Book Review: Delirious Delhi

Anyone new to Delhi will have their understanding of it magnified by this book. And anyone who already knows Delhi will appreciate this candid tribute to a city that’s everything to everyone at the same time.

Delirious Delhi follows Dave and Jenny as they look to settle in Delhi.

Wait, settle? Not just yet.

Most expats have spiritual undertones/overkill when it comes to India. A journey of revelatory self discoveries and bindis, India is like the Ganga of the phoren: people from across the seven seas come to the land of shoe-throwing parliament sessions and caved roads to look for a greater meaning to life and a longer credit card bill.

An obligatory personal journey where at first they hate India, but then they ‘learn to love it’ : from the land of elephants and snake charmers to someplace you’ve got  to go and experience the life that India is.

Dave Prager sits down and regales you with his stories and experiences with Delhi that go far beyond his sacred copy of the Lonely Planet in a crisp 390 leaves. This is not a wide-eyed account of the dirty beggars on the road crossings or the fab sarees you tried on for some umpteenth expat-ish event and eventually finding inner peace and spirituality in every trash can worth its flies.

DD is a candid travel account. It is a love story with its loves and hates and follows the two as they swing from one trait to the other, decoding Delhi and discovering that there was an India outside the tents of the polite, swept version all foreigners were handed.

On a day when the more well known titles were on a 50% sale, what did me in for this one? The Eastman Colour style posters, baby.

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For the love of old school cinema

Prager breaks down his Delhi stint into twelve chapters that delve into the finer aspects of his Yorker struggle in India. It all begins with waking up to calls of a street vendor selling paella. Paella? Yap.

As you move through this book, and I say move, not read, the narration strikes you as a Slumdog Millionaire in reverse because here, you get to peak from the other side and experience the gora life. The idea of a foreigner chronicling his experiences and tracking progress: be it the language or the customs or the small talk at work or the boss who believes that smoke breaks are really where all the business takes place, or the spleen-ripping traffic jams, where the author digs into his humble pie.

An honest, child-eyed in places, account, Dave and Jenny take a while to get used to the neighbourhood that cannot stop fussing over the vilayati guests’ arrival; they decipher the complicated social protocols  that living in an apartment complex entail. That is something most Indians have grown up with. To read about their neighbours and the tiffs they get into, I cannot stop rubbing my invisible beard and mumble my approval.

If you aren’t Indian, the ride will hold you in awe; the overtly earnest policemen ‘helping’ you get a good auto fare will assure (and annoy!) you as the couple tries its best making it clear that they’re just as desi as they come: they don’t need help.
 
If you are Indian, you will find yourself smiling as you read of good old Delhi. A warm read. Just remember to get your milk and cookies well before you sit down to read. Getting up again is not all that easy. #experience
 
At some level, they have adorably and quite admirably made peace with the city and the country they live in. That’s a groove that itches many.

This could have easily landed into some obscure corner of a book store along with the gazillion published works that people invest in after they have experienced enough India to tell a story (or so they think.), probably will. But a good story has its own way of getting around. 

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