About a year and a half ago, someone recommended that I read Dozakhnama by Ravishankar Bal. Read Dozakhnama, they said. It’s a conversation between dead Manto and dead Ghalib, they said. I bought myself a copy, but I was dismayed on seeing that the poetry of Ghalib interspersed in the novel was printed in Urdu with its translation in English. The transliteration in Devanagiri that would enhance the savouring of the poetry was missing. I couldn’t be bothered with the English translation, it just wasn’t working for me. So, instead of getting help to decipher the poetry in the Urdu script, I thought that maybe it was time I learnt how to read Urdu. I bought myself textbooks, practice books, followed Urdu Twitter and Facebook pages, and even put off reading Naiyer Masud for a while. Since then, it has been a slow, steady learning, and a year and a half since the recommendation, I am yet to read Dozakhnama.

Interestingly, while in Delhi recently, I was quite glad to find many road and board signs written in Urdu. The city seemed to supplement my education in practical ways. Especially in Lutyen’s  Delhi where the road names are written in four languages: Hindi, English, Punjabi, and Urdu. (Here’s why.) The signs are beautiful. When in Chandni Chowk, Google Maps was registering my searches in Urdu and I was able to read them before they changed back to English quickly. (I wonder what they were scared of.) Not to mention, I have to hand it to them for the road names and I’m a wee bit surprised how political parties have not rallied to change these names. Not that mentioning this is an incitement. Sit down, political parties, sit down.

This.

I don’t think I blogged about how I was zooming into Mumbai’s map a few weeks ago and found some interesting names such as Wodehouse Road and Mirza Ghalib Marg. It was like uncovering hidden literature sewed into the bosom of my city. So when I saw Tolstoy Road in Delhi, I tipped my invisible hat to them. Turns out that Tolstoy Road was renamed to honour Tolstoy’s statue that stands at the starting of the road. Not that I saw the statue or knew about it until after I returned.

While all this is well and good, except for Lutyens’ Delhi, I found that the city is God-damned filthy. And I don’t mean Chandni Chowk – it’s Chandni Chowk’s birthright to be dirty – so that is not a part of the conversation. It’s very much like Masjid Bunder here in Bombay and its a part of the parcel. But the rest of it, Lord have mercy on them. I don’t think they’ve seen a broom in ages. Especially on either side of New Delhi Station. I mean, would you imagine? This is the capital of the country. More like the capital of garbage land. So, I made a mental note to carefully observe how dirty a busy-body station like Mumbai Central is in comparison. Guess what? It bloody well isn’t dirty. It was clean.

Small mercies.

P.S.:

  1. More coming up on how long-distance trains turn a boring novel into fun, how my feelings for the capital may have changed, why I will write shorter posts (post bursts) for a while, a list of things people do that annoy me (I’m keeping one), and the possible internal turmoil on writing an essay on Nostalgia.
  2. Hindi song name as the post title for a change. It fits. Although it makes my heart ache when I think of Ranbir in this song.