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Capital to successive empires and the independent Indian republic, Delhi is finally coming into its own as the nations first city in the twenty-first century. In so doing, it has left behind once and future contenders for the title Bombay, Madras, Calcutta. How did this small settlement, founded in the lee of an ancient range of hills in eighth century by a Tomar Rajput ch Capital to successive empires and the independent Indian republic, Delhi is finally coming into its own as the nations first city in the twenty-first century. In so doing, it has left behind once and future contenders for the title Bombay, Madras, Calcutta. How did this small settlement, founded in the lee of an ancient range of hills in eighth century by a Tomar Rajput chief called Suraj Pal, become one of the worlds great cities, home to nearly twenty million people, witness to the rise and fall of empires and dynasties and eccentrics as magnificent and notable as the Tomar-Chauhans, the Mamluks, the Khiljis, the Tughlaks, the Sayyids, the Lodis, the Mughals, the Nehrus, the Gandhis and dozens of others too numerous to count. Drawing upon her unparalleled knowledge of the city she has spent most of her life in, Malvika Singh gives us a book that reveals the pith and essence of Delhi through the memorable people who lived (and live) in it, its great buildings, its extraordinary food, its unforgettable music and the centuries of blood and history that have seeped into every square inch of its soil.


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Capital to successive empires and the independent Indian republic, Delhi is finally coming into its own as the nations first city in the twenty-first century. In so doing, it has left behind once and future contenders for the title Bombay, Madras, Calcutta. How did this small settlement, founded in the lee of an ancient range of hills in eighth century by a Tomar Rajput ch Capital to successive empires and the independent Indian republic, Delhi is finally coming into its own as the nations first city in the twenty-first century. In so doing, it has left behind once and future contenders for the title Bombay, Madras, Calcutta. How did this small settlement, founded in the lee of an ancient range of hills in eighth century by a Tomar Rajput chief called Suraj Pal, become one of the worlds great cities, home to nearly twenty million people, witness to the rise and fall of empires and dynasties and eccentrics as magnificent and notable as the Tomar-Chauhans, the Mamluks, the Khiljis, the Tughlaks, the Sayyids, the Lodis, the Mughals, the Nehrus, the Gandhis and dozens of others too numerous to count. Drawing upon her unparalleled knowledge of the city she has spent most of her life in, Malvika Singh gives us a book that reveals the pith and essence of Delhi through the memorable people who lived (and live) in it, its great buildings, its extraordinary food, its unforgettable music and the centuries of blood and history that have seeped into every square inch of its soil.

30 review for Perpetual City: A Short Biography of Delhi

  1. 5 out of 5

    Anil Swarup

    The book traces the evolution of Delhi from early years since the 12th century. There are indeed some interesting historical details. However, the focus shifts more to politics during the post independence period though some parts of the book also deal with the cultural and social aspect. The book could have perhaps dealt at greater length the impact of migrants from Pakistan because that seems to be the turning point. The author does find the dawn of new century, "There is a buzz like never bef The book traces the evolution of Delhi from early years since the 12th century. There are indeed some interesting historical details. However, the focus shifts more to politics during the post independence period though some parts of the book also deal with the cultural and social aspect. The book could have perhaps dealt at greater length the impact of migrants from Pakistan because that seems to be the turning point. The author does find the dawn of new century, "There is a buzz like never before" but she is silent about the discordant notes of this buzz.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kasturi Dadhe

    Liked it because of the easy, free flowing narrative of Mala Singh. She brings the old and the new of Delhi alive with pounds of nostalgia. For those who have been to Delhi, connect or disconnect with the city almost instantly. I discovered Delhi very late in my life and the city has given me memories and friends for a lifetime. I love Delhi as much as I disconnect with it. A read for those who know Delhi and India as their own.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Viraj Sawant

    This is a very beautifully written book by someone who cares about the city. I moved to Delhi only some months ago and as someone who is trying to make this city a home this book is a treat. It traces through its history and how the city came about. This is of course not an exhaustive book on Delhi's history but it traces the entire timeline and touches various periods significant in the history of the city which then a curious mind can read more about later. Malvika Singh, I would say, has had This is a very beautifully written book by someone who cares about the city. I moved to Delhi only some months ago and as someone who is trying to make this city a home this book is a treat. It traces through its history and how the city came about. This is of course not an exhaustive book on Delhi's history but it traces the entire timeline and touches various periods significant in the history of the city which then a curious mind can read more about later. Malvika Singh, I would say, has had a privilege of growing up in a family that played significant role in nation building after India became independent. Thus Malvika's personal stories are not the stories of a commoner. They give a very interesting (behind-the-curtain-ish) insight into post independence and emergency era India. One is left wondering, however, what is a commoner's version of history of Delhi. The onus of writing that version does not lie on Malvika though, I guess. Malvika has stitched up really pretty and engaging narrative of the city as it came to her. A narrative that stresses the importance of the city to be seen as a breathing culture which is a product of rich history and not just emotionless piece of land to be 'developed'. A line I read recently in an article in The Hindu written by Mr. Shiv Visvanathan echoes with the emotion Malvika has displayed in the book: "A democracy that fails to be inventive about culture eventually becomes a nominal, rudimentary and standardised world." {Replace 'democracy' with 'city' probably}

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dhruv Bhandula

    Its a nice short book about the city I love the most in the world, Delhi. However, for most of the part it felt as if the story is only about a small part of the city where the writer lived rather than the story of Delhi in itself. Some of the arguments and nostalgic things about the Lutyen's Delhi and the regions nearby can be extended to the whole city as well but for a major part of the book, I didn't feel too much engrossed in the book as I should be considering it is the city where I spent Its a nice short book about the city I love the most in the world, Delhi. However, for most of the part it felt as if the story is only about a small part of the city where the writer lived rather than the story of Delhi in itself. Some of the arguments and nostalgic things about the Lutyen's Delhi and the regions nearby can be extended to the whole city as well but for a major part of the book, I didn't feel too much engrossed in the book as I should be considering it is the city where I spent my childhood and still visit from time to time. Something was missing in this book. I wasn't able to find the soul of Delhi in the book. It felt like it is another Delhi (one of the privileged). But considering that it is the part of the city where the author has spent all her life, she has done a commendable part in describing that part of Delhi. Also as it is a short book of around 130 pages, it is next to impossible to do justice to a city full with wonders and stories from the past. I would suggest it to everyone who want to learn in brief about the story of my city, Delhi. But people who have lived in the city for a considerable amount of time may be a little bit disappointed with this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ridhima Singh

    A book with incredible flow, perfectly concise, which reflects the love the author has for her home town. Yet, something sits uneasy while reading Perpetual City, possibly the knowledge that the entire account comes from the perspective of the most privileged, influential members of Delhi's social and economic strata. While I would recommend the book to anyone who wants to know what it feels like to carry Delhi in their hearts, and learn of those small obscure stories which make the city it's mag A book with incredible flow, perfectly concise, which reflects the love the author has for her home town. Yet, something sits uneasy while reading Perpetual City, possibly the knowledge that the entire account comes from the perspective of the most privileged, influential members of Delhi's social and economic strata. While I would recommend the book to anyone who wants to know what it feels like to carry Delhi in their hearts, and learn of those small obscure stories which make the city it's magical self, the title is a misnomer. It's not a biography of Delhi, it's the evolution of one individual's experiences of the city - beautifully penned.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Devashree Vyas

    Date read: 16.09.2017 Date of review: 23.03.2018 Rating: 3/5 Content: Perpetual City: A Short Biography of Delhi is a succinct description of the numerous nuances that give Delhi its essence, as in case of any city. The author describes the city's growth, as seen through her eyes since she was a child and moved here from Mumbai, a city which is contrasts immensely with Delhi. The web she weaves relays a picture of the city which has been home to her and her family. While the experiences described be Date read: 16.09.2017 Date of review: 23.03.2018 Rating: 3/5 Content: Perpetual City: A Short Biography of Delhi is a succinct description of the numerous nuances that give Delhi its essence, as in case of any city. The author describes the city's growth, as seen through her eyes since she was a child and moved here from Mumbai, a city which is contrasts immensely with Delhi. The web she weaves relays a picture of the city which has been home to her and her family. While the experiences described being a strange sense of nostalgia for a past you haven't lived, her rueful disappointment with the changes the city has gone through, due to its exploitation, partly by necessity and majorly by greed is also eye-opening. However, being a short biography recounted by a singular individual, gives it limited, yet informed perspective and while enchanting and thought-provoking, I was consciously aware that this was not the whole picture. Writing Style: Malvika Singh writes beautifully, with her sentences seemingly carefully crafted, which is unsurprising for she has a strong and established background and experience in writing. The descriptions of the experiences she underwent somehow do remind you of tales from your own histories, making this a charming read. Will I recommend it? Yes, especially to people who know Delhi, or know about Delhi, or enjoy reading about delightful experiences and thoughts, oriented around families, societies and cities. It is also a short read, which is an advantage while looking for a quick, simple read. Favourite Quote: "At its most resplendent, parts of the city merge into a single, diverse and historic cityscape that encompasses time memorial, through a subtle, delicate, nuanced tapestry of cultures." Happy Reading! -Love, Devashree

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sairam Krishnan

    From Aleph's city series, Malvika Singh's memoir of Delhi is written with love and nostalgia, but falls flat because it tells a rather one-sided story. The city she describes is a privileged, gated paradise, and though this isn't her fault, I would have really wanted to know how 'normal' people lived in New Delhi during the years Singh celebrates as Delhi's great decades. Her memories of early 50s and 60s Delhi make for good reading, and so do her parents' activism filled early years, but she jus From Aleph's city series, Malvika Singh's memoir of Delhi is written with love and nostalgia, but falls flat because it tells a rather one-sided story. The city she describes is a privileged, gated paradise, and though this isn't her fault, I would have really wanted to know how 'normal' people lived in New Delhi during the years Singh celebrates as Delhi's great decades. Her memories of early 50s and 60s Delhi make for good reading, and so do her parents' activism filled early years, but she just doesn't step outside the boundaries that she inhabited then. All this is perfect if this were just a memoir, but in the publishers calling this a short biography of the city, I was expecting a few more perspectives.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jayati

    A wonderfully written biography, more so of the author than the city itself. While the Delhi described and remembered so beautifully in this book really comes alive, it is a very small part of Delhi that is represented. There are multiple cities that exist within Delhi and unfortunately the story barely even eluded to that. Rather only allowing a glimpse into the life of Delhi's elite. Given that the author is the publisher of a major national socio- economic journal her understanding of Delhi's A wonderfully written biography, more so of the author than the city itself. While the Delhi described and remembered so beautifully in this book really comes alive, it is a very small part of Delhi that is represented. There are multiple cities that exist within Delhi and unfortunately the story barely even eluded to that. Rather only allowing a glimpse into the life of Delhi's elite. Given that the author is the publisher of a major national socio- economic journal her understanding of Delhi's middle classes is disappointing and simplistic. While the book is extremely well written, it does not manage to balance nostalgia, history and development as well as other books in this series of city biographies by Aleph.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sukanto

    Yet another lovely addition to the short biography of city series by Aleph! Each book in this series has been by someone who literally grew up with the concerned city. The same can be said for Malvika Singh - who has witnessed the highs and lows of Delhi (or Dilli) from very close quarters. With a liberal dose of family history, she literally serves up a superb dish of nostalgia and continuity for the capital city of India. Goes without saying that I could identify with it, or any book linked to Yet another lovely addition to the short biography of city series by Aleph! Each book in this series has been by someone who literally grew up with the concerned city. The same can be said for Malvika Singh - who has witnessed the highs and lows of Delhi (or Dilli) from very close quarters. With a liberal dose of family history, she literally serves up a superb dish of nostalgia and continuity for the capital city of India. Goes without saying that I could identify with it, or any book linked to Delhi for that matter, because I've spent four years of my life there. When it was dilwalon ki Dilli indeed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Saritha

    This is a heartfelt love letter and a lament rolled into one about the city of Delhi. Singh steers clear of trying to capture the city's history and makes this a personal memoir of sorts to provide a glimpse into a city that is more than just a place unsafe for women. Coming from a family that is responsible for and well-connected to the building of the city, Singh is perhaps the best person to evocatively capture the post-Independence era as a period of growth. Singh doesn't mask her disdain fo This is a heartfelt love letter and a lament rolled into one about the city of Delhi. Singh steers clear of trying to capture the city's history and makes this a personal memoir of sorts to provide a glimpse into a city that is more than just a place unsafe for women. Coming from a family that is responsible for and well-connected to the building of the city, Singh is perhaps the best person to evocatively capture the post-Independence era as a period of growth. Singh doesn't mask her disdain for those who unthinkingly erode the foundations of the city's culture and is perhaps rightfully nostalgic about the city in an era of graciousness.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alfa Hisham

    Malavika gives you an account of Nehru's India. A young fledging country with Delhi as the capital, trying to fly on its own post independence. She portrays the forever changing capital from its regal past to the latest avatar, busiest metropolitan city, crumbling under its own mishaps. Filled with anecdotes, Perpetual City is a narrative of a privileged in the creamy sector of intellectual Delhi hence lacking the perspective of what was happening with the ordinary masses during the inital phase Malavika gives you an account of Nehru's India. A young fledging country with Delhi as the capital, trying to fly on its own post independence. She portrays the forever changing capital from its regal past to the latest avatar, busiest metropolitan city, crumbling under its own mishaps. Filled with anecdotes, Perpetual City is a narrative of a privileged in the creamy sector of intellectual Delhi hence lacking the perspective of what was happening with the ordinary masses during the inital phase

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sankalpita (bookGeeks India)

    One of the most prestigious publication houses of India, the Aleph Book Company have started a series of short biographies which cover the major cities of India. Madras, Bombay, Calcutta, Patna and Delhi are the cities which have so far been honoured by this series... Read the full review - http://www.bookgeeks.in/entries/non-f... One of the most prestigious publication houses of India, the Aleph Book Company have started a series of short biographies which cover the major cities of India. Madras, Bombay, Calcutta, Patna and Delhi are the cities which have so far been honoured by this series... Read the full review - http://www.bookgeeks.in/entries/non-f...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anand Ganapathy

    Good addition to the short biography of cities series by Aleph books. Malvika Singh , who has been a Dilliwali , most of her life has described various facets of the city beautifully ; its monuments, food, politics , changing with the times ( which is good and bad ) have been discussed. A must read for anyone who loves the city :)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amar

    Very limited in scope and narration. Felt like a family memoir rather than a book about a city. Aleph should have given the job to someone less biased, less cocooned, and more acquainted with the city.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kulpreet Yadav

    I enjoyed this candid account of a person who has seen Delhi from such close quarters that it made me jealous. Compelling, this short book covers a lot of ground. Strongly recommended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nabanita Dutta

    Not another "City of Djinns" but a nice n heartfelt memoir of "Dilli" Not another "City of Djinns" but a nice n heartfelt memoir of "Dilli"

  17. 5 out of 5

    Manjil Saikia

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chimi Dema

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sidika

  20. 5 out of 5

    Aurojyoti Das

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ensembleorganum

  22. 4 out of 5

    Neha Bansal

  23. 5 out of 5

    Incomplete

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mohandeep Sandhu

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ujjwal

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chetan Krishna

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Pickup

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maganraj Bafna

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nimish Sawant

  30. 4 out of 5

    Pradhuman Bhati

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