Smoke without Fire

Portrait of Pre-Partition Delhi

Abdul Rahman Siddiqi

9789350020722

Aakar Books, New Delhi, 2011

306 pages

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The book could have been appropriately sub-titled as ‘Life in Pre-Partition Delhi (Dilli) Laid Bare’. It is, the first, and easily the last one of its kind by one of the vanishing breed of vintage Dilliwalas, born, bred and educated over there, before emigrating to Pakistan. Old Dilli of the author’s childhood, breathed the very air of the life and times of Ghadar – the (Revolt or the Mutiny) of 1857. Until the early 30s there was hardly any electricity, running water, pucca paved streets and public transport except for tongas and dolies for women traveling from one mohallah, one house, one street to another.

The book covers the intriguing canvas of life as seen by the author as a child and a Youngman. It also tells the story of an old family through its cycles of birth, marriage and death.

The author, pries deep into the back alleys of the ancient city and portrays the youthful and adult delinquencies seen in their nook and crannies.

The book is the third of the author’s Partition Qartet: The other two being, Tuqseme-i-Hind aur Bahadur Shah Zafar ki Wapsi (Partition and the Return of Bahadur Shah Zafar – Urdu) and Partition and the Making of Mohajir Mindset (Oxford). The fourth and the last of the quartet Partition: An Emperor’s Nightmare is under publication.

The book is refreshingly free from the kind of morbid nostalgia associated with such personal narratives.

Abdul Rahman Siddiqi

Abdul Rahman Siddiqi is a retired Brigadier of the Pakistan Army. He was born and brought up in Delhi which he had to leave for Lahore during Partition. He now lives in Karachi.