Friday, January 09, 2009

Viewpoint - Understanding Delhi and The Delhi Walla

The Delhi walla's pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls - Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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Understanding Delhi and The Delhi Walla

A PhD scholar at Stanford gives his take on this blogsite.

[Text by Gaurav Sood; picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The Delhi Walla is a journalist's blog, albeit without the drama and urgency with which journalism and journalists are often associated with today. The writing on the blog represents that prior tradition among journalists which was about subtle observation, gentle humor, as evinced in journalists' travelogues, and in shows like BBC's 'From our own correspondent'.

The blog is a significant achievement. More so because reporting on cities is generally skillfully and purposefully bankrupt, formulaic and inane, an orgy of crummy descriptions of pointless people, and events, and soulless corporate jingles about places to eat, and entertain, infested almost always with a touch too colorful poorly shot photos.

With an eclectic choice of topics, a choice that is many a times dictated by the city rather than by an urge to puppeteer description in grips of pincers of prejudice, with gentle and subtle humor, Mayank shines a weak but almost always pleasant humanistic light on the myriad facets of Delhi, and the occupations, preoccupations, habits, of its residents.

The wonderful aspect of the blog is that it catalogs ‘real life’, an all too absent commodity in newspapers, be it then a story about the need to find a 'second home' in a city with cramped homes that provide all too little privacy, the rather oddly structured stories on colonies (as they are called in Delhi), or the succession of charming articles on bookstores, and their proprietors. Perhaps seen hence, it is a writer's blog. And that is probably a more accurate description of the sensibility of the blog, and the author, and explains the void comparisons to newspapers that I make above.

Understanding

One can try to 'understand' things of interest by disinterring things, breaking them apart skillfully – through analysis – and connecting those parts into an 'explanation' or simply 'description' conjoined by some connective tissue. It is a bit like looking at white light through a prism, with colored rainbow being the distillate. Of course more often we just describe a part of one color, and the rest is at best in penumbra. Analysis is generally purposive, and demands specificity. It struggles to contain, and cast, and organize, and too often the aim is to achieve that 'aha' moment. For all these reasons, the enterprise is often fraught with problems of myopia, and of force.

Another feature of the analytical method is the method of writing - it is writing through contestation. For example, the account that I provide here is often times a 'negative' account – describing what this blog isn't, rather than simply focusing on what it is. The method may be insightful, if the analysis has legs, but it is seldom enjoyable.

The Delhi Walla chooses differently; he observes, describes, narrates, engages in reverie, and gently analyzes. He does it with great modesty, and some charm. His method of 'understanding' isn't analytic introspection, but subtle observation that produce that warm flush of vague but liberalist accepting, even embracing, empathy, and exultation in the shared existence. It is akin to the 'understanding' and exultation one feels while standing on the roof of the house on a pleasant summer evening, and looking over the gullis and Mohalla.

Delhi

Delhi is an easy city to caricature – bleak, dirty, loud, and crowded. And it is certainly all that. But reality is simultaneously substantially more mundane, and textured. Likewise, people sometimes mistakenly make the inferential leap from 'bleak' surroundings to 'bleak' lives; all too often 'bleak' surroundings are peripheral to the fuller psychological lives lived among acquaintances, friends, relations, and more.

Delhi is a city that carries the hopes and aspirations of people living in it, the location of deaths, marriages, jobs, cars, monuments, history, politics, money, and more. One can take respite, if so is needed, in the beauty of some of its monuments, sometimes in just its familiarity, in its 'traditions' and 'landmarks', even in its oppressive heat, as Mayank occasionally does, food, conversation, and intimacy of friends and family, among other things.

The Delhi Walla

The Delhi Walla is an eclectic account of Delhi. It is an ode to the 'passions' of Delhi Walla – the Muslim heritage of Delhi, books, Arundhati Roy, and gay life in the city. It is an account of his questions, and more interestingly a "live" account of an unfailingly interesting life.

8 comments:

thomas11 said...

I like this a lot! Insightful thoughts, beautifully written, if a bit fanboyish - but then I'm one of this blog, too :-)

Anonymous said...

You forgot to include that this blog is an example of a tiresome lack of variety when it comes to Delhi’s history. All we hear is about Mosques and Islamic monuments. This shows his inaccessible and biased philosophy. I believe mr. Mayank isn’t much inspired by other religions in India for whatever raison d'ĂȘtre, even though he is Mayank SINGH, not ‘soofi’. He needs to become cognizant of the reality that he lives in India. What’s the use of reporting on Delhi’s ghettos all the time?

Milan Kuchhal said...

The Delhiwalla is just amazing......
First i read him in HT.City....
reading him for many time lead me to search him on Internet and put his name on Google search from there i found his blog and become his regular reader.......
whenever i go online first thing which i do is opening his blog and start swimming in it...........

SSD said...

Great insight on The Delhi Walla! Mayank keeps enlightening on various topics...

As for "Anonymous": I think Mayank Singh (aka mayank austen soofi) DOES live in the reality of Delhi. Surely, we cannot agree on all topics he writes, as I think his fascination towards Arundhati Roy was becoming a bit haunting to read after a while, but he does manage to entice his readership with an array of topics....

Keep up Maano. Thanks, Gaurav for viewpoint.

ENHANZ SOLUTIONS said...

Its a reply to an anonymous comment on this blog. Mayank does not generally wrtie or depicts only on ghettos. But since ghetto is a part of us, its nothing we can do about it.
Please take it in a positive way.

regards

Anonymous said...

There is something called freedom of speech in our part of the world. Mr. Mayank is using it and so did I. People stop shielding a buffoon! Huh

Giri Mandi said...

Of course we are all eager to read in Mr Anonymous' Blog his heterogeneous, exhilarating and deeply insightful descriptions of Delhi's hidden treasures outside the "ghettos". Alas, sometimes human mind can be a very narrow and stinking ghetto!

Magnus Linde said...

dear anonymous ... why employ your "freedom of speech" to tear down rather than build up? mayank makes no claims to represent/depict all delhi histories and yet, in my experience, he does still offer observations on a multitude of delhi lives and histories. he is inspired by people, whatever there colour or creed or history. if the blog is tiresome to you, don't read it.