Smoke without Fire
Portrait of Pre-Partition Delhi
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 travelling 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 young man. 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 nooks and crannies.
The book is the third of the author's Partition Quartet: 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.