Philosophical Masnawi, Mathura Das who authored an Anthology and 2 Masnawis, Lala Shivram Das (d1731-32), Lala Amanat Rai ‘Amanat’ (d1732), Lala Sukhram ‘Sabqat’,  Basawan Lal ‘Bedaar’ (d1734-35),  Anand Ram ‘Mukhlis’ (d1751), Vrindavan Das ‘Kosgo’ (d1756),  Laala Tek Chand ‘Bahar’ (d 1766), Sialkoti Mal ‘Vaarasta’ (d1766) and Har Gopal ‘Tafta’, disciple of Mirza Asad Ullah Khan ‘Ghalib’  – Stefano Pello. Hindu Persian Poets. Encyclopaedia Iranica, online edition

[3] Pradip Krishen, the Central Delhi Ridge, the first article in the Series

Previous posts in this series:

Restoring Delhi’s Central Ridge:  Pradip Krishen

Basti basna khel nahin: Narayani Gupta


The changing face of Delhi in travellers’ accounts: Swapna Liddle

Shehernama: Dunu Roy

Shahjahanabad My Love Affair: Jayshree Shukla

Onion City: Anisha Shekhar Mukherji

Can Delhi experience blue Yamuna once again? Manoj Misra

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