Book Reviews Abdul Rahman Siddiqi, Smoke Without Fire Portraits of PrePartition Delhi,


  • Anwar Shaheen


Lo! From heart, or it comes from soul Where does this smoke like thing come from Thus bemoaned the greatest Urdu poet of the eighteenth century, Mir Taqi Mir, the drifting of the age old tranquility of Delhi towards an upheaval which eventually culminated, much after the poet’s death, in the final collapse of the Mughal empire, and the massacre that occurred amidst the annexation of Delhi by East India Company. The fire that engulfed the city in 1857 must have taken a couple of years to extinguish, but the smoke continued to rise decades afterwards. The book under review speaks about the Delhi of the earlier decades of the 20th century, when the smoke had still not cleared. The author does not only see the smoke hovering around, he also feels it in his heart and soul. The author of the book was born in 1924 and lived in Delhi till 1947, when he migrated to the newly carved-out country, Pakistan. The twenty plus years he lived in Delhi remained grafted over the rest of his life and left lasting impressions on his mind. Now, when he has crossed nine fruitful decades of his life, he has tried to look back at the journey he has travelled with the result that those earlier decades of Delhi have dawned on the horizon of his memory so prominently that it appears as if he is reliving those yesteryears. Interestingly, there is no iota of nostalgia; it’s all personal memories tried to be recollected in the sociopolitical context of the time.