By Pankaj K Deo
Shahjahanabad: The Living City of Old Delhi by Rana Safvi. HarperCollins. Pages 392. Rs 999
Ironically, when Rana Safvi’s new book, Shahjahanabad: The Living City of Old Delhi arrived for review, Delhi was shrouded in a massive blanket of yellowish smog. The city seemed to be on the brink of apocalypse. When its inhabitants are gasping for pure air, reading the Persian couplet, “Agar Firdaus bar ru-e zamin ast, Hamin ast-o hamin ast-o hami ast” in her book could only accentuate the tragic irony of the situation. These lines of verse inscribed on the Diwan-e-Khaas, at the Red Fort in Delhi, capture the very essence of the paradise imagery that underlies the Mughal architecture.
The book is the last one of her Where Stones Speak trilogy and focuses on the history of Shajahanabad, inarguably the most beautiful one among the seven cities that flourished in Delhi. As one delves into the book, one indeed gets transported to a city that was once considered the paradise on this earth.