Having gone on several heritage walks in Delhi led by the historian Swapna Liddle, I was particularly interested in her book, which is a welcome and very worthwhile addition to any Delhi lover’s library.
As the title implies, Ms Liddle takes you, the reader, on 14 historic walks through the city, in which she describes in great detail the sights and sites, “guiding” you, and allowing you to wander on your own using her book as your companion.
The walks she has chosen include lesser known areas such as Janahpanah, as well as absolutely classic Delhi must-see places such as the Red Fort and Qutb Minar, which are on every tourist’s itinerary.
The author’s reason for including these better-known Delhi sites is disarmingly frank :
“My excuse for including the very well-known tourist sites is that the information provided by the signs or tourist guides are either frustratingly inadequate, or more seriously, wildly inaccurate.”
This is the sad reality of much of the (non) signage at Delhi’s monuments, making this book even more useful.
Ms Liddle’s approach to choosing each of her chosen walks is practical.
Again, quoting her own words :
“ It should be a fairly pleasant walk – I have left out the particularly litter-strewn or overgrown paths.”
Given the parlous state of much of the city, I couldn’t agree more with her pragmatic approach.
Each chapter starts with a simple but detailed map of the walk (more on the maps in a moment) followed by an eminently practical listing of such information as the opening times, the cost of entry tickets, the closest metro stations and, very sensibly, the difficulty level of the walk. And, super sensibly for Delhi, Ms Liddle also provides details of what amenities are available – water, snacks and that all important loo.
So, armed with these practical details, the author then describes in great detail but in clear, easy prose, the main things to see as you wander through, say, Mehrauli Archeological Park, or Hauz Khas, or through the Lodhi Gardens. Each main monument, or vista, or church or tomb has a number which refers back to the map. The maps are clear and simple to follow, and provide names for places which many a better guidebook has failed to do.
Thanks to Ms Liddle, I now know that those two tombs opposite Aurobindo Place Market, the outliers of the wonderful Hauz Khas complex, are actually called the Dadi-Pito or Biwi-Bandi.
The author explains architectural terms simply, for the layman, and wears her obvious scholarship and knowledge lightly, and in a charmingly un-stuffy way. The book is easy and pleasant to read, with an easy-going style, not like reading a standard guide book at all. Rather, you feel as though you are wandering through Chandni Chowk, or the Red Fort, or Safdarjung’s Tomb with a knowledgeable friend, who is gently pointing out things you might otherwise have missed.
If it doesn’t sound silly, the book is also quite light to hold, making you much more likely to pop it in your bag when you set out to on a walk.
I know I certainly shall.
This book is going to go with me as I re-explore the by-lanes of Chandni Chowk, and take another walk down Rajpath from India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhawan, learning more at the Lutyens Baker relationship as I stroll.
Published by Westland, “Delhi 14 Historic Walks” costs Rs 495.
If you would like to buy the book now, simply click on the link below. Couldn’t be easier :