‘Seduction of Delhi’, a fascinating combination of poetic verse and drawings

New Delhi, July 26 (ANI): Diplomat-author Abhay K’s fifth collection of poems titled “The Seduction of Delhi”, as former diplomat-turned politician Pawan Verma puts it, is a journey of city through centuries, and provides the reader with a fascinating combination of poetic verse and drawings “of those who ruled it and those who served it,” as also a reflection on periods when it was at its glory, and lament over its repeated extinction.

The poems in this 82-page book pay homage to the seven cities of Delhi, its surviving monuments, key landmarks, historical personalities and its present inhabitants.

Abhay K’s book is divided into three parts – Institutions, Portraits and Reflection, and to those who have lived and continue to live in India’s national capital, brings alive tales of well-known sites, old and new, in both verse and illustration.

In particular, one was taken in by his description of “Shermandal”, the famous library in erstwhile Purana Qila, where the Mughal Emperor Humayun tragically met his maker in 1556.

That a building takes the blame for the death of an emperor in a hurry to reach the place of prayer, as also the neglect and decadence to which it has been condemned by graffiti lovers thereafter, and the cry for love to be immortal again, provides the reader a unique opportunity to move back and forth between past and present.

Similarly, Dara Shikoh, Emperor Shahjehan’s eldest, and his futile search for his name through the sands of time and the “streets of Delhi”. The poem evocatively talks about this liberal scholar, this Sufism-inclined crown prince, who was trapped and publicly assassinated by his own “treacherous and murderous brother” and emperor to be Aurangzeb, and how lamentably no one cares for him or remembers him, but choose to honour his cruel and orthodox younger brother.

The tragedy of the poet, Zauq, regarded by many as the favourite of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, but who resigns himself to being judged as second best after Assadullah Ghalib, though ” turning in my grave”.

Travelling to the present, the book of poems reflects on the utility of the auto rickshaw “carrying the city on my wings”, or the proverbial bureaucrat, working “in cramped cloisters” , surrounded by “dusty files and subordinated with conduct rules, tamed with annual appraisals”, shiny on the outside, but actually “incarcerated inmates ever seeking atonement”, or the maid, “toiling day and night for a living”, and apparently reflecting on the paradox of citizens imagining a day without them, and yet of them remaining “invisible silhouettes”.

The description of the Yamuna as being “withdrawn and sulky” yet flowing past Delhi, caressing its shores and attempting to drain “darkness from Delhi’s soul”.

“The Seduction of Delhi” is both inspired poetry and visual illustration (by Italian artist Tarshito (Professor Nikola Stripoli) in motion, covering and recalling nearly a thousand years of memory, achievement, success and loss, daily grind and drudgery, a contradictory city of ruins and sprawling high rises.

Abhay K is a well-known poet and a recipient of the SAARC Literary Award 2013.

Professor Stripoli is an Italian architect and an artist with a focus on the East-West cultural tradition and spirituality. (ANI)

By Ashok Dixit

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